Learning to lead

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Fontenot
  • Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs

Members from Space Delta 8 – Satellite Communications and Navigational Warfare, 4th Space Operations Squadron, have been breaking barriers in a new space training initiative at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado.

The new training was critical to the success of operations and protection of the wideband and protected Military Satellite Communication system. The squadron experienced an 80% turnover of their cyber personnel this past year. This occurred as the U.S. Space Force focused on moving Guardians to new units, as well as moving Airmen back to U.S. Air force units.

Select radio frequency transmission system enlisted Guardians and Airmen, Air Force Specialty Code 1D7X1, are attending the new crew chief training course. From a technical standpoint, the crew chief position merged the former communications system operator duties with the enlisted crew leader position. By completing this merge, 4th SOPS was able to re-allocate 20 unit personnel and save over 8,300 man-hours of work per year. 

“As a [U.S. Air Force] enterprise we held ourselves back from doing this in the past. Our culture was much different - very operator-centric,” said U.S. Space Force Master Sgt. William H. Steward II, DEL 8, 4th SOPS operations superintendent. “With the birth of the Space Force, and trying to understand the direction we need to go as a service, it makes sense to capitalize on the talents of all of the Guardians and Airmen on the team. They all have the capacity to learn and lead, and it’s time to swing the culture to Guardian-centric.”

During the summer of 2021, 4th SOPS sent a cadre of subject matter experts to the 50th Operational Support Squadron in an effort to create a formal training course that took on-the-job operations floor training into a structured, classroom environment.

 The currently unnamed crew chief course is taught by the 50th OSS. Enlisted members learn various aspects of crew operations, including writing reports, crew change-over procedures, crew coordination and emergency response actions.

Crew chiefs are trained to lead and manage 18 member crews, operating 27 MILSATCOM systems across four constellations. This course prepares them for understanding their area of responsibility as leaders. 

In order to be qualified to operate on the mission system, each member must satisfactorily complete the training, followed by an evaluation. Each participant can earn one of three ratings Q1, Q2, or Q3.  A Q3 is the lowest rating, and is essentially a failure. 

“With Q1 being the highest, not all participants are able to achieve it, including the organic Space Operations members,” said Steward. “So it’s very impressive when our cyber Guardians can go through the same training and crush their evaluation.”

U.S. Space Force Sgt. Skyler Schaeffer, 4th SOPS MILSATCOM crew chief, was the first cyber professional to complete the training in April 2021, he also achieved the highest possible evaluation rating of a Q1 during his final crew evaluation.

 Since that time, Schaeffer was selected to attend the Army’s Wideband Satellite Operations Center 1C Course at Ft. Gordon, Georgia. He is part of the initial cadre of U.S. Space Force Guardians receiving training for the WSOC mission that is scheduled to transfer to Space Force in 2022. 

Five other cyber members have completed the training and are currently employed as crew chiefs within 4th SOPS: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Zamora, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Sroufe, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Amos Hommel, U.S. Space Force Spc. 4 James McMillon and U.S. Space Force Spc. 4 Joseph Cummins.

“We are the first crop of cyber operators to work this position, to my knowledge,” said Cummins. “We've all given our feedback to the [50th] OSS as to our experience in the space evaluations world. It's something that we've never seen before, and some of us definitely had to try harder than we expected at first when it came to our training.”

“I am very proud of each of the members for their contributions to the mission, and for having the courage to step up for a new role when presented the opportunity,” said U.S. Space Force Senior Master Sgt. Shane Kau,  4th SOPS senior enlisted leader. “This was just the beginning of our overall Guardian integration efforts to ensure we are utilizing our talent properly and placing people where their interests lie.  However, it would not have been a success without their hard work and it is my pleasure to serve with them.”