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Western Range wrestles GATORS to streamline operations

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Western Range has employed GATORS to standardize our nation's two largest space ports for increased efficiency.

Guided Assessment Team for Operational Range Synergy (GATORS) started in 2011 as an Air Force Smart Operations initiative to smooth operations for customers operating at both the Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and the Western Range here.

The thrust of the program is to align best practices and optimize operations between the two ranges.

"We don't want a customer to have to keep track of how Vandenberg operates versus how the Cape does it," said Capt Dariusz Wudarzewski, the 2nd ROPS assistant director of operations.

With this aim, personnel from Vandenberg's Western Range coordinated with the Eastern Range to develop a way ahead for standardized operating procedures at both locations.

"We sent a contingent of people from here to the East Coast," said Wudarzewski.

The 30th Operations Group here sent someone from each of their operational positions to observe operations and launch procedures at the Eastern Range.

"We took their best practices in operations and training, and implemented them here," Wudarzewski said.

However, creating a concept of standardized operations, when geographically separated, does not come easy.

"At times it has been somewhat frustrating," said Captain Blake Pickell, 30th Range Management Squadron chief of the advanced plans branch, "because the ranges are quite different. But we have still been able to meet higher headquarters directive and regulatory guidance in the development of the range engineer program."

Capt. Pickell's team's coordination with the Eastern Range has increased their streamlining of Air Force technical expertise in launch operations on both sides of the nation through 30th RMS's Range Engineer Program.

Capt. Wudarzewski went on to explain how the ranges cannot be 100% identical due to the difference in environmental laws and many variances in weather, geography and infrastructure.

Despite the difficulties, the Western Range is ramping up to take on the next stage of the GATORS initiative.

The 30th Operations Group is now working to smooth out administrative procedures between ranges, so no matter what side of the country they're on, the customers have a familiar experience.

Customers aren't the only ones benefiting from the change.

"Impacts not only go through the entire squadron, but also through the entire launch team," Wudarzewski said.

With more than 40 Team V members working to standardize procedures for our commercial launch partners, the changes can be seen in every launch.

"When we meet and discuss things, we borrow the best ideas from each other's programs," said Pickell. "It's the only way you really get any better."