SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. —
The Space Training and Readiness Delta, Operating Location Alpha is the U.S. Space Force’s gateway to maintaining space superiority as they provide critical services to the branch’s warfighters in real time.
Space is a constantly evolving warfighting domain, challenging USSF operators’ ability to remain the most advanced warfighters on the planet. That is where OL-A comes in.
“The [OL-A] provides realistic space training to a wide range of audiences, from space operators to combat units across the [Department of Defense], to ensure that exercises and training events are as realistic as possible for the members of the Armed Forces,” said Lt. Col. Steven Melvin, OL-A deputy director.
The unit’s 69 personnel boasts more than 500 years of combined experience in space and training and participate in over 50 annual exercises that support the armed forces.
“With the rapid advance of technology and tactics, it’s important we work together to create a strong understanding of our weapon systems,” said Master Sgt. Eric Henson, OL-A communications flight chief. “Units and warfighters must be familiar with where they fit in the battlespace and how they impact our teammates as well as our adversaries. Accurate and frequent training allows us to better leverage multi-domain command and control which will be a deciding factor in winning the battles to come.”
The primary training organized by the OL-A is SPACE FLAG, a major exercise for USSF units to participate in. SPACE FLAG is conducted three times a year and is evolved from best practices from all sorts of exercises, such as VIRTUAL FLAG, the global series events and Schriever War-games to provide space operators with relevant and realistic tactical training.
“SPACE FLAG is designed to give operators a chance to hone their skills in a realistic, wartime like environment without the inherent risks associated with actual war,” Melvin said. “This provides the crews an opportunity to react to levels of aggression from unnamed adversaries in a controlled, teaching environment.”
With space constantly changing, the threats presented by it grow, too. It’s the duty of those serving in the OL-A to make sure the USSF’s preparedness grows alongside it.
“No one thought a day would come when our assets in space and the capabilities they provide would ever be threatened,” Melvin said. “Today, we realize our assets are being threatened and we need to ensure our military is prepared to defend those assets and to work in degraded situations [if] defense fails.”
On July 24, the OL-A officially transferred to the USSF, ending its seven year stint with the Air Force’s Air Combat Command.
“The stand-up of the U.S. Space Force affords us the opportunity to return to the space community and directly support training and operations from within that community,” said Kevin Rhoades, OL-A director. “The [Secretary of the Air Force] directed [OL-A] to become part of the U.S. Space Force because we offer core capabilities that make the Space Force stronger.”
Despite moving to the USSF, the OL-A also provides support for maritime, combat air and mobility and special operations.
“[We’re able to] project electronic intelligence data into HH-60 cockpits to help the aircrews locate downed Airmen anywhere on the globe,” Rhoades said. “We generally do this over CONUS ranges, but recently supported an expeditionary rescue squadron down range in the [United States Central Command area of responsibility].”
Those serving in the OL-A need to have an in-depth understanding of the space warfighting domain to maximize efficiency within the unit which often means no first-term Airmen are assigned to the OL-A.
“A great deal of self-reliance and ingenuity is required,” Henson said. “Our work can be fast-paced and very technical so it helps to have a strong background before arriving. Since we support a broad range of customers, there will be many times you will find yourself flexing to fill new roles in order to get the mission done.”
The OL-A strengthens the USSF’s space warfighting capabilities by developing, planning and executing numerous training opportunities yearly.
“Space is a unique and amazing domain that provides the U.S. and the world with some pretty unique capabilities – navigation, communication, imagery, and more,” Melvin said. “We are here to ensure we don’t get surprised in space by an adversary looking to take away our strength.”