PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Space operations groups from across Air Force Space Command have collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory on a Space Tactics Internship that allows space operators to work with scholastic experts in a research environment.
Col. Troy Endicott, executive officer to the AFSPC commander, initiated the program in 2016 when he was the 21st Operations Group commander at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The program accepts 15 total AFSPC operators a year from the 21st Space Wing, the 50th SW at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and the 460th SW at Buckley AFB, Colorado.
“This internship is a great opportunity to take our sharpest space tacticians and expand their thinking, to envision their operations in a warfighting domain, and be taught from the best to address growing threats,” Endicott said. “When we originally discussed goals of the program with MIT LL, I asked that they return our operators dissatisfied with our current way of doing business, more energized and motivated to think and lead their peers differently.”
“I’m so pleased with the program and am thrilled to see space operators across AFSPC growing as tactical warfighters,” he added.
The Space Tactics Internship is a four-week program where interns receive more than 120 hours of hands-on instruction with MIT LL operators, engineers and analysts at the Lexington Command, Control and Collaboration Testbed and Lincoln Space Surveillance Complex, both located in Massachusetts.
MIT LL is a federally funded research and development laboratory that is aimed at creating solutions to problems critical to national security and is a place where innovative ideas and tactics can be fostered and tested. The 14th Air Force detachment at MIT LL organizes and leads the internship with the support of the MIT LL staff.
The program was created with the Space Mission Force in mind, allowing for enlisted, officer and civilian participants. The internship encourages space operators to think creatively and critically on how best to use information from the course to further evolve Department of Defense space tactics across multiple domains.
Senior Airman Jake Pullen, a staff evaluator with the 16th Space Control Squadron at Peterson AFB, believes this internship is vital to the Space Mission Force. The objective of the SMF is to advance the knowledge and skills of AFSPC space operators to better function in today’s contested space environment.
“We must use every resource we have available to propel the mission forward,” said Pullen. “Attending the internship is one of the best ways to do that.”
The interactions between space operators across the spectrum increase awareness of mission possibilities while allowing a creative and critical thinking approach to evolve space war fighting tactics.
“The skills and knowledge I have obtained from the internship have allowed me to find new ways to encourage my fellow Airmen to dig deep into the system and identify previously unrealized potential,” said Pullen. “The relationship built with MIT LL has also allowed the crossflow of information and resources, making our system and personnel better prepared to complete the mission.”
Capt. Stefanie Coward, a deputy flight commander with the 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, who attended the internship at a different time, went further adding that her mentors from the program are actively helping her now with some new projects.
“Getting the opportunity to step away from operations and talk to people who aren’t operators helps me to approach problems in a different way,” Coward said. “It allows us to be creative with how we solve problems now.”
Not only did Coward and Pullen both get to work with professionals within MIT LL, attending the space tactics internship allowed them to work with other space operators from across AFSPC.
“This internship is one of the few opportunities we get as space operators to interact with people who work in different mission sets,” Coward said. “It was great getting to know them and how they work.”
As the program moves into a new year, Coward stressed that all space operators should take up the opportunity to learn at MIT LL.
“This program provides value to every space operator who attends because the lab has such broad reaching mission areas and capabilities they are constantly working with,” she said. “People should absolutely take advantage of this incredible opportunity.”