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News | Jan. 22, 2021

SPOC names Schriever orbital analyst Disbrow Award winner

By Jennifer Thibault Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs

Starting a new position can be hard, however, earning command recognition during the transition can make it a little easier.

At least that’s the approach one of the Joint Task Force-Space Defense newest members has unknowingly taken.

Daniel DeVargas, orbital analyst, had been with the task force for about one month when the Space Operations Command named him their Air Force Association Lisa S. Disbrow Outstanding Civilian of the Year Award winner.

The 2nd Space Operations Squadron leadership team nominated DeVargas for the award following more than six years with the unit that culminated with him leading modernization testing efforts.

“At this time, 2 SOPS is going through the largest modernization period in its history,” said Capt. Collin Dart, Engineer Analysis Flight commander and DeVargas’ supervisor at the time of his nomination. “Mr. DeVargas took the initiative to become one of 2 SOPS’s foremost modernization experts by providing input on everything from GPS IIIF design to procedure verification [and] validation for [Next Generation Operational Control System]. Furthermore, he utilizes his in depth system expertise to assist operators and analysts in updating [and] honing the systems we already have in place through automation tools, thus greatly reducing the man hours put in by our operators.”

The Air Force Association Lisa S. Disbrow Outstanding Civilian of the Year Award was created to annually recognize an Air Force junior civilian employee (GS-13 and below or equivalent) with no more than 10 years federal service, who exemplifies the professionalism and dedication to duty of former Under Secretary Lisa S. Disbrow. 

In addition to his individual expertise, DeVargas’ supervisor appreciated his ability to grow his teammates.

“Mr. DeVargas devotes a large amount of his time to mentoring our new lieutenants and Airmen who come through the engineering analysis shop,” Dart said. “He has remained one of the rocks that keeps the flight together not only from a system knowledge standpoint but also through the leadership and morale that he provides the flight.”  

The award came as a surprise to DeVargas.

“I’m not seeking recognition,” he said. “I’m flattered when they come out of nowhere like this.”

DeVargas looks to Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach, for professional inspiration.

“I like his mantra, ‘Do your job’ and the fact that the success he has achieved has been due to adapting to change and being creative with the tools he is provided,” he said. “I feel the best I can do is be proficient and successful within my job and along the way be an advocate for others and ultimately success [and] advancement will follow.”

The New Mexico native graduated with an electrical engineering degree right about the time the housing economy crashed and found the Department of Defense was still hiring. DeVargas first served as a guidance systems analyst with the 746th Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico before he transitioned to Schriever Air Force Base to serve as a GPS subsystems analyst.

“When I worked at Holloman, the ‘graybeards’ would talk about how things were before peace broke out,” said DeVargas. “It’s similar with space now to how quickly we’re advancing and seeing the growing pains and how operations and processes have morphed.”

The father of six doesn’t know if space is in his children’s future but thinks STEM might be. 

“I repair small engines and this is something I share with my children,” he said. “Whenever they need stuff repaired I talk them through the equipment and what I’m doing. They also have a go cart and mini bike projects that we work on together.”

At the National Space Defense Center, DeVargas is awaiting the next training cycle but is already supporting space domain awareness operations with the center’s commercial cell.

“He is responsible for managing tasks, conducting sensor management to maintain custody and leading risk analysis efforts, all through the orchestration of our commercial partners,” said Tony Prater, NSDC combat plans deputy division chief and DeVargas’ supervisor. “He handles communication links and platforms, reporting to the greater enterprise and supports the continual commercial integration development efforts.”

Upon learning of DeVargas’ award, his new leadership said, “We only hire the best.”

All of the attention aside, DeVargas is ready to get to work.

“We’ve had a lot of change right now, new job, promoting, different career field, my wife and I want to buy a new house and the kids are back in school,” DeVargas said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do new things.”

DeVargas will now compete at the Air Force level. The winner is slated to be announced later this year.