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By Airman Amanda Lovelace, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 07, 2020
First Lt. Seth-Mitchell Trambulo, 50th Operations Support Squadron student, studies his coursework at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Nov. 12, 2019. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron is currently conducting their continuation training refresher courses in a distance learning style to ensure operators maintain proficiency despite COVID-19 physical distancing protocols. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)
The 2nd Space Operations Squadron hosted distance learning continuation training refresher courses April 21-29 to maintain readiness during this COVID-19 response.
The courses are for operators in dwell status, which means they aren’t currently on an operations crew schedule. During this time, their sole responsibility is to maintain currency in their position and to learn advanced warfighting skills. This training covered vehicle commanding, payload commanding, reporting and user support operation procedures.
“The CTRCs are targeted for the operators in dwell who need to maintain their CMR status before they go on their next combat rotation,” said Capt. Sean Raymond, 2nd SOPS training and standardizations/evaluations flight commander.
Due to the nature of their mission, the squadron is designated a CMR unit as they support combat commanding down range through vital GPS functions.
“Because we’re a CMR unit, our people in dwell need to be ready to go on crew at any point and cover down for sickness, upgrades, mission transfers, etcetera,” said 1st Lt. Kelley Kennedy, 2nd SOPS chief of training. “They need to be able to maintain CMR, and one of those requirements is to maintain CTRC proficiency. That’s why we have this big motivation and purpose behind doing these courses even though we’re in the COVID-19 situation where we’re restricted [in our movement].”
This is the first time 2nd SOPS conducted the courses in a distance learning style. In the past, they’ve reserved a classroom in the 50th Operations Support Squadron area to train in addition to a facility off base with a simulator that mimics the GPS constellation.
“We can utilize that PTF to inject anomalies or inject a routine, nominal procedure that we want the operators to practice,” Kennedy said. “So typically, it’s very hands-on, face-to-face training.”
Since some of the material covered in the training is For Official Use Only, it can’t be sent through an unsecure medium like Zoom, Skype or personal email addresses. This means operators who didn’t have access to Virtual Private Network, Webmail or remote desktop had to participate solely through audio.
The squadron breaks up their operators into three different experience levels: inexperienced, experienced and highly experienced. The training is designed for operators in the latter two experience levels. So despite not being able to see the material, everyone who participated was familiar with it.
“The operators either had the training material in front of them because they were able to access it securely, or they were experienced or highly experienced or members who are pretty familiar with these procedures and can understand them well enough to talk about them,” Raymond said. “Even over the phone through distance learning, we were able to have some really good discussions.”
Despite the limitations distance training may have, it’s still getting the job done and keeping operators ready to fight.
“The mission doesn’t stop for a global pandemic,” Raymond said. “We still need to provide global position, navigation and timing to the world. Not to mention that there are still threats out there. There are still other nations that are advancing in their technologies and they’re probably not stopping for COVID-19, and neither should we.”
As the base eases into its COVID-19 recovery plan, the squadron may begin holding classes while maintaining the less than 10 people and six feet of physical distancing rules.
“For the members who may be stuck at home, where their main job right now is to stay healthy and be ready to pull crew if needed, we’re still going to offer the distance learning style classes,” Raymond said. “Those members can still get exposure to the material so whenever they do come back and pull crew, they’re more refreshed and focused so we’re ready to jump back in as soon as we can."