By 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 2nd Space Operations Squadron successfully completed a transfer operation of Global Positioning System satellite control authority to the Alternate Master Control Site at a backup location, June 6.
Transfer operations occur as a validation of the alternate site’s abilities to carry on the mission in the event that Schriever could no longer conduct GPS command and control.
In order to validate an alternate site would be fully operational in a contingency situation, members must physically go there and practice transferring everything.
Capt. Moses K. George, 2 SOPS flight commander, was the site commander for the transfer, designated Operation Razorback, and explained how their work affects users worldwide.
“There is a myriad number of users who are affected by GPS, so we are making sure that all of our users have the data that they need to make sure they can do their missions,” said George.
Transfer operations are a tremendous logistical feat.
The weekend-long event took two extensive months of preparation between 2 SOPS and various agencies across the world.
To prepare, 2 SOPS crews ran training scenarios that drove them into contingency transfer situations. The exercises challenged not only military personnel, but the contractor and government civilian force as well. They are an integral component to 2 SOPS GPS operations, said George.
Thirty seven Team Schriever members went on the trip including active duty, reservists and government contractors.
“A successful transfer requires the expertise of a GPS team to find solutions and make sure that GPS is working,” said George.
There were however, a few obstacles 2 SOPS dealt with before arriving at their end state.
One issue was the hardware contrasts between Schriever and the alternate site’s satellite operation technologies. Although the technological differences did create difficulty for the crews, George explained it was a lesson learned and they were still able to successfully accomplish procedures at the alternate site.
“We’re taking a look at some of the hardware changes we need to make and some of the comms we can install out there to make it easier for us,” said George.
More pressure was applied during the crew’s flight from Colorado Springs to the AMCS.
Halfway through the trip, the plane began to suffer a critical oxygen depletion which caused an emergency return to Colorado.
“When the pilot told us the oxygen level was depleting, it was definitely a bit worrying, but the next thought was whether we’d be able to complete the operation,” said 2nd Lt. Mark Skinner, 2 SOPS Assistant GPS flight commander.
Such a delay significantly affected the operation and needed to be communicated to several agencies.
“Our Resource Administrator, Kim Wilson, really pulled through for us and was able to get us on a backup flight within three hours,” said Skinner.
Fortunately, all crews were safe and eventually able to get back to their destination.
George explained how the reality of going through a real transfer taught him an important lesson.
“No matter how much you practice it, when you do it for real, it’s just a little bit different and you’ve got to be on your toes,” said George. “You’ve got to be able to anticipate some of the challenges that actually come up and our crews did great on that this time.”
This year’s transfer was complex due to some of the necessary hardware installments and software upgrades. Foresight of squadron leadership pushed the team to do the transfer early, in order to get proficient with procedures.
“I think it’s going to really pay dividends for us when we go into these more complex transfers because we have a tremendously proficient crew force right now that has seen some of the challenges already,” said George.
Lt. Col. Todd Benson, 2 SOPS commander, spoke highly of the performance of the transfer crews.
“I could not have been more impressed with the efforts of the active duty, reserve, contractor and government civilian personnel of Team Black Jack,” said Benson. “It truly took the efforts of many to make this one of the most successful operations transfers in recent times.”
Schriever Air Force Base is the Master Control Station for more than 30 GPS satellites.