RED FALCON improving 50 OG
By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 17, 2014
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As an operational arm of the 50th Space Wing, the men and women of 50th Operations Group execute the mission, "Command satellites to deliver decisive global effects."
In order to maintain its mastery, the 50 OG team has established and continued to support efforts that improve their mission capabilities as well as the organization as a whole, an important factor in the 50 SW's Air Force Inspection System and Commander's Inspection Program.
One of these efforts is RED FALCON, a group-wide annual competition that was designed to inspire and encourage the 50 OG team to develop expertise in their respective systems and foster the normalization of non-routine mission protection procedures throughout the group.
The competition was created three years ago to break the mold, assess performance and ultimately identify and recognize the best OG crew. The participating squadrons are 2nd, 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons and 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron.
"RED FALCON evolved out of what used to be Guardian Challenge, a space and missile exercise," said Capt. Joel Davee, 50th Operations Group Standard and Evaluation Division chief of evaluations branch.
Guardian Challenge was a biannual competition that pitted Air Force Space Command units against each other to determine the best acquisition, communications, network warfare, security forces, space operations and space lift teams in the command.
"The 50 OG leadership decided to bring a Guardian Challenge-type of competition to the group," Davee said. "Through the leadership initiative, the RED FALCON competition was created." Though the competition begins in August, the selection of crew members for each squadron actually starts in July. The selection involves a knowledge assessment for the crew members. The members who have the highest scores are selected to be the squadron's representatives.
"During the competition, 50 OGV or squadron evaluators present the competitors some high-level scenarios, threats or inputs that are focused on weapons and tactics," said Capt. Peter Lusk, 50 OGV senior evaluator for 4 SOPS. "We encourage the participants to focus on the big-picture, think outside the checklist and use critical thinking to ensure they maintain mission continuity for the users under a degraded and in a highly-contested environment."
Prior to the competition, 50 OGV works with the 50th Operations Support Squadron intel as well as each space operations squadron's weapons and tactics shop to make sure the scenarios are realistic and include actual threats. Some of the scenarios include fire and natural disasters, communication jamming between satellites and ground and anti-satellite threats.
"We present these scenarios to the crew and it is their job to drive the checklist changes as well as provide the best tactics, techniques and procedures to combat these threats," Lusk said.
When the competition is complete, a debriefing follows to ensure the crew members identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as recommendations.
A five-person team evaluates each crew based on 10 criteria.
"One of the major criteria is communication; how well did the crew communicate with each other," Davee said. "Are the mission commanders directive and interactive with their operators and vice versa? They are also graded on technical expertise. How well do they know their system? They are also evaluated on how well they conducted the debrief."
The 50 OGV also include the unsolvable weaknesses or problems in the after-action report. The 50 OG commander then signs the report to ensure the units or the group have solutions or improvements to these problems.
In past competitions, various crews have found various ways to help improve their squadron's systems as well as the group. Recently, they discovered that 22nd Space Operations Squadron has the means to detect jamming in their remote tracking stations.
"However, there hasn't been any type of communication between 22 SOPS and the OG space operations squadrons," Lusk said.
With this information, 4 SOPS took the lead to work with 22 SOPS to form a working group to determine procedures to open the lines of communication between the 22 SOPS and the 50 OG.
According to 2nd Lt. Even Rogers, 4 SOPS weapons and tactics training chief, RED FALCON is a major catalyst for tactics development.
"You throw these scenarios to the crew and they have to figure it out," Rogers said. "As a result, they usually come up with pretty ingenuous ways of solving problems, which translate into tactics that can be used by the squadrons."
Davee echoed the sentiment.
"Raising the expertise across the entire group will only lead us to be better operators and be better prepared for real world threats," he said.
As two of the members of the winning team during last year's RED FALCON, Lusk and Rogers both agreed that the competition benefits the group as a whole.
"It definitely pushed us; it was definitely a challenge," Rogers said. "I have never been challenged like that operationally. It raises the bar for each crew of the squadron because they are making an effort to prepare themselves."
Lusk said RED FALCON challenges 50 OG members in ways they have been challenged before.
"It's fun and competitive, it gets people motivated to think outside the box and do well for the squadron," he said. "It brings the crew together, improves morale and camaraderie, as well as the whole 50th Operations Group."