Robin Olds was not known for obeying the spirit of Air Force regulations. From the start of his military career, he didn’t always do things by the book. He was West Point graduate whose time at the Academy was hastened so he and his class could catch the last half of World War II.
This legendary fighter pilot was actually almost a bomber pilot, told by an instructor he called “Military Bill” that he was too big for a fighter. But he flew bombers like fighters and performed illegal maneuvers whenever possible. Eventually so many reports of his ability came in that “Military Bill” was overruled and Olds was back in a fighter. Even when the Army’s top brass declared that West Pointers were to be squadron commanders only, Olds and a buddy went down to the personnel section of their outfit and asked the old, grey-haired sergeant in charge to send them to England, and it worked.
Olds’ entire career was results-oriented. Everything from planning Operation Bolo in Vietnam to being Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He turned an underperforming unit around with bold leadership and his distinctive out-of-regs mustache that he open admitted was a “middle finger I couldn’t raise in PR photographs.”
He spoke with authenticity and authority on all things military and aviation, so it makes sense that when Brig. Gen. Terryl Schwalier was a major, writing a paper for the Air Command and Staff College called “The Tactical Flight Commander — Developing Warriors,” he asked then-retired Brig. Gen. Robin Olds for his insights on the role of flight commander. In return, Schwalier received a five-page diagnosis on the institutional problems with the modern Air Force. Olds went on to describe how a commander can find fulfillment and still exemplify leadership, even in the current Air Force climate:
30 Nov 1981
Dear Major Schwalier,
Your question, or better request, is provocative, to say the least. I have thought much since receiving your Oct 21 letter, and the more I consider your topic, the more difficult it becomes to frame a reasonable or even useful response. I’ll try to boil down my thoughts, hoping something useful may distill.
First, let me get some negatives in perspective. In my view, current Air Force philosophy and practice have all but eliminated any meaningful role playable by an officer placed in a so-called position of command. Authority has evaporated, sucked up to the rarified heights of “they,” who are somehow felt to exist in the echelons above. For your information, “they” do not exist. Neither is there any “he” fulfilling that role. Authority is expressed through the medium of committee consensus, leadership has become a watered down adherence to the principles of camp counsellorship, with a 90% emphasis on avoiding any action that may in any way be questioned by any one of hundreds of piss ants on the administrative ladder above. In fact, leadership (and I use that term with contempt) has become a process of looking busy as hell while doing nothing, avoiding personal commitment, and above all, making no decision without prior approval.
Historical example: as a 22 year old Major, commanding a squadron in 1945, I was responsible for and empowered to: pay the troops; feed them; house them; train them; clothe them; promote; demote; reward; punish; maintain their personnel files, etc. When I retired as a BG in 1973, I possessed not one of those authorities or responsibilities. Get the drift?
And you ask the importance of a flight commander. I am tempted to say NONE. But that is not true, for in spite of the system, in spite of the executive and administrative castration, a man instinctively looks to a system of military authority in a military situation or system. If that authority is waffled or watered, he still looks to those appointed to the military echelons to do their best under the circumstances. A man (a nation for that matter) wants, demands, leadership. So today’s flight leader/commander leads and commands by example, by appeal to basic instinct, and by light footed avoidance of error, like walking a tightrope. He has responsibility, for sure. But he does not have authority, or freedom of discretion/interpretation. Unfortunately, in some units he really isn’t given much voice. Yet he functions, and if he is successful (perhaps a better word is “effective”) it is greatly to his credit for having done so under the prevailing circumstances.
Another thought. All else to the contrary, two basic demands are faced by the Flight Commander. One is PEACE, the other is WAR. It has been my experience, in the fighter business I hasten to add, that the man who may excel under the one is not necessarily worth a damn under the other. Many examples come to mind. I do not (and did not) condemn one man or the other, rather I accepted the challenge of recognizing the difference and choosing accordingly.
I hope some of this makes sense.
P.S. For your information, there is no such thing as HQ, USAF. The highest echelon is a faceless entity, composed of thousands of diverse individuals loosely arranged by a system of interlocking committees and headed by an individual technically labeled the “Chief of Staff.” Note he is not called the Commander. By law, he cannot be. By nature he is forced to be the consummate bureaucrat, fighting for the all mighty dollar, serving as a buffer between Sec Def / Congress and the people and mission of his service – a demanding, demeaning role playable by very few.
This letter was first released on the John Q. Public blog, whose author is a former USAF officer. He noted that Olds retired in 1973 and the letter was written in 1981. He acknowledged that much of what Olds was talking about was cleared away by the time Operation Desert Storm rolled around. But protracted war in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world has caused much of the recurring problems of “Top heaviness, micromanagement, loss of combat focus, misprioritization” to return to the Air Force. This is the age where USAF leadership testifies to Congress about morale being “pretty darn good,” while the Air Force suffers from a crushing ops tempo and mistrust of leadership (note the occasion in 2011 where the USAF invited officers to apply for voluntary separation, revoked the offer, then gave them the boot anyway… or the occasion in 2014 where the same thing happened).
It’s nice to know it wasn’t always this way… and that it can be fixed.
A US airman recently saved a child’s life on his flight back to the US, where he was to receive a prestigious award for being exceptional, the Air Force announced this September 2019.
Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien, a special tactics section chief assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Japan, was named one of only a dozen “2019 Outstanding Airmen of the Year,” the Air Force announced in August 2019.
O’Brien served as a member of President Donald Trump’s security detail for one of the summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and he rescued someone from a burning vehicle in Korea. He played an important role in rescuing a Thai soccer team from a cave, and, during the rescue operation, he also saved the life of a Thai Navy SEAL.
“If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer,” O’Brien said of his rather eventful year. “If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and that’s what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities.”
Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien.
Two weeks ago, he was on a flight back to the US to receive his award at the Air Force Association conference when a 1-year-old child lost consciousness due to an airway blockage. The child may have been unresponsive, but O’Brien was not.
“Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business,” Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, wrote in a Facebook post, Stars and Stripes first reported.
The Air Force said in a statement that the child regained consciousness after about a minute. O’Brien regularly checked in on the child throughout the remainder of the flight.
“I’m thankful that the child is OK and that I was able to help when the family needed support,” O’Brien said, explaining that he just “happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials),” Silfe said on Facebook. “I don’t know whether I want to be right next to him in case some bad stuff goes down, or whether I want to be as far away from him as possible because bad stuff always seems to go down around him.”
While O’Brien was named as an award recipient in August 2019, his actions on his flight back to the US confirmed that he is deserving of it, his commander said.
“We are very proud of Tech. Sgt. O’Brien,” Lt. Col. Charles Hodges, commander of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. “He continues to step up when there is a need for leadership and action. This incident demonstrates without a doubt that O’Brien epitomizes the Air Force’s core values and rightly deserves the honor and selection as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
– excerpt from a speech by President Donald Trump, March 2018
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Five military veterans walk into a bar. A Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, a Coast Guardsman, and an Airman. They all order a drink. The Soldier orders a German beer, raises his stein, and says, “Prost.” The Sailor orders a shot of rum, raises his shot glass, and says, “Fair winds.” The Marine orders a tequila, salts his thumb, and says, “Semper.” The Airman orders a blue ice bomb, elevates his plastic cup, and says, “Aim high.” The Coast Guardsman orders a dark and stormy, clinks glasses, and says, “Down the hatch.” A sixth veteran arrives, a Space Guardian, and the Airman buys him a shot of Jim Beam bourbon whisky. The Space guy raises his glasses and says to the others, “Beam me up.”
Get it? It’s a bad joke that I just made up. It was ill-conceived, poorly timed, and expensive in terms of the time it took me to think it up. It was just a dumb idea. These are all adjectives that the new Space Force has been called as well. Ill-conceived, prematurely timed, created at the expense of more important priorities. A dumb idea. A bad joke. Absurd. Another in a series of punchlines that critics of the current administration feel have pockmarked the last four years. In a year that’s been hard to laugh at, a lot of “humor” has derived from making fun of the administration. Here’s something more lighthearted: The late 2000s gave rise to the popular trend known as “gender reveal parties.” Those being the touchy 2000s, these parties couldn’t avoid being the subject of controversy. Critics argued that it’s the baby’s sex, not gender, that is being revealed. Gender is a social construct, not tied to biological characteristics. After a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party in Yucaipa, CA started the El Dorado Fire in September, the fad has thankfully faded. Not because it is said to heavily reinforce stereotypical gender roles, but because it’s just plain dumb.
On June 18, 2018, the Space Force, still a fetus, was given, what could be called, its gender reveal party. On that day, President Donald Trump spoke in front of the National Space Council. “My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation…our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”
Three months earlier, on March 13, the day before Stephen Hawking died, the president teased the military’s sixth child at a speech aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.”
At the National Space Council meeting in June, he continued, “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” Remember that line; a lot of press did. Then came the reveal: “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces… We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal.” Addressing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs he said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out.” Marine General Dunford replied, “We got it.”
No fires were started with the president’s reveal that day in March 2018. Unless you count the one started in the press, or all the laptop fires started by bloggers, writers of various online magazines and publications, columnists, journalists, amateur or professional, Twitter users, and internet trolls, as they furiously pounded keyboards, drumming up mocking headlines, retorts, and rebuttals that called into question the declaration’s timing, sanity, legality, and everything in between.
Jokers Gonna Joke
Do an online search for the words “space” and “force” and the first result is www.spaceforce.mil. Then the official Space Force Wikipedia page, and third, Space Force, a new TV series The Office creator Greg Daniels and actor Steve Carell. The collaboration, ordered by Netflix, capitalized on the president’s June 2018 announcement, which must have been catnip to comedy writers. The show was announced on January 19, 2019, seven months later. In the show’s promotion, the words from an August 2019 speech by Vice President Pence are used: The Space Force’s mission is to “defend satellites from attack and perform other space-related tasks… or something.” The “or something” was their clever and completely groundbreaking addition.
In a review of the show by Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic, Gilbert seems to have made a judgment on the merit of the Space Force (the military branch, not the show) without having done any real digging:
“The show was supposedly dreamed up a few years ago when President Donald Trump announced the founding of a sixth, extraterrestrial branch of the armed forces, a project so absurd that most people just carried on living their lives without really processing that it was real — barring occasional reminders in the form of Star Trek badges and Scientology-vague recruiting ads. A grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego!”
Why is it so absurd, grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive, and a militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego? We’ll never know because she doesn’t back up any of those claims with facts. She just provides some links to affiliated content and the Space Force’s recruiting video on YouTube. Comparing it to Scientology is like comparing a Marine Corps recruiting video to the NXIVM cult because Marines sometimes get eagle, globe, and anchor or USMC brandings and tattoos. Her journalism in this regard is emblematic of the epidemic that has plagued supposedly objective journalism in the past few years. Feelings have taken the place of facts and unconscious bias has been replaced by an angry and very conscious one. To weigh the idea of the Space Force on its own, apart from the president, would be too much and risk the possibility that not all things he says are bad, a thought that would send some writers, reporters, and journalists into a catatonic state.
On September 18, 2018, three months to the date after the president’s announcement, Stephen Colbert yukked it up on his late show with guest Neil deGrasse Tyson. Colbert simply invoked the words “space force,” twisted his mouth into a wry grin, and looked into the camera. He was validated by the audience with a mixture of equal parts incredulous laughter and contemptuous cackles. It has since become a worn-out comedy shtick, a crutch for comedians with little else to offer but to say what the audience wants to hear. Speak the name of the president or one of his “crackpot ideas” and win the crowd, their clapping, and laughter, or clappter,” offered up in agreement, not as a response to anything said being funny, clever, or original.
“People make fun of it, I among them,” Colbert went on. “I like space exploration, I’m excited about us conquering space scientifically and through knowledge. Why do we need the Space Force?” The audience, satisfied with another skewering of the president, lapped it up.
“Just ‘cuz it came out of Trump’s mouth, doesn’t require that it then be a crazy thing,” responded Tyson. More chuckles in the crowd. The implication – that everything the president says and does is a hair-brained scheme of some sort – tickled all the pleasurable nerve endings in their high blood sugar bodies.
“It don’t help,” Colbert replied drily, and the audience’s clappter crescendoed. Colbert beamed, then got down to business. “But why do we need a Space Force?”
More Than an Absurd Idea
It’s a question necessary to answer if we’re ever to get past the ignorance and idiocy of such lowbrow comedy shows like the Colbert-created Our Cartoon President and a thousand other virtually identical satires with identical premises that have capitalized on the prevailing sentiment of the last four years: orange man equals bad.
While Chinese and Russian space operations have been cited by the president and backers of the Space Force as a rationale for the move, countries aligned against the West are not the only reason. Like the other warfare domains – land, air, sea, and cyberspace – America continuously strives to achieve and maintain dominance. Space, now recognized as a crucial and contested domain, is no different. The creation of the Space Force is not a publicity stunt, it is not a calculated move for political gain or Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns, it’s more than fodder for late show monologue jokes or, apparently, even a good premise for a Netflix comedy series. (Ms. Gilbert did not give the show a favorable review). It is the evolution of the military-space relationship long in the making.
It might help critics if they understood the difference between going to space in order to arm it, and arming space because we are, inevitably, driven into it. And we’re not alone in our aspirations. Anti-west sentiment doesn’t end in space. The opposition has decried the Space Force as a continuation of Reagan-era rhetoric, saying it hurls war into space like Red Bull Flugtag where competitors launch homemade flying machines off a pier into the water for no other reason than to excite the audience with a fun, slightly dangerous spectacle. But is that really the case, or is that just the lazy observation to make when one disagrees with a president and his administration?
The word “spacepower” is not in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Neither is the word “warfighting.” Like the Space Force itself, spacepower is newly minted. On August 10, nearly eight months after the birth of the Space Force, the same time when infants transition from rocking on their bellies to crawling, the Space Force published its doctrine titled Space Capstone Publication, Spacepower (SCP). Dedicated to past, present, and future spacepower pioneers, the Space Capstone Publication sheds light on and provides clues to several of the questions critics have been asking.
The 60-page document, with a foreword penned by General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, begins with a preface and a quote from the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy: “The eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”
The quote is echoed in the first guiding principle for military spacepower, which calls for a “peaceful, secure, stable, and accessible space domain.” Let us not forget that oft-cited Roman general Vegetius quote, “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” (If you want peace, prepare for war). China certainly has not, neither has Russia. Aerospace experts and legislators in Congress, notably Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) have said the Air Force needed an immediate congressional push to match the “potentially threatening progress from China and Russia.”
“One thing we can all agree on is that space superiority for our nation is critical, so we appreciate the attention the issue is getting right now,” said an Air Force spokesman.
Like Vegetius witnessing the deterioration of the Roman army’s quality, Mr. Cooper cited “eroding dominance” in U.S. satellite and related technology in comparison to China and Russia. Both countries are developing anti-satellite weapons that could threaten U.S. satellites. This concern is a real one, say Defense Department officials and aerospace experts. In June 2018, shortly after the president’s announcement, the New York Times reported that in February, “a U.S. intelligence threat assessment warned that Russia and China would be able to shoot down American satellites in two to three years, potentially endangering GPS satellites as well as military and civilian communications satellites and the country’s spy satellites.” China made history on January 3, 2019, by achieving the first attempt at and successful landing of an unmanned robotic spacecraft on the “dark side” of the moon, which is never visible from Earth.
Where Space Force and Global Security Collide
The U.S. military is reliant on space. From satellites that “help guide aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, drones in the skies above Yemen and fighter jets over Syria, to American ground troops on patrol in Afghanistan using GPS coordinates to track their movements, and intelligence officers at C.I.A. headquarters depending on spy satellites to gather information on adversaries.”
The Air Force itself was also highlighted as a reason America needs a “separate but equal” Space Force. Representatives Cooper and Rogers argue that the Air Force does not pay enough attention to outer space. Other critics of the Air Force say that it will never make space its top priority when it also has pilots and warplanes to worry about.
“We keep buying these big expensive satellites that are juicy targets for our adversaries,” said Todd Harrison, the director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Meanwhile, our existing space forces are fragmented across our military.”
“Over the years, the Air Force has used space programs as a money pot to reach into and subsidize air-dominance programs when they feel like Congress hasn’t given them enough for tankers, fighter jets, whatever,” Representative Rogers said. “Congress has not given any of the services enough, but that doesn’t mean you starve to death one of your subordinate missions.”
U.S. military officials have acknowledged that America’s adversaries have caught up to it in space. But classified reports paint an even more troubling picture, the lawmakers said. Rogers called the over-classification of such information “disturbing.”
“There would be a hew and cry in the American public to fix this situation if they knew how bad things were and what we’ve allowed Russia and China to do,” he added.
Brian Weeden, the director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that studies space policy, emphasized the military’s reliance on space assets. “Take drones, for instance. Their signals are routed over satellites. Data is routed over satellites. Intelligence satellites do the B.D.A. [battle damage assessments] after strikes.” Mr. Weeden continued, “In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the American military exercised restraint on anti-satellite weaponry.” But other leading powers did not follow in America’s footsteps, and Russia and China “have not decided to exercise the same restraint.” As those countries continue to develop ways to disable American satellites, they could interfere with U.S. communications in potential future conflicts.
For the past two decades, it seems the main arguments against creating a Space Force have been money and bureaucracy. In 2017, White House, Pentagon, and Air Force leaders pushed back on a proposal from the House Armed Services Committee to create a “Space Corps” (its name chosen to reflect that it would be what the Marine Corps is to the Navy). They argued that it would add unneeded bureaucracy. Despite Rep. Rogers’s championing efforts in Congress, the provision faced opposition in the Senate, and the 2018 defense policy law forbade the creation of such an organization.
However, the law did give Air Force Space Command “authority over space acquisitions, resource management, requirements, warfighting, and personnel development — viewed as a start for the potential creation of a Space Corps in the future.” And it required that an independent organization develop a roadmap to start a separate military department to encompass “national security space.” To the charge that the Space Force would “create unnecessary bureaucratic responsibilities for a military already burdened by conflicts,” the SCP states that it embodies the Department of the Air Force’s continued commitment to “establishing the Space Force in a manner that minimizes cost and bureaucracy and maximizes focus on space doctrine, training, and capability.”
Public opposition to the Space Force has included grievances over the needless militarization of space, specifically citing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, some going so far as to claim that the Space Force is a blatant violation. There’s been a resurgence in popularity in the public space for citing this treaty, seemingly without actually giving it a close read. The treaty provides a basic framework for international space law. Some have written that 90 countries signed the treaty, others say 106 countries. Wikipedia states that as of June 2020, 110 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed but have not completed ratification. Signatory countries are barred from “placing weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical) in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.” Of course, this can all become subject to interpretation, and orbiting space debris and satellite disabling technology likely do not qualify as weapons of mass destruction, nor conventional weapons, such as ballistic missiles. Generally speaking, the treaty is meant to control arms in space and maintain the peaceful, shared use of outer space. But the militarization or weaponization of space is not prohibited. Article IX, however, states:
“A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.”
And according to the Space Force’s Space Capstone Publication, “In keeping with international law, the United States acknowledges that the use of space is for peaceful purposes while preparing for the reality that space must be defended from those who will seek to undermine our goals in space.”
This is Part I of a multi-part series on the United States Space Force. Part II will publish tomorrow.
Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.
One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?
Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.
Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.
But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.
Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.
The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]
Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.
As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.
Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).
There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.
Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.
But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.
Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?
Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.
Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.
Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.
Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.
The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Promotions are hard-fought and well-earned by the right troops. After proving themselves to their chain of command, an ambitious troop is rewarded by being placed into a higher rank that’s worthy of their effort. In general, there’s a timeline for promotions. When you’re among the junior enlisted ranks, you can expect to your hard work to be recognized (roughly) every six months and, at your third or fourth year, you’ll be considered for the move up to NCO.
Then, there are troops that get a leg up on their peers by getting that promotion early. With the utmost respect to the troops that have dutifully earned their promotion, I think it’s fair to say we all know some troops that get handed a leadership position for all the wrong reasons.
Just because someone can do their job well and scores high on their PT test doesn’t automatically mean they’ve got what it takes to lead troops into battle.
Any hindrance on the unit may prevent it from fulfilling its sole purpose: fighting and winning America’s wars.
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones)
While most soldiers, including myself, can attest to the lackluster leadership abilities of some fast-tracked leaders, the RAND Corporation is finally backing it up with evidence in a recently released report titled, The Value of Experience in the Enlisted Force.
The report explores the relationship between a leader’s experience and junior soldiers’ attrition rate. The three key traits of an effective leader, as found through interviews, were:
leaders who care about their soldiers,
leaders who effectively train their soldiers,
leaders who are knowledgeable.
Soldiers under leaders who mastered all three of these were far more likely to reenlist in the Army. Soldiers who served under leaders who failed in two or more these categories were far more likely to leave after just one term. This is precisely where a lack of experience in leadership positions hamstrings the unit.
Being a leader is more then even book knowledge – it’s finding the balance in all traits of being a leader.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)
There are two key types of experience that leaders need in spades: Interpersonal experience, which is knowing your soldiers and how they react to things, and technical experience, which can be learned in school and by simply leading. Both of these can only be achieved with time.
Soldiers who are tossed under leadership lacking in this invaluable experience are set up for failure. They’ll be unprepared to handle all the minor things that no one tells you about leading troops, like the insane amount of paperwork required or a complete lack of a personal life.
Most of these problems of inexperience are solved by gradually transitioning a troop into a leadership role. It’s best to start someone with command over one or two soldiers rather than immediately putting them in charge of the entire platoon.
Just be honest with yourself and your superiors. Everyone is affected by a single leader in the unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alex Kilmon)
Now, this isn’t to say that fast-tracking promotions is inherently wrong. It’s more to say that the qualities many units use to identify troops for quick promotion are flawed. These should include leadership skills — not just outstanding PT scores or test results.
As for sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class, they should only bite off what they can chew. If it takes a trip to the NCO academy before they’re 100-percent confident in leading, then they should go. No one is being helped by shoehorning an unprepared NCO into a leadership position just to maintain the status quo.
Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.
Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.
Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.
In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.
Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.
Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.
1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.
Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.
While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.
According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.
Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.
Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.
(US Army Signal Corps)
2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.
Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.
The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.
Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.
Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.
3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.
After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.
The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.
He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.
“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”
Lex died in 2012.
A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.
6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.
Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.
Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.
“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”
She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.
Wonderful dog, Conan.
(White House photo)
8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.
President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.
Love them or hate them, military balls are a right of passage for each member and their significant other. Dressing up, eating the food (and then grabbing McDonalds on your way home) and awkwardly making small talk with those at your table — this is a sacred and honored tradition that still reigns throughout military branches today. Whether you embrace each ball and plan it for months in advance, or show up last minute, kicking and screaming, it’s a common tradition we know all too well.
Take a look at these memes that outline just how the night will likely play out.
When being voluntold gets pricey.
Don’t forget about the cash bar.
Be on the lookout for cadets, errr ummm, privates at all times.
When their jam comes on, get OUT of the way.
Spouses are thankful to get their glam on.
Tomorrow, back to look one.
The crew who should’ve double checked their look.
But the people watching is excellent.
As are the conversations overheard in the bathroom.
For their sake, you’re hoping that’s true.
And then there’s things that make you say, “But whyyy??”
Also, is this legal?
The crew who takes tipsy to a whole new level.
Bless them and their Sunday hangovers.
You might not be sure about your choice of dinner.
Snack before you go. No matter what.
It’s a look.
We aren’t sure if he likes it or not.
But you’re sure to have good stories in the morning.
Just remember, on Monday, they never happened.
Military balls are bound to be a night for the books. Whatever your favorite part about the event, remember to keep it classy. While technically it’s a party, it’s also a work party, with bosses in tow.
What’s your most memorable event about a past military ball? Let us know below.
At any United States Postal Service location, you can grab boxes for your care packages. You do not need to pay for them until you mail it out, and I always grabbed Priority Mail boxes. It will be incredibly more expensive if you use a box that is not Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express, as those already have set prices and you can ship domestic or international for same price.
Create a theme for your care package.
Scrapbooking paper is a great and easy way to decorate the inside of your box. Pinterest is also a great resource for looking up different ideas for care packages. For instance, decorating the inside of the box with candy corn scrapbook papers, a quote from Hocus Pocus, stuffed with candy and beef jerky topped with fake spider webs and fake spiders.
Some examples for decorating the inside of Thanksgiving boxes may be decorating the inside of the box with brown and orange scrapbook paper with cut-outs of pumpkins and leaves. Another fun thing to add to your box is a secret message at the very bottom. Whether it is something funny or simple like “Gobble Gobble” or “I’m thankful for you.”
For Christmas care packages it could be themed around How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Merry Christmas. Take a look at Instagram and Pinterest for various ideas of fun ways to decorate your box.
NEVER decorate the outside of the box if they are packaged in the Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express boxes. The USPS staff will ask you to remove it, so don’t waste your time in the first place.
For domestic packages ensure that you are following the guidelines in the US to ship and do not include items such as; aerosols, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cigars tobacco, cremated remains, dry ice, firearms, fragile items, glue, lithium batteries, live animals, matches, medicines prescriptions drugs, nail polish, paint, perfumes, perishable items or poisons. For more information make sure to visit here.
Below are ideas that you can add to your care package that are military approved. If shipping overseas, make sure to add a general overview of what items are the package to your customs forms.
Deck of cards
3M wall hooks
Photos from home
Packets of condiments
Water flavoring packets
Hot cocoa mix
Non-chocolate candy (it melts way to easy in the packages)
Fresh baked holiday treats
Change up your care packages and add fun surprises every once in a while. Always add extra items for the service members to share with their battle buddies.
Make sure to tape up the sides of your box to be nice and secure and mail off. If you need assistance filling out the customs forms the staff are very helpful.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
If you haven’t heard, the generous folks at Amazon are celebrating Veterans Day with the best discount ever: $40 off your Amazon Prime membership. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 32% off. Free two-day shipping (and sometimes one-day shipping and in some locations, even same-day shipping) on all your favorite things like paper towels, and furniture, and clothes and, well, everything, should be enough to entice you to take advantage of this incredible deal.
Turns out, there’s more to Amazon Prime than just free shipping. Here are 6 other benefits to this incredible service. Alexa, sign me up.
If you are a Prime member, you can set up Amazon Household. You can add one other adult and up to four teenagers and four children on your Prime Household. That means everyone gets to take advantage of the awesome perks. Here’s how to create your Household.
Through Household, your teens can shop til they drop without actually spending any money. That’s right: you have approval powers. We both know a trip to the mall with the fire-monster that is your 15-year-old daughter will be an entree of eye-rolling served with a side of teenage angst. Skip the dressing room battles and let that person who used to love you pick out her own damn clothes. And then veto and approve with the judicious powers that only a mother or father could have and love.
So your teenager has picked out eight pairs of jeans, and you’re going to let her keep one. With Prime Wardrobe, she can try all of them before she buys.
Mandatory fun coming up? Order all the dresses or pants in the land without spending a dime. Yep, order up to eight items at a time, only pay for what you keep, and the returns are free and easy. And you never have to leave your house.
With more than two million songs and curated playlists, listening to your favorite tunes just got easier. Download the Amazon music app and listen offline.
Set your shopping guilt aside and tell yourself that you’re doing it for a good cause with AmazonSmile.
“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from over one million organizations to support.”
See, shopping for yourself is a good thing.
Jack Ryan isn’t going to watch itself. Neither will the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the entire Suits series, countless Disney movies, or thousands of other shows, all included with your Prime membership. Best part? With the app you can download all of these to watch offline. Alexa, book me a cross-country flight.
More of a binge-reader than a binge-watcher? Good on ya. Prime has something for you, too. Prime Books gives you access to thousands of books that you can read on your Kindle (or through the Kindle app if you don’t have a separate device). You is smart.
There are countless benefits to having an Amazon Prime account. Take advantage of this weekend’s discount and live your best life, one Prime perk at a time.
There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.
No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.
Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…
1. Our missions are similar
Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.
Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.
“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. We get each other’s low-brow humor
When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.
Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.
There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. We share the same values
Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.
We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.
And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
4. We understand each other’s pain
Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.
But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.
Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!
5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously
It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.
When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.
The military does a lot of things, from humanitarian aid missions to security operations for the world’s shipping lanes, but without a doubt, the thing the military excels at is war-fighting. Specializing in such a dramatic and chaotic enterprise requires a great deal of preparation, planning, and above all else, communicating.
In fact, communication plays an integral role in just about everything the military does — from fire teams that need to “shoot, move, and communicate” in combat operations to policy level decisions that need to be relayed and enforced across a massive body of service members across dozens of different commands. At the end of the day, the military may use weapons to enforce America’s foreign policy, but it’s the communication from the top down and back again that really makes it happen.
Of course, communicating isn’t always easy — especially over great distances and in hectic environments. That’s why the U.S. military relies on numerous forms of communication systems, teaches common hand gestures in combat training, and instills the use of the phonetic alphabet, sometimes referred to as the “military alphabet” when communicating over radios or telephone lines.
The phonetic alphabet wasn’t originally intended for military use — back when a group of French and English language teachers led by Paul Passy invented it, the point was to have an international system of transcription. It didn’t take long, however, for the military to recognize its value in relaying letters across communication lines that were susceptible to background noise or interference in the signal.
Today, many service members are expected to memorize the phonetic alphabet (often at basic training) and use it commonly when communicating over the radio or telephone. As a result, it’s not all that uncommon to hear veterans continue to use it while talking on the phone — not as a means of holding on to their military pasts, but because the method has proven extremely effective when it comes to relaying the spelling of a name (for instance) over a phone line. While a listener might mistake a “B” for “P,” as an example, it’s pretty tough to mistake “Bravo” for “Papa.”
There have been changes to the phonetic alphabet over the years, bringing us to the most modern iteration in common use today among members of the U.S. military.
The tradition of naming major operations with an inspiring name is relatively new considering the long history of warfare. Battles and conflicts before 1918 are titled after a city or territory: The Battle of this, The Siege of that, or The Third battle of this and that. In 1918, the central powers launched Operation Fist Punch and were able to capture the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine from the Russian Bolsheviks. Over the course of 11 days the Russians surrendered and highlighted the merits of naming offensive operations with a name. From this point forward commanders around the world contemplated giving operations proper names.
The World Wars made it a thing
During World War I Germany favored naming operations over radio communications to maintain secrecy. When we fast forward to World War II the naming of operations had evolved. The Nazi empire, armed with the newly forged weapon of propaganda, blazed across Europe with the intent of intimidating allied forces and inspiring support for the war in Berlin. However, the allies had their own champions such as Frank Capra, to counter the Nazi’s Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the will. While the media giants battled on the silver screen to win the hearts of the civilians at home, allied commanders debated, agreed, and named operations to maintain operational security and motivate the troops conducting them. For example, the British launched Operation Chronometer in 1941 to capture the port city of Assab on the west coast of the Red Sea. On the American front, operations follow a color code prior to 1943.
Winston Churchill is the grandfather of modern ops names
The turning point for the Pentagon on the subject of operational names came when Winston Churchill petitioned a better way of naming them. He convinced allied high command that they should change the name of Operation Soapsuds, the bombing raid of Romanian oil fields, to Operation Tidal Wave. At the time British commanders were vulnerable to committing their troops to comical names he outlined three clear guidelines:
1. Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment or, conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency. They ought not to be names of a frivolous character. They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, names of living people, ministers and commanders should be avoided.
2. After all, the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called “Bunnyhug” or “Ballyhoo.”
3. Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.
The U.S. adapted to use nouns and adjectives for operations consistently afterwards. With success gaining momentum in both the European and Pacific theaters, the importance of good sounding names grows as well. America did have some proper sounding names that obscured the mission such as the Manhattan Project in 1941. America had parallel thinking with Britain, it just needed a little nudge to cross over.
The U.S. is the current champion of Badass Operation Names
The allies had Operation OVERLORD for the D-Day invasion and Operation Downfall, the proposed invasion of Japan. Among the sea of operational names that sprouted from the war, it had become an American tradition to pick awe inspiring names for operations of future wars. Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom – Americans are the best at it. Our secret ingredient is a little computer system, NICKA. It that tracks the names of code words, exercises, and nicknames to ensure they are not duplicated. The task of new names falls upon commanders at the highest levels. The pentagon chooses first and second words for an operation dictated by OPNAVINST 5511.37D in three steps:
First, Permanent First Word Assignment. Major users are permanently assigned first words in enclosure (1) to avoid duplication. Applicable activities shall use these for all originating nicknames/exercise terms. Authorized Navy first words are chosen from blocks of letters assigned to Navy, listed in enclosure (1). All nicknames which are exercise terms will follow the criteria for propriety given in subparagraph 7d.
Second, Requests for first word assignments will be made in writing by the initiating activity (see paragraph 9a) to CNO (N30P), who will ensure its validity. Nicknames/exercise terms must be approved before use. CNO (N30P) is the approving authority.
Third, Second Word Assignment. The second word is used in combination with the permanently assigned first word to identify a specific nickname/exercise term. Users with first, word assignments can suggest a second word to CNO (N30P) in writing. All second words must be approved by CNO (N30P) before use. Unlike first words, second words are not restricted by alphabet. The first and second words combined must meet criteria in subparagraph 7d.
For decades the U.S. has had names that get the juices flowing. Operation Red Dawn was the prelude to the toppling of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein. Operation Urgent Fury served to make an example of the island nation of Grenada. It was getting too close for comfort with the Soviet Union. The millennial generation has Operation Phantom Fury, the Battle for Fallujah. There are still more blank pages in the book of history with room for future wars. Rising tensions in the South China Sea may call upon the pentagon once again to come up with a name. This time to liberate the pacific, only time will tell what it may be.
The US’s long-awaited Space Force was officially established on December 20, when President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Space Force was created from US Air Force Space Command but is still part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department. Space Force is not meant to put troops into space but will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which leads US military space operations.
The secretary of the Air Force has to tell Congress by February 1 how Space Force will be organized and its expected funding needs. But there are still “thousands and thousands of actions that are going to have to take place” over the next 18 months, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond said on December 20
Among those is the renaming of Air Force bases to reflect the space mission, according to Raymond, who is head of US Space Command and will lead Space Force as its first chief of space operations.
“We do have a plan to rename the principal Air Force bases that house space units to be space bases,” Raymond said.
“I just want to point out, though, that we will rely very heavily on the Air Force to operate those bases,” he added. “But we’ll work to rename those to match the mission of the base.”
Raymond mentioned five Air Force bases that could be renamed — Patrick Air Force Base, for example, could become Patrick Space Base — but he said “his list wasn’t necessarily all inclusive,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email last week, adding that the service was “still working through the details” and didn’t currently have any other information about renaming bases.
Below, you can see some of the bases that may soon have new names.
A C-17 Globemaster III at Buckley Air Force Base, March 19, 2019.
(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Michael D. Mathews)
Located in Aurora, Colorado, Buckley AFB’s host unit is the 460th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to deliver global infrared surveillance, tracking and missile warning for theater and homeland defense and provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior airmen.”
In its day-to-day operations, the 460th SW directly supports combatant commands around the world.
Runners exit the north portal of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during the Zombie Tunnel 5k Fun Run, Oct. 20, 2017.
(US Air Force/Steve Koteck)
Cheyenne Mountain AFS is located near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, home to the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command.
While Raymond didn’t mention Cheyenne Mountain by name, it is a big part of US space operations. It is the alternate command center for NORAD and Northern Command and is a training site for crew qualification.
“NORAD and USNORTHCOM use just under 30% of the floor space within the complex and comprise approximately 5% of the daily population at Cheyenne Mountain,” according to NORAD. But it is owned and operated by Air Force Space Command, which is now Space Force.
Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney takes photos on the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, July 3, 2019.
(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Frank Casciotta)
In addition to hosting the headquarters for NORAD and Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base is headquarters for Air Force Space Command and now for Space Force.
It is also home to the 21st Space Wing, the Air Force’s most geographically dispersed wing and the fifth-largest wing in the Air Force by number of units.
The 21st SW uses a network of command-and-control units as well as ground- and space-based sensors operated by units around the world to provide missile warning and space control to NORAD.
50th Operations Support Squadron students at Schriever Air Force Base, January 10, 2019.
(US Air Force/2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)
East of Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Schriever AFB’s host unit is the 50th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to evolve space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.”
The 50th SW and its 16 units around the world provide “command and control of more than 185 satellites, to include commercial, DoD and civil assets,” the base’s website says.
The wing runs satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote-tracking stations and command-and-control facilities across the planet, at which it monitors satellites throughout their service life.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of Northern Command and NORAD, tours Vandenberg Air Force Base, August 7, 2018.
(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos)
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Located in a remote area north of Los Angeles, Vandenberg AFB is headquarters for the 30th Space Wing, which manages space and missile testing for the Pentagon, launches satellites and spacecraft, and supports the Minuteman III ICBM force development evaluation program.
Vandenberg is also home to the 14th Air Force, which on December 27 was redesignated as Space Operations Command, which “directly supports the US Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.”
SPOC comprises the five space wings on this list as well as the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, which is the SPOC commander’s command-and-control center at Vandenberg.
Among other things, SPOC will provide space domain awareness and electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile-warning and nuclear-detonation detection, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for Space Force and Space Command and other combatant commands.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, May 23, 2019.
(US Air Force/1st Lt Alex Preisser)
Patrick Air Force Base
Patrick Air Force Base is on Florida’s Atlantic coast near Orlando, and its host unit is the 45th Space Wing.
The wing operates the Eastern Range, which supports rocket and missile launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. It also oversees satellite launches at Cape Canaveral for the US military and civilian agencies and commercial entities.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral on Monday with Starlink satellites in the first launch of 2020 and the wing’s first launch as a part of Space Force.
“The effects the new Space Force will have on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base has not been announced yet, but continuing to successfully accomplish the mission without interruption is our top priority,” 45th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess said January 3.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.