It takes the entire team to reach mission success
By Lt. Col. James Bodnar, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander
/ Published April 04, 2014
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. -- Air Force military of all ranks, airmen basic to generals, as well as government civilians, contractors, distinguished visitors, retirees, families and community partners on and around Vandenberg turned their eyes toward the sky on Thursday morning to follow the Atlas V as it raced to deliver its Defense Meteorological Satellite Program payload to orbit. Rocket launches are inspiring events. There's no way around it. The energy released from the Atlas V main engine produces over 860 pounds of thrust at liftoff and propels the vehicle to over 16,000 miles per hour in about 15 minutes.
As amazing as it is to see and feel the energy expended by a rocket during its ascent, it is even more amazing to witness the energy invested by the entire team to get to the point of launch. It took years of hard work by the prime contractors and the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles to get the booster and the satellite ready for shipment to the launch base. Likewise, Team Vandenberg invested significant time and energy preparing for hardware arrival. Facilities and personnel had to be readied and the entire base team went to great lengths to ensure they were. Even after flight hardware arrived it took thousands of professionals hundreds of thousands of hours to put together the successful launch we witnessed Thursday. While it is true that some of those professionals are rocket scientists and rocket technicians, most are not. Even more interesting is that not all of the professionals that contribute to a successful launch work for the launch contractor, the 30th Operations Group or the 30th Launch Group. A large amount of support for launch comes from the 30th Mission Support Group, 30th Medical Group, 30th Space Wing staff agencies and agencies outside the wing here at Vandenberg.
Throughout this launch campaign, I witnessed over and over the essential support and service needed to keep this base operating efficiently and our mission moving forward.
It could be argued that we've been preparing for this launch since our first launch from the west coast 55 years ago. This team of professionals and our predecessors have been developing, sustaining and improving operations, services, support and infrastructure at Vandenberg since before that first launch in 1958. We did not get here on accident, but rather through our experiences, lessons learned, challenges successes and failures. The strength, resolve and dedication of those that came before us and the individuals that execute the mission today led to our success.
During one of the final reviews before launch, I was reminded that it is the hard work and dedication of all of us, as a team that propels our mission skyward. I watched a senior airman confidently brief the wing commander and a standing room only crowd of senior military, civilians and contractors. This Airman expertly described his area of responsibility and how all preparations had been made for launch. It was extremely well done. I then watched a stream of civilians, noncommissioned officers and junior officers representing agencies from all over the wing step before the commander and the crowd and brief with poise, confidence and expertise. Witnessing the dedication, competence and confidence from this group of professionals, who represented every facet of our team, was as inspiring as seeing the launch.
In the coming days, as you see pictures, videos or news articles about the Atlas V launch, take a moment to reflect on the role you play and take pride in the fact that you directly contribute to the success of Team Vandenberg.