All posts by purview

Interview: Tracking the Plunging Station

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“Under my new joint hat for U.S. Strategic Command I have a growing joint team to help me…. One of those is Army Maj. Jerry Micka. He was our lead for tracking the reentry of the Chinese space station. That was a heroic effort pulling in partners from all over the world.”

Gen. John Raymond, Air Force Space Command
34th annual Space Symposium, April 2018

Maj. Jerry Micka, chief of current operations at the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was lauded as one of six space professionals for his work in tracking the return of the Chinese space station, Tiangong-1, to Earth. “Purview” seized an opportunity to conduct its first interview and ask him about this critical and challenging space operations experience.

From Gen. Raymond’s comments, this was, in large part, a matter of operational coordination–bringing many different agencies and sources of information together to keep a vigilant and watchful eye on the space craft. How was it all pulled together for mission success?

At the JSpOC we coordinate space coordination activities, on behalf of the Joint Force Space Component commander, Gen. Raymond, with our coalition, joint, interagency and commercial partners. From the current operations desk we maintain open lines of communication with all our mission partners in order to share time-sensitive information and to provide our leaders and partners enough time to react to dynamic changes in the space domain. We have a team of joint warriors on the operations floor that keep vigilant “24/7” watch. We routinely track everything from space debris, reentries, conjunctions and active launches.

How did this operational need come down the pike or is handling this type of mission “business as usual” for the JSpOC?

Space situational awareness is a core competency of the JSpOC. We track thousands of objects and debris that orbit the Earth on a daily basis. We analyze conjunctions and reentries as a “normal” part of daily operations. The Tiangong-1 reentry was a unique event because it attracted international attention due to its size and potentially harmful debris. Because of these factors we increased coordination with our domestic and foreign mission partners to leverage and share information from all available tracking sensors to provide real-time situational awareness. I wouldn’t say this event was “business as usual,” but it was well within our capabilities on the JSpOC operations floor.

How did your space training and prior space career experiences support your efforts in determining all that needed to be done and how to perform this operational objective?

The space training I’ve completed and prior space experiences greatly prepared me and my team for the Tiangong-1 event. Fundamental knowledge learned in the Space Operations Officer Qualification Course about orbital mechanics and conjunctions were especially useful to focus the team during this event. The commander’s intent was a guiding principal in how we task organized, collaborated, and shared information with our mission partners. My previous experience as a Special Technical Operations planner at U.S. Africa Command and as the commander of the European Joint Tactical Ground Station detachment helped me understand the value and criticality of timely, accurate data to help paint the joint common operating picture for situational awareness. When seconds matter, Geographic Combatant Commanders require real-time information in order to make informed decisions concerning the Joint Operating Area.

How did you approach managing such a critical task?

Reentry events are a normal part of space activities we monitor from the JSpOC. If an event like the Tiangong-1 meets certain criteria, we will ask for increased surveillance by tasking additional sensors, both terrestrial and space-based assets, in order to keep a close eye on the object. Key to approaching this task was identifying which sensors were critical to maintaining custody of the Tiangong-1 until it reentered the atmosphere.

What were the keys to making this mission a notable success for the security space community?

Key to mission success on the JSpOC operations floor is our ability to rapidly identify issues, assess the impacts to our systems and paint the picture of the operational environment for the commander to make informed decisions. Cooperation and communication with our coalition, joint and interagency partners was another key that cannot be overstated. All who participated took part in rehearsals prior to the event to ensure the mission went smoothly.

What were some lessons learned during this experience?

Some of the lessons I learned relate to the interoperability among the JSpOC, our coalition partner space operations centers and our interagency centers (like NASA) that provided support to this mission. Space-based effects, like space surveillance, are critical to establishing a joint common operating picture that all organizations can use to synch operations. No one organization could have done this alone; it was a combined effort from all our partners. Throughout the reentry event, leadership involvement provided timely guidance and cleared the bureaucratic hurdles normally associated with information sharing.

To sum up, why was this effort important?

Collecting information from multiple sources provided accurate and reliable tracking data to best predict where and when space vehicle re-entry would occur. This critical information was continually provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Strategic Command, international partners and the Secretary of Defense to ensure national security and public safety were maintained.

Advancing Missile Defense

By Maj. Gabriel Stokes

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In June 2018 the world watched as President Donald Trump met with Kim Jong Un, the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This historic event potentially represented a significant step toward a new, peaceful relationship.

With much of the focus on the negotiations surrounding the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, one can’t help think back to the blistering rhetoric between these two nations that occurred just months ago. Until then, younger Americans had not known the threat of nuclear attack. The question rang, “How do we stop this from happening?” and the answer was the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program.

The GMD program sometimes finds its way into the national spotlight and into your living room on the evening news. You see eerie footage of missile silos and the frozen Alaskan landscape, you watch soldiers in operations centers and meet Army commanders. You learn that there is great confidence that this intercept system can protect the United States from limited ballistic missile threats. What you don’t see are the people behind the GMD program, the ones who are not in the spotlight.

Dedicated Team

There are thousands of men and women who have dedicated their careers to develop, design and build the system in place today. One small piece of this network of professionals is the Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager (TCM) office at U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

A TCM provides a dedicated team of subject matter experts who are focused on the management of capability development within a designated Army mission area or materiel acquisition program. TCMs ensure horizontal and vertical integration of all doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy (DOTMLPF-P) issues for chartered capabilities across the total Army force. They also serve as a focal point for ensuring materiel system developers produce effective capabilities that meet the Army’s needs. They implement the supporting concepts key to developing soldier training, documentation, supportability systems and facilities.

TCMs are the voice of the Warfighter. Their participation in materiel developers’ system concept development, cost-performance trades and cost-benefit analyses ensures that Army equities are met throughout the acquisition process.

There are more than 25 different TCMs Army-wide, including combat units, aviation, communications, training and mission command. TCMs are dedicated to a specific capability. They have different focuses such as unit types, training practices, strategic information systems and sustainment functions.

A new TCM can be created at the request of a Capability Development Integration Directorate director and with the recommendation of the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. The Army Training and Doctrine Command’s commanding general approves all TCMs via formal charter. TCMs are typically aligned under each of the warfighting Centers of Excellence.

TCM Global Ballistic Missile Defense (TCM GBMD) represents the commanding general of TRADOC and reports to the commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT). Since 1999, TCM GBMD has served as the Army’s user representative and centralized manager and integrator for all DOTMLPF-P considerations for its assigned areas of interest. These include global ballistic missile defense (GBMD) and Army applications of the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system. TCM GBMD is aligned under the Future Warfare Center, one of the three major lines of effort within USASMDC/ARSTRAT.

Unique

Led by Col. Matt Tedesco, TCM GBMD has 62 members, including active duty soldiers, full-time Army National Guardsmen, government civilians and contractors. Their diverse combination of backgrounds and operational experience allows them to solve complex issues across the capability development spectrum. The TCM GBMD is centrally located at USASMDC/ARSTRAT headquarters in Huntsville, Ala., and maintains satellite offices at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C; Arlington, Va.; and two locations in Colorado Springs, Colo.

TCM GBMD addresses Army and user equities for three specific Missile Defense Agency (MDA) acquisition programs: Ground-based Midcourse Defense, AN/TPY-2 Forward Based Mode radars and Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications. Each of these programs supports the ballistic missile defense mission, and each has its own challenges.

TCM GBMD is unique from other Army TCMs because in addition to the three programs, it also has a Requirements Branch and a Prototype and Experimentation Branch. These branches normally are located in a Capability Development Integration Directorate but not within the TCM office.

The GMD program is the cornerstone of the TCM’s effort. The GMD program operates within a unique cooperative relationship among three major players, the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Northern Command and USASMDC/ARSTRAT. Each organization plays a role in the GMD program in support of the homeland defense mission.

As the Army component of U.S. Strategic Command, USASMDC/ARSTRAT is the force provider and trainer for the operation of the GMD system. This mission belongs to the 100th Missile Defense Brigade.

The brigade is a multi-component unit comprised of active duty soldiers and Colorado, Alaska and California Army National Guardsmen. Its headquarters are in Colorado Springs, Colo. The brigade and its subordinate units of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Detachment 1 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., operate the GMD system. Teams of operators man the GMD Fire Control System in operation “nodes” at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., and Fort Greely. Each team, known as a missile defense crew, has five soldiers: three officers and two noncommissioned officers.

As a result of the most recent GMD system software release, the 100th Missile Defense Brigade has recognized a need for expanded crew manning. With four major software updates in the last nine years, the GMD Fire Control System has matured in its ability to receive, process and display accurate threat data. The GMD system operators analyze a vast amount of actionable information in order to make the most effective decisions on the system.

Due to this increased analysis, a need for an additional sixth operator now exists. TCM GBMD works closely with the 100th Missile Defense Brigade and the Future Warfare Center’s Organizational Development Branch to document the new requirement. This addition continues to create new challenges across the DOTMLPF-P spectrum.

Increasing Interceptors

The GMD program also is increasing its missile interceptor inventory. Currently, 44 mission-ready ground-based interceptors exist in the GMD inventory and are located at Fort Greely and Vandenberg AFB. TCM GBMD is an active participant in a new effort that will add 20 additional interceptors by the year 2024. Fort Greely celebrated the groundbreaking of a new third missile field in June 2018.

Each of the new missiles will have the next-generation interceptor, the Redesigned Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. It replaces the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. Kill vehicles are designed to seek out, directly strike and destroy the threat with kinetic force. The Redesigned Kill Vehicle incorporates lessons learned from the design and production of the exoatmospheric unit into a more reliable, more cost-effective and more producible and maintainable kill vehicle.

It is the TCM GBMD that maintains GMD Army equities and ensures that the requisite DOTMLPF-P rigor is applied to ensure the needs of the soldier operators are met.

We must wait to see the lasting impacts of the U.S.-North Korea summit in hopes that the nuclear threat is eradicated. In the meantime, the GMD program will continue to grow and further develop its defensive capabilities. The combined efforts of the MDA, U.S. Northern Command and SMDC/ARSTRAT effectively integrate these capabilities to ensure 100 percent confidence in the missile defense system.

Author: Maj. Gabriel Stokes is the chief of ground-based midcourse defense integration in the Training and Development Command Capabilities Management office, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

Normalizing the Space Domain

By Maj. Joe Mroszczyk

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With so much talk about space as a warfighting domain, when will it actually be treated with the same weight of effort and investment given to the other domains? The train of thought is moving forward, but slowly.

Why so slowly? Because the U.S. military has not put in place the force structure and space subject-matter experts (SMEs) where the Joint Force plans and executes a campaign: at the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs).

I believe there are misconceptions leading to the continued lack of space SMEs at the GCCs. First, the GCCs and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) believe that the Joint Force Space Component Commander will take care of the heavy lifting for them.

Yes, USSTRATCOM is the functional combatant command responsible for space operations and defense of the domain. But in order to integrate with the GCCs who have responsibility for planning and executing campaign plans where the world’s populations live, the GCCs need people who can support that effort for every domain the United States and potential adversaries operate in.

The second misconception relates to why the GCCs have not realized this is a problem and thereby generated the demand signal for it. This second misconception relates to a lack of general understanding of Space Coordinating Authority (SCA) and the Director of Space Forces (DS4) construct.

Most space practitioners are told that SCA is normally delegated to the air component supporting a GCC and that the DS4 exercises SCA on behalf of that component. The misconception is that the DS4 has a robust staff and also leads all other GCC space-related efforts.

Campaign Planning

While the DS4 may have a few space SMEs at the component level, they are not resourced to support campaign planning for the GCC and are often limited to fielding Space Support Requests from the components as a conduit to the Joint Force Space Component Commander. Meanwhile, the Army’s Space Support Element is appropriately focused on the land component’s space-related concerns, rather than planning space aspects of the GCC’s campaign. There is no robust space element at the GCC to coordinate the efforts between each of the components, and there is a lack of strategic integration as a result.

For at least a decade, deployed joint force headquarters have relied on space SME augmentation to their staffs in order to conduct essential planning and integration of space effects. Currently, space SMEs are typically alerted when a contingency or crisis arises and deployed as augmentees to support coordination in operations. By the time they arrive, their integration is too late to influence initial campaign planning.

Subsequent integration efforts are further handicapped by the significant learning burden levied on the augmentees who are usually space professionals with no understanding of the GCC and component boards, bureaus, centers, cells and working groups or the position they fall in to augment.

For instance, a space professional sent to augment a GCC in a 2017 exercise was normally assigned to a satellite operations unit and had never been to a GCC exercise before. She was expected to support space targeting efforts and perform additional duties assigned by the DS4 staff. She adapted, learned on the job and performed well by the end of the exercise.

Will the GCC have time for this type of learning curve in a real crisis? While many GCC staff elements utilize augmentation, the other warfighting domains have a much more substantial core of expertise.

Joint Space Element

The few people at the GCC working on space operations are too busy keeping their heads above water to advocate for help. In order to ensure space operations are adequately considered for every undertaking at the GCC, space SMEs forming a Joint Space Element as part of the GCC’s organic staff structure would need to participate in each of the applicable boards, bureaus, centers, cells and working groups as part of the daily battle rhythm. But how can the space SMEs influence the plan or for that matter generate the GCC demand for additional space requirements without being part of the GCC Integrated Priority List process?

This is, in part, the conundrum explaining why there is a lack of space professionals at the GCCs. It is understandable that the military would focus less effort on a domain that does not contain permanent residents. However, one would think that due to the complexity and importance of the domain, a representative proportion of subject-matter expertise would be dedicated to the planning and integration of operations related to it.

How many space-focused positions should there be at the GCC? The right answer is unknown at this point, but the percentage of the GCC staff currently conducting campaign planning and integration of space operations suggests that the numbers are far out of proportion to the need.

For all but STRATCOM and U.S. Northern Command, the number is at or below one percent including space-coded representatives from every military service. This slim percentage of space SMEs at each GCC could not conceivably provide enough support to planning and integration of every joint function for space (Fires, Movement and Maneuver, Protection, Sustainment, Command and Control, and Intelligence)

Near-Term Fix and Long-Term Investment

This shortfall requires both a near-term fix and a long-term investment. A potential short-term fix would be to recognize that the delegation of SCA and coordination of Space Support Requests is a construct created in a relatively benign space environment and requires adjustment for more complex current and future circumstances.

This adjustment could come in the form of the GCC rescinding that delegation and pulling space SMEs up from each of the components to form a minimalist Joint Space Element. This is different from the deployment of Space Support Teams as depicted in the 2002 Joint Publication 3-14, Space Operations, when U.S. Space Command was still in existence. The Joint Space Element would be a permanent presence at the GCC and would focus on more than just Space Force Enhancement. The chief of the Joint Space Element could be from any service and would exercise Space Coordinating Authority at the GCC.

In the long term, this structure would need to grow, and other command arrangements should be considered. For instance, a Joint Space Headquarters Forward could be assigned to Joint Forces Space Component Command under USSTRATCOM and attached to each supported GCC to further assist with the integration of space operations by the functional combatant command responsible for the national-level execution of space operations. This arrangement would allow the Joint Space Element to utilize USSTRATCOM-assigned personnel toward direct support of GCC planning and operations.

Such a construct will have a financial cost. Military space practitioners need to honestly ask if the force structure used today for augmentation (for example, Army Space Support Teams) would be better utilized at the GCC. The GCCs and the Joint Staff also need to take a hard look at the balance of domain focus and see where potential bill payers may be replaced by space professionals.

In a time when some members of Congress are questioning why the Department of Defense is not doing more and even considering the implementation of a Space Force, the steps outlined here contribute to a more effective use of space personnel and capabilities.

Author: Maj. Joe Mroszczyk is the Space Control Command and Control Branch chief on the Principal Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for Space staff. He has served in operational assignments with the 1st Space Brigade and the Army Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager for Space staff.

Maxims of a Staff Officer

By Maj. Steve Wojdakowski and Maj. Matt Williamson

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Army officers spend a majority of their time functioning as staff officers, yet they receive little instruction or formal education on the characteristics and qualities needed to succeed in that role. We share the following maxims as a guide to complement professional development and as insight for further discussion.

Some of these principles we learned the hard way, by making mistakes and receiving “mentorship” from our superiors and noncommissioned officer counterparts. Many of them are based on strong leadership and teamwork. We have grouped them by category and consider the first maxim to be the most important.

The Organization

Nothing matters more than the success of the organization.

Professionally speaking, your organization’s success matters more than your success. Routinely demonstrate that goal to your subordinates and strive to create that environment. If you see something detrimental to your unit, fix it, regardless of whether it is within your staff function. Never say the words “that’s not my job.” Your teammates will see that you care more for the team than for yourself. Wherever possible, make the complicated simple.

Be on the team.

The Army works as a team, and nothing can be accomplished alone. As a staff officer, you are a member of a team, no matter the echelon at which you work. When the team is working, work. If a team member needs help, help. Never shy away from carrying someone’s workload, especially if they are overwhelmed and even if their task has nothing to do with your staff function. Your teammates will respect the fact that you are a team player and, more importantly, reliable. Participate in every unit team-building event that you can; team building is hard when the team doesn’t show up.

Actively work to improve the organization.

No matter the organization, you are a reflection of it, and it is a reflection of you. Part of your duty as an officer and soldier is to improve your foxhole. Leave your staff section better than when you arrived. Far too many soldiers, at all ranks, perpetuate poor, incomplete or worthless processes because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Never settle for mediocrity. Look forward and work to change the organization to meet the demands of the future. Build processes and standard operating procedures that make sense, and eliminate bureaucracy. Use your experiences and expertise to make the staff at large more efficient and effective. Start preparing now for your replacement to ensure a seamless transition when you depart.

Staff officers are leaders.

Even if you are a staff section of one, you still owe the Army and the organization good leadership. Take the time to mentor junior officers and NCOs. Be a sounding board for junior officers, and give them perspective when needed. Cultivate relationships with the senior NCOs on the staff, and continue to learn from their experience and expertise. You will find that the organization runs more smoothly if junior officers feel comfortable coming to you and your peers to ask questions or vent.

The Boss

Understand the commander’s vision and intent.

Never turn down an opportunity to receive guidance from the commander. A commander is very busy and may give logistics guidance in a targeting meeting. You cannot help the organization succeed if you don’t know how the commander envisions success. Provide the commander with what he or she needs to be successful, and be honest. Nest your assessments and running estimates in the commander’s vision and intent, and package the information in a way that it can be understood quickly.

Never let your boss be surprised, especially in public.

Keep your boss informed through regular touchpoints, and never sit on time-sensitive information. If there is a chance your boss or the commander will be surprised by something, push it up the chain quickly. Have the courage to present bad news; it never gets better with time.

You get one chance to disagree with the boss.

You can make your counterargument to the boss once, and not in public unless he or she solicits it. Once the boss decides, execute with every fiber of your being until complete. The Army functions on subordinates following orders, and sabotaging your boss’s decision is not only underhanded but bad for the organization.

Whatever interests the boss should fascinate you.

That doesn’t mean suck up to the boss’s personal views and off-duty activities. It means know what the boss values as important to the organization and spend your efforts learning all about those interests.

Make life easier on your boss.

You will find that most challenges can be resolved at your level or below. Go direct with adjacent units and higher headquarters to resolve issues before involving the boss to help keep their plates clean. However, know when to elevate issues to the boss’s level, and err on the side of too early rather than too late. You owe your boss as much time as possible to make an informed decision. Your boss will appreciate a “heads up but no action required yet” much more than “oh, this blew up in our faces.” 

Others

You owe your subordinates timely and honest feedback.

Just as you seek guidance and feedback from your rating chain, you owe the same to your subordinates. Set aside time routinely to provide honest feedback and a plan to correct deficiencies. No rating should ever be a surprise.

Relationships matter.

Staff officers often close themselves in their offices and behind their desks, doing what staff officers do. However, your ability to cultivate relationships with your teammates pays huge dividends when tackling a specifically challenging work-related task. You build credibility and clout with other staff sections the more you take time to put yourself out there. Routinely visit the other staff sections, adjacent unit staffs and higher and lower headquarters. Even a five-minute “hey, what’s up” drive-by means something. You also will gain a better understanding of the challenges other headquarters face and may be able to offer your assistance in ways you didn’t know possible. Subordinate staff officers like to know you have their back. As conflict arises (and it always does), resolve it at the source. Backstabbing and one-upmanship breed distrust and disrespect, which can be disastrous on a staff. Respect the counterpoint even if you disagree with it.

Know the key players on adjacent and subordinate unit staffs.

Remember, relationships matter. This entails more than just associating an email with a position. Know them by name and face. Visit them regularly. A division space operations officer, for example, should know all of the brigade combat team operations officers in the division by name, at a minimum. They may not remember you every time you talk to them, but make a point to shake their hand and say hello whenever the opportunity arises. Make yourself available to subordinate echelon staffs. If anything, they will remember that someone at division does what you do.

Speak the language of the warfighter.

Regardless of your staff function, you exist to support the warfighter. As such, you should speak the language of warfighting in terms of doctrine. To adequately support operations, staff officers must understand operations. Read and appreciate doctrine, and stay connected to training centers and the institutional force. 

You as a Leader

Own your tasks.

This is basic leadership. When assigned a task or given guidance by the commander, own it as if you came up with it. Never use the boss’s name in vain; you lose loyalty points with your boss and chip away at your own power base. Execute your assigned tasks with violence of action as if they are your own ideas, and if you can’t achieve success go back to your boss with courses of action and a recommendation.

Be humble.

Welcome to real life. You don’t know everything. A quality leader solicits input from subordinates, weighs it dispassionately and makes the decision. When leading a team, seeking input from teammates builds cohesion and develops more creative solutions. Recognize your own shortcomings and knowledge gaps. If you are inexperienced at the military decision making process, for example, it is incumbent upon you to seek out the information and better yourself.

Be the biggest advocate for your warfighting function or functional area.

Regardless of your staff function, no one on the staff or in subordinate units should be a greater advocate than you. Never pass on an opportunity to educate leaders and other staff functions about your specialty. Become a true subject-matter expert in your field and why it’s important to warfighting, and you will earn credibility. Write professionally about your field. Educate and train the team on what your functional area brings to the fight.

Never take “no” for an answer.

Unfortunately, many staff officers and NCOs will refuse to do something because it’s too hard or time consuming. Most problems have a solution, and the easy thing to do is say it’s too hard. Great staff officers find solutions to these problems and can motivate others to address them.

Work hard, efficiently.

As a staff officer, you should work hard to provide flexibility and freedom of movement to subordinate units. After a long weekend or leave period, get to work before everyone else so that you can get a jump on things. Establish efficient and effective systems that enable high productivity up and down. Keep meetings from going long by setting agendas beforehand and sticking to them. Working hard does not mean working late, though you may have to work late to accomplish the mission.

You as a Contributor

You are never the smartest person in the room.

It doesn’t matter what experience you have, how many graduate degrees you earned or how technical your functional area is, there are always people in the room smarter than you. Be confident enough in your experience and knowledge to allow discussion. Not only does this make your peers and subordinates feel like their opinions matter, but the plan will be better for it.

Seek counseling from your rating chain.

As you move up in echelon, it gets more and more difficult to interact directly with your rater and senior rater. Make a concerted effort to schedule office calls with them, especially when first arriving at the unit. These may be the only times you ever engage them in person, and you want to use that time effectively. Prepare for the office calls by mapping out the message you want to send and the guidance you need. Provide read-ahead material when applicable so that your boss is not surprised by the meeting and can devote the necessary time to prepare for it. You may get only 15 minutes (or less) every few months, so make it count.

Avoid becoming a single point of failure.

Space operations officers rarely work with other space operations officers in the same organization. Many other functional area officers are the same. A consequence of such specialized areas is that officers often can become a single point of potential failure. Some officers intentionally may make themselves a single point of failure for fear of losing relevance or to make themselves seem important. Avoid this at all costs. Single points of potential failure do not ensure the success of the organization. Bring everyone that you can on board with what you’re doing, even if it’s through as simple a step as CC on an email. Organizations may not necessarily remember you for when things run smoothly, but you can guarantee they will remember if something you worked on goes wrong and you’re not there to fix it.

Provide timely SITREPs to your rating chain.

You may rarely engage your rating chain in person. Make sure you keep your rater and senior rater informed through regular situation reports that are nested within their guidance. Find the balance that ensures they receive your message while not overcrowding their inboxes. Format your report in terms of the raters’ stated priorities. They will appreciate knowing that you work hard for the organization, and they will be better postured to write you a fair rating when the time comes.

If you don’t know something, admit it, then figure it out quickly.

You will lose credibility instantly if you try to fake it. If your boss or the commander asks a question specific to your staff function that you can’t answer, say so. Then work diligently to get the correct answer and inform your boss immediately. He or she asked the question to know the answer, and you owe it to him or her to provide it. Get the answer to the boss before your boss pings you for it. Learn to anticipate questions, and continuously educate yourself to ensure you can answer questions when asked.

Authors: Maj. Steve Wojdakowski is a space operations officer and Maj. Matt Williamson is an electronic warfare officer. They are observer/controllers and planners in the Operations Group at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.