The Leadership Otero class of 2014 spent the day at White Sands Missile Range and learned about the installation’s testing capabilities, had lunch with WSMR senior leaders, and experienced the thrill of rappelling Sept. 10.
WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin welcomed the group of 25 community leaders.
“We are excited to have you here. Our relationship with the surrounding communities is one of our essential core competencies,” Coffin said. “It is an investment on our part to work with our neighboring communities to help them understand what we are doing, and the importance they play in our success.”
Coffin spoke about the critical testing done at WSMR and the implications on a global scale. He explained that WSMR hosts various allied countries as they train and test. He elaborated on several testing capabilities available on the installation. Coffin said that White Sands not only supports the armed forces but also supports industry, as well as our space, and satellite program.
After the introduction, the group’s first stop was at the rappel tower, where instructors Ed Taitano and Ed Stahl demonstrated several rappelling techniques and coached the group to rappel down the training tower. The group strapped themselves in and put on their gloves and helmets before climbing the tower and sliding down a rope.
The class had the opportunity to visit with WSMR senior leaders, including Executive Director Paul Mann, while they had lunch at the Frontier Club. Mann spoke about testing capabilities and answered the group’s questions.
After lunch, the class visited the Survivability, Vulnerability and Assessment Directorate testing facility, where facility engineer Kurt Knox guided the tour. He explained that objects, like clothing, can be tested under high-power micro waves to assess their survivability against weapons.
Before visiting the museum, the class toured the J.W. Cox Range Control Center, where they learned about air traffic control and saw footage of different missile test missions involving unmanned vehicles.
The tour’s final stop was at the White Sands Museum, where Darren Court, museum curator, explained the history behind the V-2 rocket and pointed out different components of the rebuilt rocket.
Linda Schalk, financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments, said the tour was the first time she ever visited WSMR and it helped clarify the mission of the installation.
“It made me very proud to see what we have done as Americans and as humans,” Schalk said.
Rene Hatfield, an Alamogordo PreCheck employee, said she was part of a job fair on the installation five years ago with her previous employer, but never learned about White Sands until the tour.
“I grew up in Cloudcroft and I remember a friend’s dad used to work here. All I knew was that it was a top secret testing facility. I didn’t know the history and I didn’t realize that it is a high level testing facility,” Hatfield said.
The Leadership Otero program is supported by the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce to help local leaders network and be aware of the resources available in the area. This year’s class includes individuals from various career fields representing employers including Otero County, Alamogordo Public Schools, Holloman Air Force Base, and Edward Jones Investments. The class meets once a month to visit various facilities in the area during the months of February to December.