LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The United States Space Force (USSF) and its premiere acquisition arm, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) successfully welcomed the incoming class of newly commissioned officers through a brand-new and completely virtual USSF Space Officer Immersion Program from July 7 to 31.
The program was designed by SMC’s Commander’s Action Group (CAG) and is designed to prepare new members for their first assignments within the USSF. The program focuses on a wide range of space-related topics, presented via informational briefings from subject matter experts and senior leaders, assigned readings from selected books, and video presentations to build a strong foundation of understanding. Following the initial four weeks, the officers enter into an 18-32 week-long industry internship and concludes with their entry into formal Undergraduate Space Training (UST).
“With this immersion program, we have an opportunity to kick-start a unified Space Force culture that starts with common experiences and technical knowledge, said Maj. Laila Barasha, Deputy Chief, SMC CAG and creator of the course. “The program integrates operators with acquisitions and cyber, and level sets them on space technology, acquisitions, and industry partners.”
“We all know that first impressions matter, and that’s especially true for these new accessions,” Barasha continued. “They’ll spend their careers in the newest military branch, and the culture we build today will set the tone for generations. We have an opportunity to set the stage, to build the Space Force from the ground up -- and it starts with this first batch of second lieutenants. As the first officers to commission into the new service, we are excited to shape the way they view space development, acquisitions, and the space industry.”
On the first day of the course, members were welcomed by Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander, who provided a big-picture overview of how SMC does business. This was followed by a welcome from Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, Headquarters USSF deputy commander, who spoke about the importance and urgency of the work ahead which awaits the young officers.
Both USSF senior leaders outlined the following goals for the program: immerse new officers in the future of space technology and space systems; develop a common core space competency among USSF officers early in their careers; encourage relationships across specialty codes in order to strengthen the USSF team; familiarize new officers with industry partners and their capabilities and capture best practices from industry partners.
Thompson explained that this course would build a career-long foundation rather than the traditional method where lieutenants awaiting job training serve as temporary execs and utility players within squadrons.
“Space Force leadership wanted to give our newly minted lieutenants useful training and begin building the culture of officers that knock down stove-piped specialties to create a broad perspective and lay the groundwork where our officers can work within multiple career tracks throughout their careers,” Thompson said.
Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, USSF Chief of Space Operations, challenged the lieutenants to start thinking about where the Space Force is heading and to immerse with USSF’s innovative industry partners.
“April 18th was the last time we were all together for your graduation,” he said. “But a lot has changed since then. With this course, I want to start building the culture of the USSF from day one, as an innovative force built to go fast and one that leverages the cutting-edge technology being developed by our industry partners.”
Additionally, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, USSF Senior Enlisted Advisor, joined Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Arnold, SMC command chief, and other command chiefs from Vandenberg AFB to speak with the lieutenants about fostering a culture of leading, while developing and inspiring the enlisted corps.
“Being able to hear from top leaders both from within and outside SMC has made me realize how much more there is to the Space Force beyond satellites and radar,” said 2nd Lt. Devin Doyle, a recent prior-enlisted Air Force Academy graduate who is awaiting UST and her first assignment as a USSF officer. “This course has reinvigorated my excitement for everything I will see and work on over the course of my career.”
The officers also interacted with government and industry partners at the National Reconnaissance Office, Missile Defense Agency, and Air Force Research Laboratory. They learned from federally funded research and development centers like Aerospace Corporation, MIT Lincoln Labs, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the professional organization AFCEA.
To even out the experience, they also heard from operational group commanders, international partners, and industry leaders. Each day, the lieutenants virtually toured the plants, labs, and companies that comprise the space industry in the Los Angeles area.
Although beginning their military careers during a global pandemic wasn’t what these officers imagined, the USSF Space Officer Immersion Program ensured the early days were productive and formative.
“During the course of this program, we’ve been given time to speak almost one-on-one with leadership and industry partners around the country,” said 2nd Lt. Shelby Higdon, project officer in SMC’s Development Corps who has been stationed at LA AFB since last year. “This time has been incredibly valuable because we see firsthand how much they’re willing to invest in the future of the Space Force and how much they care about the success of their newest accessions.”
“This course has offered countless resources, and extensive knowledge on programs I work with regularly, allowing me to finally assign purpose to my day-to-day duties, and overall mission,” she continued. “My newfound knowledge has not only prepared me for the work I’ll continue here at SMC, but more importantly, has prepared me to have more productive conversations with leadership, and industry and those who I will lead in the future.”
SMC’s Talent Management team will develop this course in the short-term for a future transition to USSF Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM).
This newly developed course, conducted entirely virtually, is one of the many ways SMC and the USSF are rapidly adapting to the new COVID-19 normal while continuing to deliver superior space capabilities.