By Senior Airman Arielle Vasquez
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The world of space is constantly expanding and changing, making it crucial for space operations Airmen to have the most current information as they work in a contested, degraded and operationally limited environment.
Weapon system qualification training was transferred from Air Education and Training Command to the 50th Space Wing in April 2016.
Previously, space operators attended Initial Qualification Training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, which is now taught solely at Schriever Air Force Base. The new rotation IQT 17-2 is in full swing, conducted by the 50th Operations Support Squadron members.
“The purpose of IQT is to train our next generation space warfighters,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicholaus Griffin, 50 OSS instructor. “Our focus is to train all of the students so they can go into their operational cycles and support each of the units for the mission.”
The transition allows Air Force Space Command to respond at a faster rate to revise its training curriculum.
“It’s a contested, degraded environment that we’re operating in, which changes all the time,” Griffin said. “Our operational units are right here on base, making it easier to receive updates and new material on the same day as we are teaching, which keeps the program up-to-date.”
Thirteen courses encompassing Space Situational Awareness, Position Navigation and Timing and Military SATCOM are taught to space operators. The length of the courses ranges from 53 to 119 training days.
For the current cycle, 17-2, an orientation was held March 2 to give students classroom guidelines, expectations and guidance from base leadership.
“It may not always be evident, but everything you do has an impact for warfighters everywhere,” said Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander. “I’ve been in the space business for 24 years and in the course of that time, I dreamed about what you all would be doing. Always be inquisitive and keep driving.”
IQT 17-2 has 59 students enrolled. While some Airmen have been previously assigned to other space operation squadrons, a majority of the students are new to this field.
“I think my course will be interesting,” said 2nd Lt. Andrew St. John-Grubb, 50 OSS IQT student. “What I would like to gain from this experience is to become a satellite operator and eventually transition to another unit. I’m trying to learn about space as much as I possibly can and gain knowledge so that one day I can pursue my goal of becoming an astronaut.”
Once students near completion of their courses, they are required to showcase their skills with a 50th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation assessment. From there, the graduates transfer to their respective space operation squadrons.
Griffin said with each rotation, the quality of space operators has improved.
“I can watch students from the previous rotation execute the mission and see how effective the training is,” Griffin said. “Seeing students grow in their fields is a positive experience. Being in this role is rewarding and something I’ve never dealt with before.”