Cmdt. Adrian Laney is the new White Sands Detachment Chief for the Naval Surface Warfare Center at White Sands Missile Range.
Laney has relevant experience at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), and succeeds Cmdr. Colin Monk, who concluded a three-year tour as Officer in Charge of White Sands Detachment. Laney assumed the leadership position in a change of charge ceremony in May.
Many may not realize that WSMR has a US Navy presence on the range, including the landlocked USS Desert Ship (LLS 1), a concrete blockhouse that replicates the fire control requirements of a surface ship.
“We provide a controlled environment for innovation to happen,” said Abie Parra, White Sands department manager. “We touch on many areas, but ultimately we are here to facilitate the proper execution of Navy test and evaluation events to ensure the warfighter receives a quality and timely product.”
Parra, the White Sands Detachment’s top civilian official, credited Monk for his steady hand and calm demeanor as they navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic while guiding their team through a loaded roster. test objectives to enhance naval capabilities.
As the new officer in charge of White Sands, Laney comes at a time when the detachment is focused on the future needs of the Navy and its partners. Priorities include defining long-range corridors to accommodate faster, longer-range weapons; develop hypersonic test events for initiatives across the Department of Defense; and advancing the nation’s suborbital vehicle capability.
Laney brings extensive experience in testing and evaluating a variety of missiles and other weapons, in part from a previous tour with NSWC PHD. Most recently, he worked for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in Dahlgren, Va., precisely where Monk is heading.
Monk joined White Sands Detachment as Officer in Charge in June 2019. In his first year on the job, the detachment undertook an unexpected testing program that became one of the highlights of his tenure.
In July 2019, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. Extensive damage to the station threatened to derail a new missile testing program planned at the site. To avoid a major delay, the program manager called the White Sands detachment to see if the team could help.
“We got the call in October and were able to organize a testing program for China Lake at an exceptionally short time,” Monk said. “It was 90 days from the phone call to launch, and we ran the tests according to the program’s original schedule.”
The White Sands team that pulled off the short-notice missile testing feat won a 2020 Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems Excellence Award.
As another highlight of his time leading the White Sands Detachment, Monk referred to October 2021. During that month, the detachment executed three missile tests in three weeks, including the demonstration of a new capability.
That schedule alone was “a very dense series of test events,” Monk said, but the team accomplished another key effort during the same time frame. On October 27, the White Sands Detachment assisted the French Ministry of Defense in launching the first sounding rocket from a new facility in Biscarrosse, France.
“It was four major events, all executed in three weeks, and each of these missions was scheduled to take place on those dates,” Monk said. “Team members pulled together and did what they had to do to make it happen. This was a huge win for each of these programs.
Parra pointed to an MDA mission to Hawaii last year as another big win for the detachment during Monk’s tenure. The missile test event was the most complex mission in MDA history, featuring “the most complicated targets ever built by anyone for MDA”, Parra said.
“Commd. Monk’s leadership has been critical in meeting the technical challenges and risks of the mission, while maintaining such a significant effort in the COVID-19 environment,” Parra said.
As for Monk’s leadership style, Parra described him as someone who listens carefully to everyone on the team and takes a measured approach to decisions.
“It’s very studied from an engineering perspective, and it keeps everything in balance,” Parra said. “He will be greatly missed.”
For his part, Monk said he will miss the “incredible people” he worked with at White Sands Detachment. Serving in a post for three consecutive years is a rarity in his Navy career, he said, and he and his family enjoyed the close-knit community of White Sands Missile Range.
For his next tour at MDA, Monk said he would serve as program director for one of the variants of the standard missile, but that could change depending on the agency’s needs.
“MDA is a great agency, and there are a lot of opportunities, which is what I’m looking forward to the most,” Monk said. “Wherever the toughest challenges are, that’s what I want to work on. Mostly, I just want to be helpful.
Prior to the change in charge, Laney was made commander in a ceremony at the WSMR on 28 April.
Although this is his first posting to White Sands Detachment, Laney is not new to the NSWC PHD. For his first assignment as an Engineer Duty Officer, he served as the Project Officer for Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT) in Port Hueneme, California from 2013-2016.
During his previous tour at NSWC PHD, Laney successfully led a CSSQT aboard a ROK destroyer, and he supported several Aegis combat system and off-the-shelf missile test events. He said he was impressed with the caliber of people he worked with and was happy to return to command.
“It’s exciting to come back and work for the Port Hueneme division,” Laney said. “A lot of people I’ve worked with are still here in similar roles or in positions of greater responsibility, which is great to see.”
Prior to joining the White Sands Detachment, Laney served as a product manager for one of the standard missile variants at MDA. In this role, he was responsible for the cost, schedule and performance of the program.
In addition to his work with various off-the-shelf missiles and the Aegis combat system, Laney’s naval career includes directed energy, shipyards, and operational experience. He said he was interested in the “whole portfolio” of White Sands’ work.
“The mission here is awesome,” Laney said. “I’m very excited to be returning to Test and Evaluation and helping the Navy move forward with these programs.”
Additionally, having held acquisition roles on his last two tours, Laney said he was eager to return to a leadership position. On this front, he describes his leadership style as “people-oriented.” In other words, it’s about bringing out the best in people, making sure they’re happy and safe, and giving them the right tools to play their role effectively.
“My philosophy is that we can have all the equipment, technology and facilities we could want, but we can’t execute missions without personnel,” Laney said.
“I’m just starting to interview the workforce to see where I might be able to help,” Laney said. “For me, it’s people first, and I’m confident that will remain my No. 1 priority.”
Meanwhile, Laney settles in the community of White Sands with his wife and two children.
During his 15 years of active Navy service, Laney was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. He also earned a Master of Science in Physics from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Parra described Laney as “very well spoken and very sharp”, and said Laney’s previous experience with the NSWC PHD will serve him well as the officer in charge of the White Sands Detachment.
“Commd. Laney brings a Port Hueneme experience in his blood,” Parra said. “I’m very excited about it. He is well positioned to help us develop workforce development plans as we train and certify the future workforce.