An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

Cadets gain real mission experience assisting 21st Operations Group

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY. Colo. – U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets First Class Randy Frost and Sangmin Lim, Aeronautics majors at the U.S. Air Force Academy, conducted research for the 21st Operations Group and Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Center’s Space Superiority Division. Their work provided valuable, cost effective information about wind impact on domes housing Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance Systems that may help increase mission capabilities. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dave Smith)

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY. Colo. – U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets First Class Randy Frost and Sangmin Lim, Aeronautics majors at the U.S. Air Force Academy, conducted research for the 21st Operations Group and Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Center’s Space Superiority Division. Their work provided valuable, cost effective information about wind impact on domes housing Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance Systems that may help increase mission capabilities. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Dave Smith)

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- For two U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, a quandary for the 21st Operations Group and Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Center's Space Superiority Division turned into a valuable career opportunity.

The dilemma revolves around increasing Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance Systems mission capabilities during inclement weather. Officials decided the issue warranted further study, but research like this doesn't come cheap. This is where the idea of using available resources, specifically the USAFA Aeronautics Research Center, was born.

"This was a unique opportunity for all parties involved; not only were we able to minimize costs, the work provided by the cadets is high quality," said Jeff Wiseheart, 21st OG technical director. "I was very impressed by their efforts. They did more than I expected, and I expected a lot."

Cadet Randy Frost and Cadet Sangmin Lim, an exchange student from the Korean Air Force Academy, as aeronautics majors, were up to the task. With Tim Siefers, instructor of aeronautics and team leader for the cadet project, as team lead, the two cadets dove into the issue. They set out to determine whether GEODSS telescopes domes housing shutters could remain open longer if wind speeds were higher than current limitations.

Dr. Thomas McLaughlin, director, USAFA Aeronautics Research Center, worked on similar projects concerning flight loads in the past, so he was confident in knowing the right approach to take to get answers. Siefers designed the research model and the cadets visited the GEODSS test bed east of Colorado Springs to get acquainted with the system and take initial measurements for scale models. Siefers said similar research is not common, so the cadets operated in largely uncharted territory. Since the cadets performed their own studies and documented the results, future problem solvers seeking similar solutions will not have to rely on the theoretical, but will have actual data.

"It is absolutely conclusive that this work has contributed toward basic research of domes or hemisheprical shapes," McLaughlin said. "We were able to find little published material relevant to wind-induced loads on domes or hemispheres with the investigated wind directions."

The scientific community benefits from the research which helps fill the knowledge gap for operators in related industries.

"Now it's out there and that will help," said Frost.

Much of the work was done in the USAFA Aeronautics lab's low speed wind tunnel, where scale models were tested at various wind speed and direction points. Once data was gathered, Frost and Lim prepared two different briefings for the study's sponsors. Doing the work involved in the data, and communicating the findings, provided the cadets rare real world experiences.

"They are excellent briefers and writers," McLaughlin said. "Without this kind of project they would not get the chance to develop those skills. They learned how to be the ones asking questions and (completing) this project."

It was highly motivating for the cadets to do work that is being used for operational application, Siefers said.

"Communication is important and they must be able to do it," said Siefers. "It's a useful experience. They are learning to find solutions and do briefings."

The cadets recognized the opportunity's value as well.

"What I gained most from the experience was the hands-on experimenting, and helping to troubleshoot while we were doing it," Frost said. "And I learned how to condense details to brief it, to make it so others could understand. It really helped me."
Both cadets and instructors acknowledged the fact that such opportunities for real-world research is often limited to post-graduate work.

"It was real experience for the real needs of the U.S. Air Force," Lim said. "There was a high level of trust toward the cadets and faculty, and good communication. It was fast paced and good to get feedback."

McLaughlin said in high impact practices like working for real customers with immediate expectations, getting feedback is a key to the cadets' development. The need to provide a sense of what the problem was, and do it quickly, allowed them to work in situations similar to those they will face throughout their careers.

"This project really leveraged the capabilities of the department," he said.

Lim said he found the entire project beneficial.

"This is learning career skills," Lim said. "We went through (various) panels and learned to take criticism and stay professional. I feel we really got better through the process. We were able to figure out the steps along the way, encountering real life problems and solving them in a real situation where the customer is waiting for us."
"What we get is the big picture," said Frost. "We get this through the project, not through (typical) classes."

Overall, McLaughlin is pleased with such projects because they fit nicely with the Academy's capabilities.

"It's a great example of the use of USAFA resources," he said. "Everybody wins as far as we're concerned. The cadets work on real (projects) and get experience, the sponsors get quality (research) and a good cost. Everybody wins."

Editor's note: This article is the second in a series of stories detailing how the 21st Operations Group, Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Center's Space Superiority Division and the United States Air Force Academy worked together meeting the needs of each, to carry out and improve mission accomplishment.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui