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Team V: assuring our nation’s access to and from space

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jason Turner
  • 2nd Range Operations Squadron
The Western Range is a national asset and is indispensable to the safety and defense of the United States. The mission of the 30th Space Wing is not just to launch rockets - it is to provide our nation unique capabilities for assured access to and from space.

Together the 30th Space Wing, with our mission partners and tenant units, make up Team Vandenberg or "Team V" as you may have heard this term used across the base. Together we provide our nation a safe and secure western range for space launches, orbital test vehicle landings, ballistic missile and missile defense testing, and a host of satellite, aeronautical, and missile defense operations. Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2015, he captured the importance of space when he said, "With today's national reliance on space capability, assured access [to and from space] has gone from important to imperative."

If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture Team V also enables our government and allies unprecedented advantages in national decision making, military operations, homeland security, economic strength, and scientific discovery. At no other time in our nation's history have space based capabilities been so important to our military power and national security. VAFB is a special place, and the men and women of Team V have tactical, operational and strategic impacts across our government and around the globe. Without Team V our nation couldn't assure access to and from space.

Why is the space domain so important? It provides our national-level decision makers a depth and breadth of intelligence and provides our warfighters an asymmetric advantage on the battlefield. However, space is becoming more congested, contested and competitive. In fact, it is becoming increasingly vulnerable. When Admiral Cecil D. Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command, recently spoke at the Center for a New American Security, he said, "Adversaries and potential adversaries are developing, and in some cases demonstrating, disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities." From a military perspective space systems exist to support the warfighter. The warfighter relies on these capabilities to be there for them under the most perilous conditions. As Haney mentioned, our adversaries already recognize the importance of our space systems to our joint warfighting capability. The space domain is critical to the warfighter on the ground - and without the consistent and dedicated contributions of Team V, support to the warfighter would be severely crippled.   

Assured access to space has a long history at Vandenberg AFB. Vandenberg's storied launch history began almost 60 years ago, on Dec. 16, 1957, with the first successful test launch of a Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. Two months later, on Feb. 28, 1958, the first-ever polar orbiting satellite Discover I was launched. Fast forward to Feb. 10, 2016 - Team Vandenberg launched the 762nd satellite from Vandenberg, a Delta IV rocket from Space Launch Complex-6 with a critical national security payload. U.S. military forces serving in harm's way are safer because of that launch - yes, Team V did that.   

We have a rich history of launch success here at Vandenberg. It may appear that space launch is routine; however, the launch phase is the highest risk phase of a satellite's life cycle. It is the hard work, teamwork and dedication of Team V that makes the launch phase look routine. It takes every member of Team Vandenberg no matter what your affiliation to successfully execute our mission on the day of launch. There is a saying in range and launch operations, "a million little things must come together for a successful launch." There is a lot of truth in that statement and the million little things are accomplished by Team V. 

In closing, assured access to and from space is vital for the national security of the United States and our allies. Team V has a long and proud history of delivering this capability for our nation. Space enhances our national level decision making and provides a decisive advantage for our warfighters on the battlefield. Launching rockets on the Western Range requires teamwork and we couldn't accomplish assured access to and from space without the hard work and teamwork of our people. The mission is why we are here and the people of Team V are our most precious resource. Keep pushing toward the ultimate high ground, our nation expects nothing less - and don't forget to look up.