Teamwork in Remote Locations

  • Published
  • By Maj Erin Salinas
  • 20th Space Control Squadron Detachment 1
SOCORRO, N.M.- The 20th Space Control Squadron Detachment 1, Ground Based Electro Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) telescope is located at Stallion Range Center on White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, about 30 minutes from the City of Socorro. Our remote location increases the likelihood of clear skies and there is almost no light pollution to interfere with our space surveillance mission. However, this isolation also presents challenges that require effective planning, teamwork, and execution to overcome.

Our team isn't just the 12 contractors on-site, but our fellow detachments at Maui, Diego Garcia, and soon, Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama. Our team also includes our squadron support personnel, radar operators, and command team at the 20th SPCS at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Site C-6. 20th SPCS isn't all in one time zone, but we are all working to provide actionable space situational awareness around the globe.

A few months ago, the mission system software froze and our operators were not able to collect observations. The system administrator from 20 SPCS Det. 1 was on leave, but the operators didn't give up just because no one could help locally. They reached out to 20th SPCS Det. 3 at Maui and the system administrator drove into his site – two hours’ drive away on top of Mount Haleakala, at over 10K feet elevation.

The system administrator was able to assist the operators at 20th SPCS Det 1 and get the software up and running. Meanwhile, 20th SPCS operators at the Mission Operations Center worked with the Colorado Springs Regional Command Post on Commander's Information Requirements reports so GEODSS operators could focus on fixing the software. Teamwork across 20th SPCS ensured Det 1 that was back characterizing, recognizing, and responding to threats in the space domain as soon as possible.

At a small site in a remote location, you do not always have the resources to fix every problem. Knowing where to go to get help and who you can call before there is an issue is key to getting problems corrected quickly. The relationships we have built help our detachment in a crisis as well as during day-to-day operations. At a remote site, the key players to the team are not always on-site, but they are still critical to mission success nonetheless.

Last year in April, all three GEODSS sites became part of the 20th SPCS and our off-site GEODSS team expanded. Under 20th SPCS, the GEODSS sites have worked with the squadron to develop space battle management. While the detachments do not have resources on-site dedicated to intelligence, we are working with 20th SPCS experts to share crucial information to improve our mission. This re-alignment also provided easier access to support functions and routine access to our commander.

The 20th SPCS team is connected by our mission: Execute multiplatform, tactical space warfighting domain characterization, recognition, and responsiveness to achieve the 21st Space Wing and the U.S. Strategic Command commanders’ intent.

Even though we are spread over a large portion of the globe, we are connected by the importance of ensuring our national leaders have a full picture of what is happening in space. We are committed to helping each to make that picture possible.