Acquiring on all cylinders: Tenant unit helps 21SW assets stay operational

By Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman 21st Space Wing Public Affairs

As the U.S. Air Force postures itself as the global leader in the contested, degraded and operationally limited domain of space, the assets and systems used must be capable of assuring mission success every second of every minute of every day. 

Failure is not an option. 

With 21st Space Wing systems and assets running as intensely as the Airmen operating them, situations can occur where spare parts dwindle and or assets do not operate at full capacity and require an emergency response. Lucky for our units and troops, who rely on system precision and support, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, houses a team of Airmen in the Battle Management’s Strategic Warning and Surveillance System Division dedicated to preventing and responding to these issues. 

In November 2011, Air Force Materiel Command announced a major restructuring representing the largest and most ambitious initiative in the command’s 20-year history. As an outcome, AFMC reduced its direct reporting business units, known as centers, from 12 to 5. From this restructure, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center was created. 

“The AFLCMC provides the warfighter’s edge by acquiring and supporting war-winning aircraft, engines, munitions, electronics, cyber weapon systems and sub-systems,” according to AFLCMC, A Revolution in Acquisition and Product Support. “Driven by innovation and a deep commitment to excellence, AFLCMC secures our nation’s strategic objectives by delivering dominant warfighter products that project global airpower.” 

Under AFLCMC, the Battle Management Directorate (AFLCMC/HB), headquartered at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, develops, acquires, and sustains capabilities supporting aerospace management, air operations command and control, mission planning, intelligence, theater battle control, airborne battle management, missile warning, space control sensors, joint operations, force application planning, force protection and weather operations. 

AFLCMC/HB contains 11 direct reporting branches throughout the nation, with other major units at Robins AFB, Georgia, Langley AFB, Virginia, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, Hill AFB, Utah, Offutt AFB, Nebraska and here at Peterson AFB.

At Peterson AFB, subordinate to AFLCMC/HB, the Strategic Warning and Surveillance System Division’s mission is to develop and sustain missile warning, missile defense, space situation awareness and command and control capabilities as promised to the warfighter while being effective stewards to their resources, according to their mission statement. 

“We are responsible for ensuring the systems that will provide missile warning, support missile defense, support space situational awareness are operating 24/7 for 21st Operations Group operators to actually operate them,” said Col. Todd Wiest, Strategic Warning and Surveillance System Division senior material leader. “We are like 9-1-1 for the missile warning radars, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and for some systems at the Joint Space Operations Center.”

Wiest also said while being that emergency contact, his team works hard on the anticipatory side of procurement and sustainment. 

“We are also the preventative health for these assets,” Wiest said. “We are looking at how the radar is performing with the parts we are having to replace, and identifying the parts we need to fix. We ensure our spares are on hand so if anything does go bad we are ready to maintain our operational status.” 

Having the foresight of knowing what to acquire and when to acquire is a challenge Wiest and his team said they are fully capable of tackling. One thing that is not a challenge, though, is integrating their mission with the 21st SW’s mission.

“We have a great symbiotic relationship here where we support the 21st OG’s operational mission for missile warning, missile defense and some space situational awareness portions of operations,” said Wiest. “At the same time, we are here on base with the 21st Space Wing supporting us supporting them, and I think that is a really great situation to be in as an acquirer. When we work together we advance the ball much further.” 

Though the division falls under AFMC, Wiest and his Airmen feel comfortable knowing they are more than just a tenant unit here – they are a part of Team Pete.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Peterson Air Force Base website.