30th Range Management Squadron: the evolution continues
By Senior Airman Ian Dudley, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 13, 2016
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Air Force is a constantly evolving machine, changing policies, creating new career fields, dissolving old and merging organizations. These changes create ripple effects that spawn new responsibilities and new Air Force Instruction manuals.
Before an AFI is written and the organization can find its place in the world, the person at the top has to invent the rules along the way, sometimes with little guidance.
Bill Prenot, currently the 30th Space Wing director of plans and programs, was the first commander for the newly formed 30th Range Management Squadron, in mid-2003. He was given 83 personnel to work under him, while being the only member who wore a uniform.
"Engineers were pulled out of the communications and range operations squadrons into this organization called the Range Maintenance Squadron," said Prenot. "By the time I took command on June 3rd of 2003 it was called the Range Management Squadron. Before I took command, I stopped by to let them know I was on station, then ended up in seven hours of meetings getting educated on range standardization and automation; and then I got a fire-hose treatment of 'what is it that we do here?'."
Even though the processes used today are more refined than they were at the start of the 30th RMS, the constant and often unexpected evolution is a challenge that every commander experiences.
"RMS processes now used on a day to day basis didn't exist back in 2003," said Prenot. "Or if they did, they were under a different title or different control. Because in 2003 this was a conglomerated squadron, we had to basically define our mission. It was like walking through a dark hallway: where are the door knobs? Does this even lead anywhere? Every subsequent 30 RMS commander had to figure out what works better, all the while improving and shaping the organization."
The 30th RMS is ultimately the organization that keeps the range 'green' and prepared for launches, by monitoring the contractors and ensuring that each operation has the instrument support required by the launch customer.
"During the mission I hand over command and control to 2nd Range Operations Squadron, after the mission they hand it back to me," said Lt. Col. Jim Horne, 30th RMS commander. "I make sure that everything is maintained to the standards that our launch contracts dictate and require. We work very closely with 2ROPS to insure that the range is ready and architected to support that launch. We have a menu of sorts, and we look through it and select what we need to support each operation. The range is nothing more than a collection of instruments with a communications backbone to get the information back to the Western Range Operations Control Center."
Today the 30th RMS is much smaller than when it started, having a mere 31 civilians and four military. Other drastic changes have involved combining range contracts between the east and west coasts.
"Our contracts for range maintenance used to be handled locally for both the 30th as well as the 45th Space Wings," said Horne. "However, the contract was combined to be managed by the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles and is now a joint contract for both ranges. Since I have gotten here it's been a process of trying to manage that change because it fundamentally changed almost everything we do. We had to change our mission, our vision and our focus. What we focus on now is the engineering behind the systems, and delivering systems and qualified contractors for the range operations squadron to command and control during launch."
As the 30th RMS continues to change under the guidance of Horne, the organization is prepared to evolve to meet the demands of space.
"When I first took it over in 2003 my first question was, 'what is this thing? How do we make it live?'" said Prenot. "And now the current commander asks the question, 'what is this thing today? And how do we make it work based on new mission sets?' It is a refining process that will continue as the needs of the range change."