The United States Space Force has boldly deployed its first troops, but not to the moon or even outer space. Instead, a group of 20 enlisted and commissioned Airmen assigned to the 16th Expeditionary Space Control Flight and 609th Air Operations Center were deployed overseas to Qatar.
However, this deployment is unique for another reason. Those 20 individuals were actually already serving overseas, and in a ceremony earlier this month joined the U.S. Space Force during enlistment and oath of office ceremonies at the Silent Sentry compound at the Al Udeid Air Base.
The ceremonies officially transferred Space Operations officers and Airmen in core space career fields – including space operations and space system operations – to the sixth and newest military service branch. Future ceremonies will induct those professionals who are in common career fields such as acquisition, intelligence, engineering, and cyber.
“This group is making history,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Forces for U.S. Air Forces Central Command. “Those participating in today’s ceremony are not only joining our nation’s newest service, they are joining this service while deployed in defense of our nation. In other words, they are the first members of the United States Space Force to be deployed in support of combat operations.”
The Airmen at Al Udeid Air Base are supporting operations in the Middle East.
The Next Frontier
Space across the DoD has traditionally focused on providing support to other domains that include land, maritime, and air – while the creation of the Space Force last year allowed for the new service to focus on space as its own critical domain.
“For our nation, we must not just be present in space, but we must be a leader in space,” added Benson. “U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force will play a critical role in protecting our Nation’s vital interests in space.”
The first Space Force volunteer window for transfers opened in May. Most of the airmen who made the recent transfer were assigned to this newest branch of the military were already serving with the former Air Force Space Command.
In April, the Department of the Air Force identified 23 U.S. Air Force units that have space-related missions that could be transferred to the Space Force. Both the USAF and Space Force are organized as military service branches within the Department of the Air Force – similar to how the United States Navy and United States Marines Corps are part of the Department of the Navy.
Command and Control
The 16th Space Control Flight, part of the 21st Operations Group, was originally operational from 1967-1994 and was reactivated in 2007. The squadron’s mission is to protect critical satellite communication links to detect, characterize, geolocate, and report sources of electromagnetic interference on the U.S. military and commercial satellites.
The unit hails from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, which is home to multiple space focused missions. It is the current command for SpOC, which is the primary force provider of space forces and capabilities for combatant commanders, coalition partners, the U.S. joint forces and the nation.
Peterson AFB is also the provisional headquarters for the United Space Command. When the new Space Command headquarters is fully established, it will house 1,400 military civilian personnel. Dozens of cities across the country have vied to host the new headquarters.