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NTTR: Scheduling keeps training operations on time, on target

F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets fly over hill.

Two F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets assigned to the 16th Weapons Squadron fly over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nevada, Oct. 8, 2020. The F-16s participated in an exercise during their Close-Air Support phase of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Weapons Instructor Course (WIC). USAFWS schedulers work with phase managers six months to a year in advance to reserve the air space, range time and support necessary for the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dwane R. Young)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Operations on the Nevada Test and Training Range are continuous ー when one training operation finishes, another is right behind it ready to begin.

Each day, the NTTR receives an influx of requests to use the range for testing, training and evaluation.

Beneath every routine operation that is requested exists a labyrinth of personnel, paperwork and behind the scenes planning. The preparation for these training operations involves many moving parts, and can be so intricate it can sometimes take a year to finalize.

Similar to the way one might piece together a puzzle, the schedulers and NTTR members work together to de-conflict training requests and maintain the flow of operations on the range.

According to Col. Cameron Dadgar, NTTR commander, the range provides the support and tools necessary to keep the U.S., and its allies, prepared to dominate in the great global power competition.

“In order to continue making the best better, our team has to navigate the rigorous process required to ensure the maximum number of people have use of the range, all while being good stewards of the land,” Dadgar said.

Schedulers from various units and agencies across the U.S. meet up monthly to forecast the upcoming month’s training operations, day-by-day and hour-by-hour, to maximize use of the NTTR. This meeting is affectionately known as “Range Wars.”

“We’re in the meeting for five hours, no breaks, we just go,” said Timothy Geist, U.S. Air Force Weapons School chief of flight operations. “We understand how critical our operations are to the overall mission, so we all work together to prepare a schedule that accommodates each unit’s needs.”

While constantly moving “puzzle pieces” to facilitate each request, they also collaborate to provide the manning and infrastructure for each operation.

“Our scheduling reflects the high demand and usage of the range,” said Vernon Cash, NTTR chief of scheduling. “There are multiple schedules floating around at the same time and they are ever-changing, so my job is to sync them all up and make sure the machine runs on time.”

In order to keep up with the high operations tempo, the schedulers constantly pivot between planning and execution.

To assist Cash in keeping track of the constant movement within the range schedules, the NTTR has daily schedulers that are assigned single days of the week. They are tasked with identifying and resolving conflicts prior to passing the baton to the next team ー the Blackjack team.

Blackjack is the last stop on the scheduling train. It is their job to monitor all daily ground and flying activity on the range. After receiving the finalized schedules, they coordinate all movement and ensure safety.

“These aircraft and ground units don’t know who’s on the other range or what’s going on next door,” Cash said. “Blackjack is there with them on the ground and in the air handling real-time problems.”

The inner workings of the NTTR contain enough information to fill multiple books. The men and women who work every day in its hallways, out on the range and behind the scenes, understand and take great pride of their part in this major game.

The Nevada Test and Training Range is the crown jewel of the nation’s defense, Dadgar said.

“The NTTR is the only training arena of its kind,” Dadgar said. “We provide training that prepares our warfighters for major combat operations. It can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world. We have a responsibility to the American people and we take that very seriously.”