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Staying Connected while Staying Apart

(U.S. Space Force graphic by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

(U.S. Space Force graphic by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.--Since March 16, 2020, the United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has been on a mandatory telework status. Like the rest of the nation and world, the SMC workforce had to adjust quickly to the limitations brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the course of the last 100 days and counting, a lot has changed. Yet through it all, one thing has remained a constant: almost every workday and some weekends, Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander, has sent out a check-in to approximately 6,000 team members.

Thompson’s daily emails have become essential reading for the entire SMC team. First, they are informational – what is going on around the installation, updates on major achievements and developments of the new Space Force, and pertinent information on the phased return to new normal operations.

During the work week, he and his action group and staff coordinate with various leadership and helping agencies across the installation, such as the 61st Air Base Group, Public and Mental Health, Chaplain’s office, and Community Support Coordinator to put together the most up-to-date information. Topics range from daily exercise recommendations to history lessons about famous aviators and astronauts, and each message ends with a Joke and a Resiliency Thought of the Day.

“It’s been a source of comfort for me to see General Thompson’s update each day,” said Zayd Al-Marayati, Project Officer in Development Corps’ Space Enterprise Consortium. “It is reassuring to know our leadership is standing by and supporting us, while dealing with the same uncertainty.”

“Even the jokes are funny… sometimes,” added Al-Marayati.

Asked why he felt it was so important to stay connected, Thompson said, “Keeping our team informed regarding public safety is critical for us and for the communities we live in. Even through incredible challenges, our SMC team is setting a foundation for the U.S. Space Force and continually providing space capabilities to our joint warfighters and to the world every day.”

As for the jokes, he hopes the one-liners add levity to the continued stressful situation and reminds everyone to look for the bright side of things. 

More than 100 days in, the SMC team has not missed a beat during the mandatory telework period. There have been Critical Design Reviews, new contracts awarded, major program milestones, and multiple successful launch campaigns – all conducted, to some extent, virtually.

It is unclear what the immediate future will hold, but two things are certain: SMC will continue to deliver superior space capabilities, and the commander will be connecting via electronic means or six feet apart.