By Jennifer Thibault
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
More and more are realizing the “game-changing” force space capabilities provide in today’s operations, as was the case more than 60 years ago when the air domain added a new dimension to land and sea operations. The power of that integration was seen first-hand by crews of the KC-135 Stratotanker force recently in Southwest Asia, thanks to Capt. Tracy “Mickey” Lloyd, a deployed member of the director of space forces team.
Charged with conducting protected military satellite communications with the 4th Space Operations Squadron at her home station of Schriever Air Force Base, she deployed as the theater space integrator for the Director of Space Forces, Col. Clint Crosier. In this capacity, she worked to more effectively integrate space effects into overall theater operations; the majority of her time was focused on increased integration of GPS into deliberate planning.
“I learned during the deployment that according to Air Mobility Command guidance, the KC-135 crews were restricted from using the Precise Positioning Service, or the encrypted, more precise GPS service in certain conditions and during certain phases of flight,” said Lloyd. “That didn’t seem like we were fully leveraging the GPS capability the way it was intended, so I began a ‘science project’ with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron Assistant Director of Operations, Maj. [Lawrence] Osiecki.”
Lloyd began researching the KC-135 navigation systems through their technical orders and Air Force Tactics, Techniques and Procedures 3-1 and quickly became an expert in how the GPS system works onboard. She and Osiecki then began a series of tests on the jet to load and zeroize keys to fully document the operation of the navigation system across all of its possible configurations. They observed how the KC-135’s systems responded with and without keys and came to the conclusion that the current guidance was outdated based on recent system upgrades. Armed with this knowledge, she set out to engage with AMC and the director of mobility forces to explore rescinding the guidance.
“Our research and observations showed that there were no operational grounds for not using the encrypted GPS signal across all phases of flight,” said Lloyd. “I coordinated with AMC and the [director of mobility forces] and they believed in what we were trying to do. Armed with the desire to rescind the guidance, they began to champion the cause with us.”
With their support, Lloyd and team were successful in rescinding the guidance just five days before she redeployed, affecting an operational policy change improving the navigational capability of the entire KC-135 fleet worldwide.
“My goal was to have guidance rescinded before I returned home, I didn’t want to leave it for the next person,” she said.
“Captain Lloyd was a great asset to our team,” said Crosier. “Not only did she see the big picture of how space integrates across all domains, but she had a knack for interacting with others and helping them realize space effects in their realm. Her work on the KC-135 issue affected a global policy change — how many captains have that kind of impact?”
Lloyd also led a special project for Lt. Gen. David Goldfein, commander of Air Forces Central Command, to optimize how GPS effects were planned and integrated into other components’ deliberate planning efforts. Through her work, she developed a key partnership with the Joint Navigation Warfare Center and ground-breaking new procedures the JNWC has now implemented as their global standard for all joint planning. The project also took her to brief Lt. Gen. Vince Brooks, commander of Army Forces Central Command and Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of Naval Forces Central Command, which led both ARCENT and NAVCENT to implement new procedures as a result of her work.
“The results of this project were really amazing” said Crosier. “Captain Lloyd’s work with the JNWC team took the integration and deliberate planning of GPS effects to the most robust level in CENTCOM history. Tracy ended up being coined by the AFCENT commander, ARCENT commander and NAVCENT commander for her work. Tracy could be the first captain anywhere in CENTCOM, and certainly the first space officer, to get coined by all three service 3-stars in a single deployment — that’s a real testament to the value our senior leaders place on the need for effective space integration.”
Before deploying, Lloyd conducted some research with her predecessor.
“He recommended I learn as much as I could on GPS,” Lloyd recalled.
Her squadron commander supported predeployment training to meet up with Crosier at the JNWC and get a head start on the project she would lead in theater. She also worked with Capt. Bryony Veater, the weapons officer at the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, to learn more about operations and products. In visiting with the JNWC and 2 SOPS, she created a solid network foundation that helped her navigate issues in theater.
“This was my first deployment and I could not have asked for anything better,” said Lloyd. “I found it very rewarding to identify issues and set out to solve them and help others realize the continuous process improvement throughout all aspects of the deployed environment.”
In theater, Lloyd was assigned to 12 hour shifts during which she would identify issues and develop solutions.
“Captain Franz Brunner, the [DS4] national technical integrator, and I referred to them as science projects,” said Lloyd. “We’d try out new ideas and if we were able to prove our hypothesis, then we would work to determine how best to integrate them into current operations.”
Lloyd credits some of her in-theater success to her weapons school training and to being open-minded.
“I was open to learning and teaching others throughout my deployment. Most people appreciated space but were inquisitive of other platforms and weapons systems,” she said. “I reached out to our joint and coalition partners to learn more about our users to discover better ways of supporting them. We can’t just know our space systems, we have to know how [they’re used] in operations. Weapons school taught me the importance of not only being an expert in space systems, but to use that knowledge for improved integration. And then to teach that integration to the space community and also to current and potential customers.”
She said this integration enabled the most rewarding aspect of her deployment, “Watching and knowing others are applying their new-found space knowledge and that they will take it with them and share with others compounding the cross functional awareness of space effects.”
Back at home, Lloyd is settling back into family life with her husband and two sons.
“Being separated from them was hard, but I knew I had superstar support at home keeping it all on track,” she said.
The captain is set to return to her duties at 4 SOPS after taking some deserved leave.