I'm not an astronaut, but I make the mission

  • Published
  • By Airman Holden S. Faul
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs

I can understand how some may look at the career fields within the military and wonder why those jobs exist. In fact, I have wondered this many times in the past myself.

I have been in the military for 14 months; this includes my time in Basic Military Training and Technical Training. So, needless to say, I’m still new to this lifestyle.

Being a photojournalist, I spend majority of my time focusing on one task at a time to produce the highest quality article possible. With each of these tasks, my goal is to tell the story while showing how it effects or contributes to the “big Air Force.”

I discovered that’s all I’ve been doing. I have been looking at the Air Force as a complete puzzle instead of paying attention to each individual career field; the Air Force’s puzzle pieces. Without these pieces, what would the Air Force be? How would it work? Would the Air Force exist?

I kept these questions in mind while on a recent trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida for the launching of Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous 3.

During this trip, we took a tour of Cape Canaveral to get a better insight of the process it takes for a successful launch. This tour included a visit to a mission control center, which is possibly the most important location during any launch.

This room is essentially the nerve center, filled with experts in several career fields. These individuals work closely together to monitor every aspect of the launch to make sure things continue to run smoothly.

Although the room was empty at the time, I was able to visualize each seat filled. I imagined how each person in there is not only responsible for their section, but must also communicate all information with each other to keep the mission running. If one person inside that room was to fail at communicating with everyone else, it would cause the mission’s success to become impossible.

Hours later, we met with several other people to watch the launch of United Launch Alliance Atlas V, which was carrying SBIRS GEO 3. Having never been to a launch before, I was clueless of the process.

There were about 20 minutes until launch when suddenly a voice began to play out of the public announcement system. “The team is currently experiencing technical difficulties with one of the sensors.”

I figured it was something that would easily be fixed and everything would continue as planned afterward. To my surprise, everyone around me was instantly in a panic and talking about how the launch was going to be scrubbed.

I tuned into the live stream, where thousands of individuals around the world were watching this launch. While watching an interview with a lieutenant inside of the mission control center, it suddenly hit me how important this launch really is.

I began to think about the amount of stress these people must have been feeling at that moment and I started thinking about the speech our tour guide gave us hours prior when he explained the amount of people that are necessary for success of this mission.

The security forces blocking the roads and directing traffic to secure the safety of everyone watching this launch, the weather team closely watching the changes of weather that can possibly effect the launch, the Airmen making sure communication is available between everyone involved and the individuals monitoring the rocket to maintain mission readiness.

Although these are only a few of the necessary jobs needed for every launch, I began to understand the importance of each individual task. If you took away just one of these jobs, the mission would become unsafe, and more importantly, it would become impossible.

The team worked together and were able to fix the issues they were experiencing in time for the launch to continue. However, at the last second, an aircraft flew within the restricted area and the launch was called off and rescheduled for the following night.

The next night, SBIRS GEO 3 was launched flawlessly and the mission was a success.

Being able to watch the launch in person was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of my choice to join the Air Force than I was at that moment.

I finally understand the importance of our mission here at Buckley, but, more importantly, I now understand why we have all the jobs we have here on Buckley.

The bottom line is, that if you ever find yourself wondering if your job is important, just know that it is. Take a step back and break down our mission piece by piece. If you were to remove your piece, I promise you, this mission would not be successful.