News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2006


Team Decatur should be proud of Delta IV launch

The 621 employees at Decatur's Boeing plant should be proud of the work evaluation they received Tuesday night.

Most employees receive protracted evaluations of the effectiveness of their efforts. It may come in the success or failure of the employer's next quarterly earnings report. It may come in the form of a memo from a boss.

Decatur's Delta IV booster team, however, received its evaluation while under the scrutiny of the world. It received its evaluation based upon a 54-minute window that began Tuesday at 10:33 p.m.

The team's astronomic evaluation came with the successful deployment of a spy satellite miles above the Earth's surface.

Rocket science is unforgiving. Many companies espouse a team philosophy, but the satellite-launch business dictates it. The smallest mistake, the least example of poor workmanship, can doom the mission.

So when NROL-22 successfully left its composite capsule, the 621 Boeing team members had every right to beam with pride.

Their success is all the sweeter given the rough road that preceded it. Corporate-level missteps, a collapse of the commercial launch business, a strike and a difficult influx of Delta II workers from Colorado could have destroyed their resolve. Instead, it proved their commitment. They kept their focus on the mission.

In a recent interview, plant manager Phil Marshall declined to take credit for successful launches. "I am one member of the team, nothing more," he said. "My job is not the same as the jobs performed by the other team members, but it is no more important."

That's a philosophy that gets the most from a team. It's a philosophy, as was proved yet again Tuesday, that gets satellites into orbit.

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