By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Public AffairsSeptember 23, 2016
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Keeping watch over a test facility more than 7,000 miles away is as easy as walking down a hallway in the Rocket City.
Col. Rod L. Stuckey Sr., director, Ronald Reagan Test Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, arrived at the Reagan Test Site Operations Center-Huntsville, or ROC-H, July 18 and has since been leading his team who plays a vital role in the research, development, test and evaluation in support of America's defense and space programs.
"I plan and allocate resources to assist our customers in the execution and test of ballistic missile defense systems," Stuckey said. "We also have a separate mission where we work space operations. There is not a lot of visibility on that mission but we have made significant impact in this area. In the past couple of months, we have had an opportunity to track satellite imagery that no other Army Component Command could see because of our strategic location and the types of systems that we employ.
"The most exciting part of this job is the people," he added. "After 23 years in the Army you meet a lot of different people, but I have never worked in the space field. Working with them and seeing the methodical way they go about their business is really exciting to me."
ROC-H is a command and control facility of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and performs space and missile defense tracking and helps ensure the development of missile defense assets and systems. It also helps verify operational assets, whether offensive or defensive, are working correctly for the defense the nation.
The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site is a world-class range and test facility located 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii in the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Its unique instrumentation sensors include high-fidelity metric and signature radars, as well as optical sensors and telemetry.
"The Reagan Test Site is located on Kwajalien Atoll, but the brains of the operation is right here in Huntsville," Stuckey said. "We have these team members about 6,800 miles away doing great work making sure tests are executed properly. We have, what I believe is, one of the best test teams I have ever worked with as far as mission planning and execution. And we have one of the few space operation divisions in the Army that is not part of a brigade-level unit.
"This is one of the top ranges the Army has," he added. "We are one of the unique organizations that not only has a test mission, but we also have an operational mission."
ROC-H also supports U.S. Strategic Command missions such as space situational awareness, which includes metric observations of space objects to keep track of exactly where those objects are. The facility also tracks new foreign launches and launches of interest to ensure what orbit they are going into.
"It is important that people know the contributions the space operations team does at the Reagan Test Site." Stuckey said. "When people think 'space' they think about the Air Force. They rarely think about the Army, but the Army and SMDC has made significant improvements and advancements in space and we have the proof right here at ROC-H."
In 2014, the U.S. Air Force awarded a $914 million contract to develop a Space Fence system that will track objects in Earth's orbit with far greater confidence and fidelity. The Space Fence is an S-band radar that will be located on Kwajalein Atoll and the Space Fence Operations Center will be located at ROC-H.
"Space Fence will be based here at ROC-H. We won't have a direct interface with them or share command responsibility, but we will work closely on coordinated Space Operations," Stuckey said. "The Air Force is following the Army's lead by leveraging off technology we have here at ROC-H and they are using this as a prime place in order to place their Space Fence operations."
One of his teammates explained the virtues of having the Air Force share the ROC-H facilities.
"The Air Force Space Fence will be utilizing the capability to remotely operate the radars that RTS developed," said Lt. Col. James L. Smallwood, chief, ROC-H Space Operations Division. "Another reason they decided to follow suit was because it helps to save money by not having to pay for people to live on the island."
As the U.S. is heavily invested in, and dependent on, space assets for both military and commercial applications. Space Object Identification and tracking capability enhances Space Situational Awareness and support improved protection of space assets.
"Our Space Object Identification capabilities have grown exponentially in just the past few years," Smallwood said. "In 2014, we identified 500 objects and last year we were able to number more than 600. So far this year, we have identified more than 1,200 and we show no sign of slowing down."
With all the challenges of the new job, Stuckey said he is enjoying getting to know the team at USASMDC/ARSTRAT who have welcomed him in and assisted with accomplishing the mission.
"This has been an extraordinary learning curve for me," Stuckey said. "I have mostly worked Program Management-type jobs. A big part of this job is to try to understand what my staff is doing. I am not required to be a technical expert but I am required to know a lot about a lot."
"For this position, it is like an oxymoron," he added. "It is the easiest, most challenging position I have had since I have been in the Army. This mission gives me an opportunity to utilize critical leadership skills in a non-standard organization. My job is to make a cohesive team out of this world-class test organization."
Originally from Indianola, Mississippi, Stuckey was a member of the Mighty Braves Battalion at Alcorn State University's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program and graduated in 1994. He has served in Oklahoma; Florida; Washington, D.C.; Alabama; Korea; and two combat tours in Iraq.
When asked of his favorite duty station, Stuckey responded about his time serving in Korea.
"Korea was my favorite place to serve," Stuckey said. "I loved it as a young commander. I had the opportunity to truly train. I love training. I love being in the field, and that is what we did. I could totally concentrate on learning my craft."
As he thought about what advice he would give to younger Soldiers, he talked about what he would say to his younger self.
"Right now if I had to start talk young Lieutenant Stuckey, I would tell him to first, stay true to yourself and always be honest," he said. "It is not worth not being honest to get over a temporary fault and live with the lasting impact of your integrity being tarnished."
Stuckey took a moment and talked about the Soldier who most influenced his career and leadership style.
"My biggest influence as an officer had to be Col. Nathan Slate, commander of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade," Stuckey said. "When I was a captain, I worked closely with him and I was always impressed with the way he went about doing his business. He understood the importance of taking care of people and the importance of making sure the mission was accomplished.
"I have never seen anyone do that as well as him and I try to mirror my leadership style after the way he took care of people and his commitment to the mission," he added.
The colonel reflected on what was important for him away from the office.
"I enjoy spending time with my family," Stuckey said. "I like to watch football and work around my house. I am not big on going places because I do a lot of traveling professionally so when there is time to be home, I like to be home. I have two children and a wife who keep me pretty busy and they hate to see me sit down for more than 10 minutes without doing something with them."