The View From Here

The View From Here: Life Begins at 30

Written by: developer

In our youth-obsessed American culture, turning 30 can be a traumatic change-of-life event. I was curiously unaffected by turning 30, although I will admit that I was oddly unsettled by attaining the unremarkable age of 32. Since then, I've come to realize that 30 represents a tremendous coming-of-age milestone, when your best years still lie ahead and your youthful vigor is marvelously paired with a maturity and, one hopes, a modicum of well-earned wisdom and knowledge.

It's this marvel of coming confidently into your own that I think of when I consider two closely related space organizations that mark their 30th anniversaries this year. The first is Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), which celebrates three decades of service to the nation this month. The second is the Space Foundation, which was created just six months after AFSPC.

AFSPC is celebrating its 30th anniversary with many special events this month - two of which are near and dear to me. The first is a community-based gathering on Sept. 14, honoring the 30 years of partnership between the Command and the communities of the Front Range of Colorado. The second is a Washington, D.C., event on Sept. 18, honoring the pioneers of the command and three decades of remarkable service to the nation by tens of thousands of men and women space warriors. With our long association with AFSPC, the Space Foundation is honored to be presenting both of these anniversary events.

As I reflect on the history and future of AFSPC, three things seem to have created the perfect conditions for America's space warriors to thrive: vision, leadership and commitment.

The vision for this command came from a number of influential leaders. History has a way of morphing over time and is always written a little differently, depending upon the author. I'll almost certainly omit someone and apologize in advance if I've left out your favorite space visionary, but many of the political and military leaders who created AFSPC have also been important in the history of the Space Foundation, so I hope I'll be forgiven my natural prejudices.

Certainly key in our joint history is a gentleman by the name of General James E. Hill. Commander of both NORAD, and what was then known as ADCOM, Jim Hill was one of the first to recognize how space in general, and missiles in particular, were changing the nature of the ADCOM mission to defend North America from Soviet nuclear threats. And, he became one of the first to begin advocating for the establishment of a specialized command to marshal U.S. forces in the space domain. There were some prescient and visionary leaders who also became persuaded of Hill's views. These included a rumpled, professorial under secretary of the Air Force - and later secretary of the Air Force - named Hans Mark, and his military aide, a young officer named Thomas S. Moorman, Jr. Mark, who set the wheels in motion to create Space Command, would be followed in the position of SecAf by his friend Vern Orr. Orr's under secretary would be the astronaut-trained E.C. "Pete" Aldridge. Both would become champions for creating Air Force Space Command, and Orr would sign the authorization for the command, announcing its creation on Sept. 1, 1982.

Both Hill and Mark had been influenced by the thinking of General Bernard Schriever. Moorman would one day circle back, wearing three stars, and command AFSPC during its impressive debut combat engagement - Operation Desert Storm.

All of these visionary leaders saw the need for a cadre of professional space warriors who could marshal the resources of the high frontier and harness them to defend U.S. citizens and interests around the globe. Interestingly, all of them would go on to have significant relationships with the Space Foundation. Jim Hill was a long-time chairman of the board, and, upon his death, the Space Foundation created its highest honor in his memory -- the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award. Hans Mark, Bennie Schriever, Pete Aldridge and Tom Moorman would all go on to have their names inscribed on the Hill Award, with Aldridge and Moorman both having served on our board of directors.

Vision is nothing, however, if it cannot be articulated into action and results through leadership. And as I think of the leadership enjoyed by AFSPC over the years, it is no surprise that this relatively young command has become the crucible for creating and delivering crucial space and cyberspace capabilities and effects not only to the Air Force, but to all branches of the armed forces, all over the world.

General James Hartinger, a.k.a. "The Grrr," drove the early days of the command with a hard-charging vigor that tested the endurance - and patience - of his team. It's appropriate that one of the space industry's highest honors, NDIA's Hartinger Award, bears his name (the Hartinger Award will be presented this year at the AFSPC 30th Anniversary event in Colorado Springs).

I never knew Generals Herres or Horner, but General Donald Kutyna was certainly another ramrod leader, guiding the command with Hartinger-like forcefulness, discipline and a technical attention to detail that was to become the hallmark of AFSPC leadership. There followed a series of AFSPC commanders who seamlessly blended excellence in the military disciplines with an uncanny expertise in the challenging technologies and sciences of the space domain: Generals Joe Ashy and Howell Estes III brought the mission ethos of the fighter pilot and gave rise to an increasingly cerebral space intelligentsia that included Generals Lance Lord, Ralph E. "Ed" Eberhart, Bob Kehler, Kevin "Chili" Chilton and a general who would rise to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dick Myers. Also very much in this mold is current AFSPC Commander General Willie Shelton, who exemplifies the migration of AFSPC leadership from what I would call "space aware" military officers leading an emerging command to "space expert" military officers leading a mature, competent and technically savvy force that is unique in the world.

The United States Space Foundation was established some months after the launch of Space Command "to foster, develop and promote, among the citizens of the United States of America and among other people of the world... a greater understanding and awareness... of the practical and theoretical utilization of space... for the benefit of civilization and the fostering of a peaceful and prosperous world." This is where leaders less familiar to our industry stepped forward - Colorado 5th District Congressman Kenneth Kramer, and trusted advisers Bill Hybl and J. Braxton Carter - incorporating the Space Foundation on March 23, 1983.

Today's AFSPC is a far different organization than it was 30 years ago. The almost 26,000 men and women of Air Force Space Command - and the thousands of contractor personnel who train, equip and support them - are deployed around the globe, managing launch vehicles, radars, satellites, ground stations, networks, space surveillance systems and other critical systems that literally make possible every mission of every branch of the U.S. armed forces. Along the way, they provide space operations support, systems and infrastructure that our entire civil space program depends upon; indeed, by virtue of owning and operating the GPS satellite constellation, Air Force Space Command is the custodian of the precision navigation and timing system that enables every network, every broadcast, every phone call, text or mobile Internet search and every financial transaction in the world. Add in the support that AFSPC provides for the world community of commercial satellite operators and it's safe to say that today, life, as we know it, depends upon AFSPC.

It is a command that is up to the challenge.

The Space Foundation is also a far different organization than it was 30 years ago. As the global space community has grown, we have grown in service to our mission "to advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable and propel humanity." You may know us for convening important conferences and events, but our scope is much, much broader. Our research and analysis enterprise develops and reports crucial, global data on the industry, providing important policy information and economic data for space decision-makers around the world. Our policy team works with government officials and opinion leaders in important centers including Washington, D.C., London, Vienna, Beijing and others. Our education enterprise works with students and teachers around the nation, delivering impactful programs in STEM subjects and other disciplines, enabling young people through innovative curriculum and unique learning laboratories and developing educators through trailblazing, space-based masters degree programs. Here at home, we're building a world class Visitors Center to support our community and our customers with transformational education capabilities, including the soon-to-open Northrop Grumman Science Center.

We are a stronger, more diverse, more relevant Space Foundation than ever before. We, too, are up to the challenges the future will bring.

Neither AFSPC, nor the Space Foundation, are youngsters anymore. Rather, we've hit that wonderful point in life where we're confident, proven and still full of vigor for the pursuit of our missions. As exciting as the first 30 years have been, our best days are still ahead of us. We know it and we couldn't be more excited about the great things that we are going to do.

The View from Here is that life begins at 30. Congratulations to all the men and women of AFSPC - past, present and future. The world has never needed you more. As always, the Space Foundation stands beside you. Like you, we are ready to serve.

This article is part of Space Watch: September 2012 (Volume: 11, Issue: 9).