By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Space Command’s Space Training Evolution Plan Team won the 2013 Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award.
The STEP Team competed against 26 other teams at the Air Force level with their development of the Standard Space Trainer which revolutionizes the way we train our space operators across the Air Force.
Two Schriever Air Force Base space-operator training units directly contributed to the team’s success.
The SST is operated by the 50th Operations Support Squadron while the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center houses the Distributed Mission Operations Center for Space facility. Other Air Force units partnered with them to create the AFSPC STEP team, which was designed to develop an efficient and interchangeable space-operator training system. This had never been done until a few years ago.
Mike Newman, Space and Missile Systems Center Training and Acquisition Office chief, assembled and lead the team, which also includes the Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Air Education and Training Command, U.S. Strategic Command, the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation and Air Force Research Laboratory members.
“It all began around 2004 when we decided something needed to be done,” said Newman.
Newman was referring to the way training for operators used to be handled.
“There was no one universal system,” Newman said. “Training consisted of, for some, using a test bed as an instructor and not every training unit had one. This led to a non-consistent training with operators.”
Newman said this posed a problem, which could be solved with research and a team who was willing to work together.
“It took a lot of work to say the least,” said Newman. “And the system is still continuing to grow.”
He added that when his team developed the SST, it felt as though they were changing the world.
“We are preparing for the future, the space future,” he said.
According to Newman, the SST has the capability to provide both crew and positional training, but more importantly is a dedicated trainer, built for instruction. It offers enhanced instructor tools and capabilities like fast forward, rewind, bookmark and replay mode. Instructors also can run multiple independent scenarios simultaneously.
“This was a huge thing for the space operators,” he added.
The project was envisioned as a cost effective, quality training system built on a common training architecture and it has been just that.
As for winning the award, Newman said it was an added bonus.
“It felt great to be recognized for our work,” he said. “We didn’t actually think we’d make it this far.”
He jokingly added the STEP team all thought cyber would win.
“However, the team as a whole made it possible with the way we worked together,” he said.
Gen. John E. Hyten, Air Force Space Command commander, presented the team with their award during an all-call at the Space and Missile Systems Center Nov. 20, 2014, in California. He commended the team for their hard work and achievement.
“The key piece of the puzzle was the standard space trainer,” said Hyten. “We needed an emulator of what the operator was going to see on the floor.”
And that’s exactly what the STEP Team did.
“And now we can emulate that for pennies on the dollar compared to what it was,” he added. “The team who did all that work has been recognized.”