Reevaluating space, why Reservists are relevant

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Laura Turner
  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs


The topic of space is trending strongly on news feeds and across headlines as Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and other Air Force leaders discuss the need for dominance in today’s hostile space environment. These recent developments have brought to light the only Reserve wing to specialize in the space mission, the 310th Space Wing, along with the question 'How do our Reservists contribute to the space fight?'

A new Air Force Space Operations Directorate, AF/A11, was activated in August 2017 that will focus on space capabilities within the Air Force. Maj. Gen. Pamela Lincoln, former Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic), Air Force Space Command, was selected as the Reserve representative and the Mobilization Assistant to the deputy chief of staff for Space Operations. This is one more element of the plan, said Wilson, to ensure our space forces are organized, trained, and equipped to prevail in any conflict.

“The A11 will integrate our space capabilities across the USAF headquarters,” said Lincoln. “[And that will] ensure the warfighter has flexible multi-domain solutions.”

At Schriever Air Force Base and across Air Force Space Command, active duty Airmen, civilian contractors and Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 310th Space Wing combat adversarial forces threatening U.S. and allied capabilities and services.

Since the 310th is the only Reserve space wing in the Air Force, they provide tremendous depth and breadth of experience to the space community. Comprised of 15 different units, the wing hosts squadrons at Schriever, Buckley and Peterson Air Force Bases in Colorado, as well as one unit at Vandenberg AFB, California. Each squadron supports a different mission and is made up of Reservists who bring years of military and industry experience with them.

“At the 19th Space Operations Squadron here on Schriever, we provide cradle-to-the-grave operations for the 3.6 billion dollar, 36-satellite Global Positioning System (GPS), the world’s largest military satellite constellation,” said Lt. Col. Kimberly Adams, 19 SOPS Director of Operations. “We also provide Navigation Warfare expertise and training in theaters around the globe, supporting exercises and real world events.”

The Reservists at 19 SOPS are experts in their weapon system, said Adams, providing mission continuity and technical expertise. They work side-by-side with the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, an active duty component of the 50th Space Wing.

“Once our operators have established proficiency in the satellite command and control mission, they have opportunities to contribute to our other missions,” said Adams. “Such as supporting GPS modernization efforts or Navigation Warfare assignments, ranging from a week to a month in length. This can often accommodate a Traditional Reservist’s civilian career and can appeal to many operators who desire variety, breadth of experience or travel.”

Also at Schriever, the 6th Space Operations Squadron captures and delivers timely environmental intelligence data. They partner with Detachment 1, part of the 50th Operations Group, and are responsible for backing up the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration located in Suitland, Maryland.

“We provide the backup command and control center for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP),” said Lt. Col. Paxton Mellinger, 6 SOPS commander. “DMSP satellites provide strategic and tactical weather prediction to aid military operations planning at sea, on land and in the air.”

At Vandenberg, the 9th Combat Operations Squadron operates the Joint Space Operations Center 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, alongside their active duty partners, the 614th Aerospace Operations Center.

“From here we conduct command and control of Department of Defense space forces to ensure tailored space effects to worldwide combatant commanders,” said Col. Ariel Barredo, 9 COS commander. “As active duty personnel rotate out, our Reservists bring experience and expertise to a complex and ever-changing mission. They provide continuity for that mission.”

The 380th Space Control Squadron, located at Peterson AFB, monitors high priority satellite communication signals. They also detect electromagnetic interference on those signals and geo-locate the source of interference.

“We are a Classic Reserve Associate Unit to the 16th Space Control Squadron, tasked with providing global Defensive Space Control (DSC) during wartime as well as peacetime,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Akin, 380 SPCS commander. “In a nutshell, 380 SPCS and 16 SPCS defend certain space capabilities against adversarial attack, allowing full and unfettered access to those capabilities that are necessary to conduct everyday operations.”

The Reserve National Security Space Institute resides on Peterson AFB as well, a fully integrated partner to the National Security Space Institute and the Advanced Space Operations School. They assist in educating joint warfighters on space power application and in developing space professionals.

Seventy-four miles North of Colorado Springs, the 8th Space Warning Squadron at Buckley AFB operates multiple space and ground systems. They serve alongside their active duty partners, the 2nd Space Warning Squadron.

“We control multiple satellite constellations in several orbits,” said Lt. Col. James Mindoro, 8 SWS commander. “We also manage ground stations on multiple continents for the purpose of providing missile warning, battlespace awareness, technical intelligence and missile defense.”

Located back at Schriever is Detachment 1, 8 SWS, who perform payload command and control for the Space Based Infrared System. Their mission is to protect and defend the U.S. and its allies from global missile threats as a cornerstone of the SBIRS Total Force.

The majority of the 310th’s squadrons reside within or just outside the Colorado Springs area, which is a hub for DoD space operations. Included in the general area are companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman, Aerospace Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.

“A large portion of our Traditional Reservists are employed by [these] companies,” said Akin. “Many of the programs and contracts they work on are directly related to either our mission specifically or other areas that can benefit the 310th and the entire space enterprise. They bring a wealth of knowledge and diversity that is not always common on the Regular Air Force (RegAF) side.”

Space, Akin explains, is a unique and complicated mission area that requires years of experience and study.

“While RegAF is typically focused on the 1 to 3 year picture, the Reserve is able to look at the 3 to 7 year picture because Reservists often stay in a single mission area longer than RegAF members,” said Akin. “This provides experience and continuity, and in space, that proves to be incredibly valuable.”

Now more than ever, AF Reserve Citizen Airmen are vital to the space mission as it gains traction and reputation.

“We have a tremendous partnership with our RegAF wings and our local community,” said Col. Traci Kueker-Murphy, 310 SW commander. “It’s a trifecta of capability – Reserve, RegAF, and civilian employers. We do our best to retain the Airmen leaving the RegAF so the Total Force continues to benefit from the investment in training and experience. On the other hand, the non-prior service Airmen we gain benefit from working side by side with our RegAF partners, while also providing all of us with a fresh perspective every now and then. Finally, there’s great synergy generated by having operationally current Reservists working in the space industry and also supporting our Air Force missions. The result is a much more experienced, capable force for both the military and civil sector.”

This concept, said Kueker-Murphy, has been proven since Air Force Reserve Command activated the 7th Space Operations Squadron in 1993. 7 SOPS is still a part of the 310th, operating a Space Situational Awareness mission alongside their active duty partners, the 1st Space Operations Squadron.

“Since [that activation], all of the Reserve space units have been instrumental in daily operations,” said Kueker-Murphy. “They’ve played key roles in developing and fielding new weapon systems and upgrades in mission areas across the board.”

Partnered with the ability to provide continuity in their field, Citizen Airmen can also benefit personally from serving in a Reserve capacity.

“If a Traditional Reservist remains as a real TR, that member has the opportunity to start a civilian career early enough to become a very valuable member of that civilian organization, with opportunities for growth and progression,” said Akin. “Establishing themselves in a civilian company for the long-haul while still serving allows them so many opportunities and benefits. If it works out in the long run, they could be looking at a military retirement on top of a civilian pension or retirement, given their career path.”

Moving every three to four years is one aspect of the active duty lifestyle that is difficult for some individuals. The Reserve offers them the opportunity to stay in one area and grow roots in the community with their families.

“[Citizen Airmen have the] ability to stay longer than a prescribed active duty tour, building upon their experience from longer station tours while at the same time providing stability for their family,” said Barredo. “Additionally, Reservists have various statuses in which they can perform; Active Guard Reserve, Individual Mobilization Augmentee, Traditional Reservist, Air Reserve Technician, etc. If their life status changes, there is most likely a Reserve status that will help them flex and balance their military career with their civilian one.”

In an effort to improve retainability within 9 COS, Barredo has found ways to foster a productive and respectful environment. Give folks the opportunity to succeed and fail, and learn along the way, he said.

“Having a strong leadership team, sharing the mission and vision, telling where we’re going and how we’re going to get there,” said Akin. “And explaining how each and every person is an integral part of that really helps. It’s kind of the ‘trust me’ button. If they trust in leadership, they will trust the vision.”

As the only Reserve wing to represent space, members of the 310th are proud of the mission and milestones they reach every day.

“The 310 SW Family of Professionals is a great organization to be a part of,” said Kueker-Murphy. “Our folks are part of an extremely dynamic mission set and they are contributing expertise and continuity critical to the success of the Space Mission Force. There isn’t any place better to be in the Air Force today!”