LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The courtyard and surrounding common areas of the Schriever Space Complex took on a festive atmosphere July 24 as the Space and Missile Systems Center and 61st Air Base Group hosted their first open house at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
For four hours, the Schriever Courtyard was a no hat, no salute, alternate duty location for personnel assigned to the base as they and their families weathered warmer than expected July summer temperatures. Many took advantage of the outdoor tented display areas and demonstrations, and some opted to tour the SMC Heritage Center in air conditioned comfort. Free snow cones, cotton candy, popcorn, bounce houses, and a barbeque lunch were also popular attractions.
Organized by the Civilian Leadership Development Council, Company Grade Officers Council, the Top 3 and Rising 6 groups, and SMC’s Heritage Foundation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, the event showcased what each of SMC’s directorates, and 61st ABG’s squadrons and units do and how they support Air Force Space Command’s mission through hands-on activities for the enjoyment of all.
“People had a blast, especially at the rocket demo, and the food was a big hit,” said Bryan Blue, 61st ABG community support coordinator. “The family members really enjoyed learning about the SMC mission. One spouse told me she had no idea what the base did, but pictured rockets, astronauts, and scientists walking around with lab coats, even though she knew they weren’t.”
Blue’s comments were echoed by SMC leadership during their official kick off remarks to welcome the crowd in front of the main stage area.
“I have been at SMC for a lot of years, and this is the first event we’ve ever held like this. We’re here to showcase to our family and friends what we do here. If you go around to all the different booths, you’ll get to see the exciting mission areas. Our vision is to forge an agile team that delivers innovative, war-winning capabilities, and that’s what we do here every single day,” said Joy White, SMC executive director.
“From GPS for the world, to military communication capability, to missile warning, space situational awareness, rockets to launch all those things and the networks that operate them. We are delivering that every single day for our nation’s Department of Defense, and we are proud to do it and we’re so happy to share with all of you.”
White also took time to specifically thank a number of individuals by name for their leadership, as well as various groups and SMC partners responsible for putting together the open house.
Eliciting audience laughter for being “the only thing between you and some lunch, or a trip through the bouncy castles,” Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space, took a moment to offer his personal appreciation to a number of private and off-base organizations, including the Air Force Association’s local Schriever chapter and The Aerospace Corporation for donating their time, effort and resources to the event.
“If you’re a family member and you’re visiting today, thanks for being here. This should be a lot of fun for you and welcome to the base,” said Thompson in addressing the family members. “You are also a part of Team SMC and we know it each and every day. Hopefully, you’ll be able to garner a more special understanding of what our mission is and how valuable we are to the United States of America, day in and day out here with what we do at the Space and Missile Systems Center.”
As with any first time event, valuable lessons were learned and will be passed on to those who plan next year’s activity.
“We wanted everything to be free for employees and their families. Our total budget was $1,800, but we had some amazing donors,” explained Michelle Goddess, a budget analyst from SMC’s Launch Enterprise Directorate, who also serves as fundraising chair for the Civilian Leadership Development Council. “We received gift card and food donations from the Air Force Association local retail stores and markets, the CLDC, CGOC, Top 3 and Rising 6, and SMC Command Chief Scott Myers. The generosity of our people and local community always amazes me,” said Goddess.
For the most part, however, the challenges of pulling off an event of this size were met by the herculean efforts of coordinating and attaining resources and funds and getting enough volunteers to ensure a successful event.
“Coordinating pick-up and delivery of items from Fort MacArthur, getting donations of food, and purchasing all of the support items from paper plates, silverware, etc., were major undertakings,” explained Lt. Col. Alec Porter, STEM outreach director from SMC’s Engineering Directorate. “The core planning team did a tremendous job and made it happen.”
“I believe this event considerably helps build an appreciation of what our brothers and sisters contribute to the important mission of Los Angeles AFB. People also had a lot of fun…and fun is good,” said Blue. “Lt. Dana Auten and Ms. Goddess were incredible in doing the lion's share of the work and coordination. They have a lot more patience than I will ever have. Thanks to the private orgs for their monetary contributions and volunteers, and thanks to SMC’s Command Chief for his incredible advocacy and confidence in the committee's vision and efforts...and his help volunteering and getting his hands dirty.”
Kudos were specifically served up to the “Grill Sergeants” staffing the hot dog, steak and burgers brigade as attendees enjoyed a larger than normal selection of entrees that included chicken sandwiches and pizzas.
“The guys cooking -- they were rock stars. They didn't complain, they just pushed through and fed thousands of people. Super kudos to them,” said Goddess. “All the employees from the 61st Civil Engineer and Logistics Squadron and PRIDE maintenance, they were there for us every step of the way. It such a pleasure to work with them. The Aerospace Corporation’s Lianne McGinley really came through for us with tents for the dining area at the last minute. I received many words of thanks from SMC and 61st personnel. The kids had a blast, I heard about all their fun activities while they were waiting in the food line.”
As for next year’s event? The general consensus is to start earlier and get a larger committee.
“The open house committee was fantastic -- so hardworking and professional and determined to make this happen successfully. Each of them contributed completely and were such an asset to the team. I am very appreciative of all,” said Goddess. “However, we need more volunteers. We are celebrating each other and the amazing things we do here. Everyone has a role in accomplishing our mission.”