By Master Sgt. Scott Westfall and 1st Lt. Harrison Maloy
21st Operations Group
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — As members of the U.S. Air Force, we are called upon to identify problems and make improvements wherever possible. To borrow a phrase from recent pop culture, we like to do things “harder, better, faster, stronger.” The 16th and 380th Space Control Squadrons recently personified that phrase by significantly increasing the capacity of its defensive counterspace operations to directly support combat operations in Southwest Asia.
By definition, DCS operations are conducted to “preserve United States/friendly ability to exploit space to its advantage via active and passive actions to protect friendly space-related capabilities from enemy attack or interference” (Air Force Doctrine Document 2-2.1). Ever since the 16th and 380th SPCS began DCS operations in 2007 with Operation Silent Sentry, the demand for DCS capabilities has grown rapidly. In response to the increased demand, the 16th and 380th were tasked in 2010 to deploy, set up, and integrate a new DCS capability into Operation Silent Sentry’s existing DCS mission. In concert with multiple base agencies, program offices, and government contractors, the 21st Space Wing and 379th Expeditionary Wing worked together to fulfill the important tasking. As Total Force partners who have been continuously deployed together since 2007, the 16th and 380th squadrons were uniquely postured to meet this challenge.
In late 2010, unit personnel at Peterson Air Force Base began training on the new weapon system and working with the program offices and 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron to build cargo pallets, prepare vehicles and schedule aircraft. In February 2011, two cargo aircraft took off from Peterson AFB headed for Southwest Asia. Over the course of just 10 short days, unit personnel operated in austere conditions off-loading equipment, transporting the equipment to the deployed area of operations and building the shelter and antennas for the new system.
Once the new system was operating, the truly challenging part began as the team rapidly integrated the system into existing DCS processes to provide direct support to ongoing combat operations. The new team worked with Operation Silent Sentry personnel to create new tactics, techniques and procedures to leverage the combined systems’ capabilities to synergize the defensive counterspace mission area and provide vital support to combat operations. This created a 1+1=3 environment, where the teams not only brought the requested capabilities online to meet the demand for protection of friendly space assets, but also to provide new and innovative products to new customers with amazing combat effects. During this time, the team successfully increased its monitoring capacity by more than 240 percent, sought out and educated potential customers, and paved the way for future system upgrades. The team also authored and validated about 22 operational job aids and maintenance techniques to capture lessons learned and document successful operations procedures for future defensive counterspace crews. This team not only laid a technical foundation for operating this new weapon system in combat, but also educated the AFCENT CAOC staff on the system capabilities and limitations. Additionally, they led discussions with both joint and coalition mission partners while developing new streamlined command and control paths to rapidly disseminate their defensive counterspace data. This kind of entrepreneurial thinking created new tactics, techniques, and procedures, which directly translated into immediate and long-lasting impacts on the battlefield.
As a result of these efforts, the combined deployment teams consisting of both 16th and 380th SPCS personnel were named the Air Force Space Command nominee as the Outstanding Electronic Warfare Team for 2011 and will compete at the Air Force level for this award. As deployed defensive counterspace operators, the 16th and 380th SPCS personnel epitomize what it means to dominate their high ground as they experience unprecedented squadron and mission area growth while upholding their strong bonds as a Total Force team.