Space warriors explore the frontier with Advanced Training

  • Published
  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs

Inside the roaring belly of a Royal Air Force Mk-6 Chinook Helicopter a French special operations on the coast of West Africa prepared to unleash a perfect chorus of equipment, training seeking to rescue four hostages.

At least, that was the scenario developed by a diverse group of space warfighters during an advanced training event in September hosted by the 9th Combat Operations Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Advanced Training, or “AT” as it is more commonly referred to, places the space warfighter in a contested, degraded and operationally limited environment requiring critical thinking skills and teamwork.

“The goal is not to make the warfighter better at meeting current mission needs,” said Lt. Col. Clint Carpenter, the 9th COS operations support division chief. “It is to leverage the warfighter’s knowledge, experience and creativity to meet future mission needs.”

The high-stakes rescue mission met that benchmark by challenging members of the 6th Space Operations Squadron, the 614th Combat Training Squadron, Commandement de l’Espace (French Space Command) and the 9th COS to apply their tactical and operational expertise as never attempted before.

By creating a scenario involving a French Special Forces team aboard a U.K. helicopter the training audience was forced to overcome the operational limitations of a supporting multinational force.

“Our tactical operators need opportunities like AT to better understand how their efforts support the end users of space effects,” said Lt. Col. Meagan Tovado, the 6th SOPS assistant operations officer. “This understanding is paramount to developing critical thinking skills across an integrated total and multinational force.”

The 9th COS conducts four AT events annually and each event is divided into two components. First, academic sessions are provided to prepare members for the second component; the scenario.

Lt. Col. Gregory Dierenfield, the 9th COS AT coordinator, says the scenarios are usually modeled after recent real world events and combined with emerging threats or future mission needs.

“One particular benefit in this scenario was being able to tap into the diverse civilian and military career expertise our Reserve Citizen Airmen bring to the table for the academic component,” he said. “We are able to leverage the different backgrounds and approach space mission needs from difference perspectives.”

Training coordinators, like Dierenfield, strive to create as many “firsts” as they can for their training audience. This was the first AT that integrated tactical and operational Reserve squadrons from the 310th Space Wing as well as the 614th CTS, an active duty Air Force Squadron. It was also the first time a foreign liaison officer participated. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the entire event was conducted virtually – another first.   

“France and the United States have a long history of supporting each other” said Col. Olivier Fleury, the U.S. Space Command French liaison officer.

That support, which began 245 years ago with French assistance during the American Revolutionary War, is set to continue as both nations partner in the expansion and defense of space. As important as the list of firsts, the debrief identified lessons learned by all training audience members to better understand each other’s missions as well as how to integrate that information in future warfighting applications.

The expansion of space in support of both civilian and military day-to-day applications places a premium on its use and has identified vulnerabilities which require the space warfighter to critically think how their weapons system can best meet the mission’s needs. Exploitation of any vulnerability allows adversarial forces to contest the use of the space environment to support operations.