PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Over the past few months, Patrick SFB filled three new GS-15 positions.
The General Schedule (GS) payscale is used to determine the salaries of civilian government employees. The GS-15 pay grade is for top-level positions such as management level supervisors, high-level technical specialists, and senior professionals with advanced degrees.
Amber Chang-Armstrong, Space Launch Delta 45 deputy of safety, was appointed to her GS-15 position in January of 2022. She serves as the technical expert for safety issues related to the processing and launch of booster and satellite technologies.
Chang-Armstrong’s day to day duties change almost every day and that is part of what she enjoys about the job.
When providing launch support, Chang-Armstrong said she needs to be flexible, especially with the recent increase in new commercial range entrants.
“A lot of work is driven by the launch schedule which is certainly subject to change given all items that can impact a launch,” said Chang-Armstrong. “Some days I am helping customer A, then customer B the next day, or both on the same day.”
As the Chief Engineer, Chang-Armstrong provides technical guidance and expertise as needed while relying on knowledgeable supervisors and the workforce.
“I work with other SLD 45 safety members to ensure applicable safety policies are met,” said Chang-Armstrong. “This could be Federal Aviation Administration or Air Force requirements depending on the type of mission.
Chang-Armstrong supports day of launch operations, assists supervisors with personnel matters, directs technical efforts associated with safety’s mission, and works with counterparts at other federal agencies to assist with policy development.
“The commercial launch industry has pushed performance based on standards rather than perspective in an effort to provide flexibility while ensuring public safety is met,” said Chang-Armstrong.
Shaunna Lovell is the director of plans and programs for SLD 45. She was promoted into her GS-15 position in January 2022.
The plans and program office is the initial interface and front door for new and existing customers with requirements looking to operate on the Eastern Range.
“My role is responsible for providing the overall direction, vision and ensuring alignment with SLD 45 strategic vision/objectives for the Plans and Programs Office concerning a variety of activities which consist of: strategic planning, international affairs, legislative liaison, bed down of forces, memorandums of agreement/understanding, and the processing of new customer requests desiring to operate from the Eastern Range,” said Lovell.
The plans and programs office manages the mission agreements process for the Delta.
“The agreements are unique to our range operating environment and outside the scope of the typical base operating support which is managed by LRS,” said Lovell. “We also manage all agreements for transient customers, which allows SLD 45 to provide and receive support for numerous operations.”
Lovell believes bringing new launch customers onboard is important to ensuring we remain dominant in space.
Not only was Chang-Armstrong and Lovell promoted, Nicole Shatto, SLD 45 program management division director, was promoted to her position in December 2021.
Shatto has been a program manager with SLD 45 since 2006. Prior to her promotion, she was the program manager for the instrumentation range support contract which supports 25 ranges around the world.
“Much of our mission at SLD 45 is accomplished by contracted support through our various programs,” said Shatto. “The PMD mission is to develop and manage these programs at the speed and agility required to keep pace with space evolution.”
The PMD office develops and executes strategic acquisition plans, ensures assigned programs maintain cost, schedule and performance objectives, facilitate communication among stakeholders, and conduct regularly scheduled program reviews with functional owners and leaders.
Shatto’s primary role is enabling the PMD team to accomplish their missions related to each respective program.
“We provide expert acquisition program management to ensure continued mission success by enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of our programs, which are in direct support of the Delta strategic goals and objectives,” said Shatto.
Although successful, getting into leadership roles such as theirs did not come without challenges.
Chang-Armstrong, Lovell and Shatto said they had to overcome numerous challenges to get to where they are today.
“I believe a significant barrier to female leadership has been a lack of representation,” said Chang-Armstrong. “In the workplace, all of my supervisors have been men and the majority of senior leaders at the Delta have been men so it was exciting to work here when General Helms became the first female commander of the (at the time) 45th Space Wing.”
Lovell said that maintaining a work-life balance can be a fear and perceived as a potential barrier for women looking to move into leadership position.
“Each time I got the opportunity to apply for a leadership position, I hesitated,” she said. “I thought about my family and I was concerned about keeping a work-life balance. Having open communication with my leadership and my husband allowed me to move past my hesitation and because I made my goals known for my career, my leadership helped ensure I got opportunities to develop without impacting my family.”
Shatto also feared not being able to balance everything.
“I wondered how I was going to perform at a high level while also trying to be a great mom, wife, supportive family member, maintain friendships and stay physically fit,” said Shatto. “Thankfully, the fear has been unfounded – I have very supportive leadership and staff that have allowed a wonderful balance.”
Shatto says her leadership is very understanding of family commitments have realistic expectations about work hours.
Despite setbacks, all three women were able to achieve the goals they have set. They shared some advice for women who may be seeking management positions.
“Continually seek opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally – that will help you build confidence and resilience,” said Shatto.
Chang-Armstrong suggests building a strong network or “village” while being willing to accept help.
“As a parent, I am lucky to have close friends and family who I can call upon to get the kids to a soccer game if the launch slips,” said Chang-Armstrong. “As a professional, I am lucky to work with intelligent and dedicated folks who ensure the mission can be met.”
Lovell believes success has a different meaning to everyone and it is important to define what success means to you.
“I choose my own definition for success and I account for it in all aspects of my personal and professional life as I move forward with what I am aiming to achieve,” said Lovell.
Shatto, Lovell, and Chang-Armstrong said their jobs are very rewarding as they support the Patrick SFB mission: “Delivering Assured Access to Space for the Warfighter and the Nation.”