Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 50th Operations Group crowned 4th Space Operations Squadron Alpha Crew as the top RED FALCON crew during the competition’s award ceremony on March 13.
RED FALCON was designed to inspire 50th Space Wing crews to develop system expertise that exceeds surface checklist knowledge, foster the normalization of non-routine mission protection procedures and identify the 50 OG crew best prepared to operate in ill-defined emergency situations.
The 4 SOPS team Alpha Crew included 1st Lt. Peter Lusk, 2nd Lt. Gregory Carte, 2nd Lt. Even Rogers, Staff Sgt. Matthew Lampman, Airman 1st Class Payton Pelzel and Airman Griffin Holeman.
Senior Airman Kyle Hindman, 50th Operations Support Squadron, received the top Intelligence Briefer award, while Lusk and Staff Sgt. Peter Schneider, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, received the Top Performer award.
“Teamwork was paramount to our winning RED FALCON,” said Lusk, the crew’s mission commander. “Communication is something that must be part of any 4 SOPS crew’s daily operations as we operate both the spacecraft and the payload. Everyone went into our RED FALCON ride on the same page in regards to what our priorities would be: mission protection and continuity. We were able to focus on these and make quick decisive decisions together.”
The team has been preparing for this competition since the crew came together more than six months ago. One of the initial preparations included learning from mistakes made during the past RED FALCON competition. The operations flight commander integrated active and continuing study sessions into each crew rotation, where they went in depth academically into their satellite system as well as practiced alarms and emergency situation scenarios. The 50 OSS was also essential in providing a training ride for the team.
“We have debriefed many scenarios so we know what the root causes of the mistakes are and we can work with all of our other 4 SOPS crews and 50 OSS to ensure we correct procedures or practices to prevent the mistakes from happening again,” Lusk said. “The preparation went beyond just the individuals on our crew who competed, but also in helping share our experience with the entire 4 SOPS crew and operator force. This way, we can help prepare anyone who competes from our squadron next year.”
As part of the competition, representative crews from, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons were evaluated on their knowledge, focus, performance, debrief effectiveness and ability to think beyond the checklists they are running.
This year, the competition administrators included representatives from 50 OSS, 1 SOPS, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron and 50th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation Division.
“I thought the 2013 RED FALCON was a tremendous effort; this year was even better,” said Col. Tommy Roberts, 50 OG commander.
The RED FALCON participants went through three phases: knowledge test, training, and a performance scenario and debrief assessment. During the ceremony, the four teams provided performance summaries as well as lessons learned.
“Today, as you walk out [of this award ceremony], RED FALCON is not done,” Roberts said. “Multiple speakers talked about lessons learned. That’s the important piece of Red Falcon. We take this to the higher level and adopt the lessons learned. That’s how we improve as a group; that’s how we improve our operations.”
Leadership with 50 OG encouraged crews to reach out to organizations outside the group, including the 50th Network Operations Group, for future RED FALCON competition. Additionally, organizers hoped to include 3 SES in the next RED FALCON.
“For the next few months, the focus should be on the lessons learned, and changing and updating those checklists,” he said. “That’s how we take our operation to the next level. Kudos to all the four teams, congratulations to 4 SOPS for this recognition; it is well deserved.”
Col. Bill Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, echoed the sentiment.
“This was a great event,” Liquori said. “It forces you to strive to be the best. Competitions like this force you to think critically. They help elevate your game and better prepare you for the future.”
With competition tied to Schriever heritage as well as the color typically associated with severe satellite out-of limit indicators, he said RED FALCON is much more than a competition.
“It is a mindset of a growing threat, and it’s the mindset of being ready and prepared for that threat,” Liquori said. “The things I heard the crews identify within their individual group and squadron and procedures that we can change, I would challenge everyone to ensure every one of those lessons learned gets implemented. This way, the teams in next year’s competition will not have the same lessons learned, and we will have improved as a wing.”
Lusk said the OGV evaluators are the real stars of the competition because they were the ones who identified parts of the mission that perhaps were not fleshed out completely and forced the crews to come up with new ways to improve their operations.
“Red Falcon is fantastic since it encourages competition and challenges operators to be the best they can be and forces people to think outside the box and come up with the new ways to meet unforeseen challenges,” Lusk said.