VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE Calif., -- In 1961, NASA created Project Gemini – inspired by the twin stars Castor and Pollux of the third constellation of the Zodiac – resulting in a seismic shift for human space flight by increasing a spacecraft’s capacity from a single astronaut to a two-astronaut crew.
This simple yet monumental addition of creating a team in space led to the U.S. surpassing the Soviet Union by furthering mission endurance of humans and equipment, expanding the capabilities of an astronaut to include spacewalks, and allowing for rendezvousing and docking with another vehicle.
Our space program undoubtedly became more resilient.
In the spirit of this program, Guardians at Space Delta 5 (DEL 5) have created Gemini – similar to the Air Force’s ‘Wingman Day’ – acknowledging the power and importance of having another person to count on. Gemini represents how much more successful Guardians can be when working together.
“Establishing a day, specifically for Guardians in the Space Force, that is dedicated to improving the morale, resilience, and awareness of personal and professional development opportunities offered on base was a no-brainer,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Whitney Barton, First Sergeant for DEL 5, the Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) and the 55th Combat Training Squadron. “As an Air Force First Sergeant and certified Master Resilience Trainer, I understand that resilience is paramount for members serving in all branches of the military. It's important to have these types of events imbedded into the culture of a unit, to establish trust and build strong bonds amongst the Airmen and Guardians.”
Barton led the charge, along with numerous DEL 5 volunteers, to make Gemini a reality.
Kicking off the morning of April 7, 2023, the Guardians of DEL 5 gathered at the Base Theater where leadership opened with a DEL 5 mission brief, specifically targeted towards Guardians in the Specialist tier, to help them to better understand their importance and direct impact to the mission they provide.
Following that, food and refreshments coupled with access to base support agencies such as the Chaplain, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Education, Mental Health, and more, were provided to members. Then, DEL 5 members broke out into different tiered groups based on rank to connect with their peers through themed icebreakers and small-group discussions led by professionals.
“Gemini is an investment that trades a small amount of time for a huge benefit in interpersonal interaction, awareness of tools and helping agencies, and builds the camaraderie and teamwork needed to accomplish the mission during times of high stress,” said U.S. Space Force Col. Phillip Verroco, DEL 5 Commander and Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) Director. “Our operations tempo has never been higher, so it's essential to deliberately step back from the tyranny of the urgent to make sure we're concentrating on the important.”
The CSpOC operates 24/7 and is CFSCC’s lead integrating space operations center which continuously coordinates, plans, integrates, synchronizes, and executes space operations in order to provide tailored space effects on demand to support Combatant Commanders and accomplish national security objectives.
“The mission is non-negotiable,” Verroco said. “It's what the nation expects of us and what it pays us to do. But just like the systems we operate have a maintenance schedule to keep them working, we need personal and team ‘maintenance’ to keep the people part of the mission running smoothly.”
The afternoon of Gemini brought everyone back together for a BBQ with music and team-oriented sports such as basketball, volleyball, cornhole and more. The two events highlighting the end of the day was an Enlisted vs. Officers Tug-O-War Contest and a Mystery Pie-in-the-Face charity event.
The officers closed out a ‘best-of-three’ series in a third-round nail-bitter to take home the bragging rights.
“When we rounded out the event with closing comments, you could see the energy and enthusiasm on everyone's faces, along with the mystery pie fillings on both mine and Col. Verroco’s face,” Barton explained. “Our team planned and executed the event flawlessly and we could not have picked a better group of individuals to help put it all together to kick the first one off.”
The DEL 5 team plans to continue the Gemini program after the success it had during its first iteration and hopes it may become a staple throughout the Space Force on how to invest in your people.
“This was a true grassroots initiative, and the effort and response are a direct reflection on the dedication of the volunteers,” Verroco said. “Since Gemini hits on the core value of connection and drives home amplifying the Guardian spirit, it has very high potential for the entire Space Force. We'll certainly continue Gemini at Del 5.”