Why Is the Next Top Enlisted Guardian’s Nickname ‘B-9’?

When news broke on May 8 that Chief Master Sgt. John F. Bentivegna was chosen to become the next Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force, it soon became clear that social media knows him by a different name.

“Congrats, Chief B9!” said several commenters on the unofficial Space Force subreddit and on Facebook

A Space Forces spokesman told Air & Space Forces Magazine the B-9 nickname refers to the nine letters that follow the “B” in Bentivegna, which is pronounced “bent-EE-vania.”

Bentivegna will be the second-ever CMSSF, the top enlisted Guardian in the Space Force. As such, he will be responsible for advising Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman on the welfare and readiness of the Space Force’s Guardians. Saltzman selected Bentivegna out of five finalists as the new top enlisted Guardian on May 5. The service has not yet announced when ‘Chief B-9’ will formally take over the job from the current CMSSF Roger A. Towberman.

A 29-year veteran, Bentivegna currently advises the Deputy CSO for Operations, Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, and he is also the Enlisted Space Systems Operations Career Field Manager. He was Command Chief at Space Operations Command in his prior role. Bentivegna joined the Air Force in 1994 and served in both maintenance and space operations before transferring to the Space Force in September 2020.

“He’s been right here with us every step of the way,” Towberman said in a statement about Bentivegna. “He knows where we’ve been and believes in where we’re going. I couldn’t be happier for our Guardians or more proud of how it’s all coming together. He’s exactly who we need right now.” 

That is high praise coming from Towberman, who made a splash for being the first CMSSF and for striving to form a retention-focused service that does not give Guardians “a reason to quit.” He also appeared on late-night TV from Greenland, sang with the Air Force’s Max Impact rock band, and spoke directly to Guardians on the Space Force’s unofficial Reddit page.

“When your brand is crazy, you can’t go out of bounds,” Towberman said in his keynote address at the 2022 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, shortly after leading the audience through a singalong of the Space Force song.

Though it is unclear yet what Bentivegna’s brand will be, Space Force leadership believes he is ready for prime time.

“I needed someone that would bring a perspective on our future that was articulated differently from mine,” Saltzman said in the release. “Someone who could (and would) challenge my assumptions and ensure that important issues were evaluated from multiple angles and would catch things I missed. All the candidates had tremendous experience, skills, and expertise and it made it a close run.” 

In the end, Chief “B-9” came out on top.

“It’s overwhelming and incredibly humbling to be offered the opportunity to become the next Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force,” Bentivegna said in a statement. “I am really excited to have that opportunity to work next to Gen. Saltzman to help fulfill his vision for where the service needs to go.”