Watch, Read: The Guardians We Need—Transitioning into the Space Force

Watch the video or read the transcript of Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, United States Space Force; Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger Towberman talking about “The Guardians We Need—Transitioning Into the Space Force” in a panel session moderated by AFA President, retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, during AFA’s 2021 virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium.

AFA President Retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright: “Establishing a new service is an incredible undertaking. And two of the Guardians who are leading the way are with us today. The Space Force was established December 20, 2019. And in just the past few months, they have transitioned to the name Guardians, introduced a new rank structure, unveiled their nine Deltas—the Space Force equivalent of wings—and they’re starting to bring personnel in from other services. We’re so pleased to welcome to our studio this morning, Gen. D. T. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, and from the Pentagon, Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger Towberman. Gentlemen, if you would please, set the scene for us. Where is the Space Force today? And where are you going over the next six to 12 months?”

Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations: “All right, Gen. Wright. Thanks so much for that introduction, and it’s exciting and important to be here with you all today, especially joining Chief Towberman, to talk just a little bit about that. Actually we were assigned to responsibility in law over a year ago, in December of 2019, to fully establish a Space Force within 18 months, and in fact, later, Chief [of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay”] Raymond and [former] Secretary [of the Air Force Barbara M.] Barrett gave us 15 months to do it. And so over the past year, we’ve been rapidly establishing the force, we’ve been, we’ve completed the initial organizational design, we we’ve already established several of our organizations, we’ve established an early headquarters, we’ve created a Space Operations Command, we’ve got plans for acquisition and training and readiness commands, and our job over the next several months is to finish the detailed planning, actually execute on the final stages on some of that organizational stand up, and then to proceed the full requirement that’s going to take several years, of fully building out a force that we need to defend and protect space capabilities and provide those capabilities for the Space Force, for the nation, and the Joint Force well into the future.” 

Wright: “Chief Towberman?”

Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger Towberman: “Yes, Gen. Wright, it’s always great to see you, I wish I could be shaking your hand. I can’t wait until, you know, hopefully the next time we do one of these things, we can, we can all be together and be like human beings are meant to be. And, you know, hugs and high fives and all that, but thanks so much to AFA, thanks again to Tobias [Naegele] and Amy [McCullough] for, for working us through this all week. Thanks everybody for the hard work that goes into this. I think the content has been incredible, the on-demand stuff is fantastic, and for all of all our Airmen and Guardians out there that have the opportunity, and have that growth mindset that I know both, both services crave, to be able to just pick and choose and see the stuff that makes them better, makes them more aware, and all of that to be brought to them by AFA, it’s just a really, really cool week. So just thanks to everyone. Yeah, it’s been a big first year for us. We’d like to say hashtag it’s not boring. We’re running fast, things are changing every day, we spent the entire first year inventing the force, as the CSO says, and now, year two, focused on integrating the force, as we continue to bring in folks. We had another virtual transfer ceremony just last night to welcome in even more Guardians. So as the force starts to fill up, and we start to get the folks in we need, now we turn to them, and we say, help us help you. You know, be a part of your own future, and let’s see how this all fits in with each other, and in with the joint force, in with our coalition partners, and commercial and industry partners, which are so important to our continued dominance in space and unfettered access to, and freedom to maneuver. So, yeah, it’s fun. It’s not boring.”


“Well thanks, Gen. Thompson and Chief Towberman. For all of us looking at the backgrounds and experience, the leadership tests that you’ve been through, we couldn’t have two better proven joint warfighters to lead our nation, and certainly, to lead our Space Force. Let me start with a question: the term Guardians, a bit of background on, on how you all came up with the term Guardians, but really what that term means to this important set of joint warfighters? And now, also known as Guardians, so I’ll start with you, Gen. Thompson, and then and then Chief Towberman.”

Thompson: “Sure. To be a Guardian means several things. First of all, it means provider and protector. It means over watcher, and it means warrior. It means somebody who’s trained, who’s disciplined, who’s prepared, and who provides every single day. In fact, every day the Guardian provides that overwatch allows for provision for others, but in the role of protector and warrior, is prepared at a moment’s notice to go completely into that mode, and probably most importantly, is that symbol to those who would do us harm. The understanding of what we do every single day, and if they choose to force us into the mode of protector and warrior, things will not end well for them. The term Guardian has deep heritage inside of the space community, and specifically for those of us who grew up inside the space missions inside the Air Force. Since its inception, Air Force Space Command, the motto of Air Force Space Command, was ‘Guardians of the High Frontier.’ We were Guardians in that regard, and so, just as the Air Force for many years built on its heritage and legacy of the Army Air Corps and how it grew into the U.S. Space Force, this is also a perfect connection to our past and our heritage and to remember where we’ve come from, with that connection to Air Force Space Command and its motto of Guardian to the High Frontier.”

Wright: Chief, your thoughts?”

Toowberman: “You know it’s a, it’s a cool question, and, and I think all of those things are true. And I’m a big heritage guy, I’m a big, I love military heritage, and being able to give a nod to our history, but maybe something I love, even more is, is that we don’t know what Guardian is going to mean, you know tomorrow, that this is in the hands of the culture that we’re building, and in many ways, it can mean whatever we want it to mean. And I think that that’s really kind of the cool thing, is that as we start to flesh out our values, as we turn to the force, and we say it’s your culture, it’s, it’s the headquarters’ job to set the conditions for success. It’s your job to grow within those conditions, and be the culture, and give meaning to a very powerful word with great history with great legacy. The future of that word and what it really means to be a Guardian, I mean really, to hopefully be the a word, right, that if I’m a Guardian is something that never changes. I may serve four years, I may serve 40 years, but to always be a Guardian is, and what that means moving forward, to have that in the hands of the people that are building this force is just, I think it’s really cool to me, and it’s a maybe even cooler than the history and legacy that comes with ‘Guardians of the High Frontier.” And just the powerful word that it is on its own is this concept that, what will it mean tomorrow? What do Guardians symbolize? What is that culture that’s going to grow on its own as we help to unleash the greatness in all of the folks that are raising their hands to join the team?”

Wright: “Well thanks Chief. You know, Gen. Thompson, you were getting pretty good grades earlier in your, early in your life. A degree, in fact, in astronautics from the Air Force Academy. Could you and the Chief talk a bit to those who would want to enter the Space Force, and be Guardians, what are the attributes, the backgrounds that you’re looking for?”

Thompson: “Um, I sure will. And let me start, let me start by saying this: You know, today we have over 4,100 uniformed members of the Space Force, about 150 of those have come through accession channels directly into the Space Force, whether it’s through the officer channels, or the enlisted channels, but 3,950 of us wearing the Space Force name tape today, at some point in our path, for some number of years were Airmen and part of the United States Air Force. And let me start by saying this: We have a long way to go, many things to do to build out what we expect of Guardians, but we’re starting on a tremendous foundation. First of all, those Guardians at heart, who for years were Airmen who performed space missions inside the Air Force, who, who taught us, who trained us, who meant mentored us. The things we had the opportunity to do as part of the space community and space mission areas inside of the Air Force, and the support that the Air Force provided and built us into, has provided an excellent foundation for where we need to go in, in regard to Guardians. In addition, through the support they’re provided with basic military training, and some of the education programs and other things, we’re going to continue to partner with and depend on the Air Force for many years. The Air Force has had a huge role in where we have gotten to today, and I just want to take a minute to say, express our appreciation. Now I’ll talk a little bit about what it means, we think, to be a Guardian. Certainly early on is someone who needs to be bold, someone who needs to be visionary, somebody who needs to be innovative, somebody who has a deep technical and operational understanding of the domain we operate in, which is fundamentally different from any other operating domain, who understands the threats, who understand the capabilities we provide, the importance of those capabilities, and understands when do they walk into the room with the rest of the joint force, the expectation of them, what they provide, how they’re expected to integrate, and the expertise they need to bring to everything that we need to do, that’s, that’s the idea of what a Guardian needs to be. We have a lot of work to do to understand how to get there. But that’s kind of where we stand in that regard.”

Wright: “Wonderful, Chief?”

Towberman: “Sir, you know, I’d agree 100%. And I, it really is like there’s this blue chip organization called the United States Air Force. There’s also a blue chip organization called the United States Army, and United States Navy, and the United States Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. These are blue chip, awesome, institutions and they have developed the greatest NCO corps in history. And so, I think that’s where it starts. But I think there’s also on top of that and all those skills and talents is self, selflessness and, and desire to win, and all those things that come in all the services. But then there’s this new startup company, and I think there’s folks with a certain kind of willingness to take a little bit of a risk on a startup company, be a little bit more adventurous, be a little bit ready for something unconventional, maybe a little bit disagreeable, and so I think we want the things that everybody wants. And then there’s this other thing, right, like there’s some people that are like, yeah but this startup is pretty exciting to me. And let me invest in that, and let me give that a chance. And so, I think that is this kind of this little extra thing that we want for potential Guardians, they need to have this sense that investing in the startup is really cool, because not everybody thinks that’s really cool, right? And so, to get that kind of willingness to be bold and different, and to start with a clean sheet, that’s, that’s really exciting. The one thing that you said, too, that, I know we’re really working hard on the recruitment and, in particular on the enlisted side. You said what backgrounds they might have, and I think this is a fascinating conversation, because it is kind of normal practice to hire folks or recruit folks based on what they’ve done. And what we want to do is, is flip that a little bit, and find a way to better predict what they’re capable of, regardless of what they’ve done.In other words, if we can find a way to measure potential, presuming that we can teach you anything we need to teach you. If we can find that person that can learn, that can adjust, that can be flexible, and that is excited about serving, whether or not that kind of checks certain boxes in their past, I think that puts us in a unique position where we can target talent, diamonds in the rough, if you will, undiscovered talent. It allows us to look in different places, and I think our size and skill gives us the ability, a degree of intimacy, where we can kind of pull at that a little bit, and so I’m really excited about this concept of, yeah, yeah I’ve got it, you’ve done great things, but let’s see if we can somehow measure and predict what you’re capable of, and let’s invest in that. Let’s—both of us, right, as institution and as individual—let’s both of us decide to invest in your potential, and not just bank on your past, if that makes sense. It’s, it’s, it’s pretty cool. It’s not boring.”

Thompson: “Hey, Chief, Gen. Wright, if I can, let me, let me try to add just a little bit there. We don’t, you don’t typically want to talk about things you don’t want, but let me just say some things we can’t afford from Guardians. The first is, Guardians should not be asking for permission to do their job. In some places, in some cases, you find that, that, that culture building of, this sense of, I have to have permission to do my job. Absolutely, we cannot afford as, as young, as small, as far as we need to go, we can’t afford to have Guardians who ask for permission to do their job, number one. And number two, we can’t afford Guardians who come in with a mindset that says, ‘We have always done it this way.’ What we really need are Guardians who say, ‘Why do we do it this way,’ who ask, ‘Why do we do this this way? And why can’t we do it differently? Those are a couple of attributes we can’t afford in Guardians as we build that culture going forward.”

Wright: “Thanks. That sounds great. I’d certainly follow either one of you into a tough fight, so thanks very much. Gen. Thompson, you know you’ve been in the joint fight as an Airman, and now as a Guardian. For many years, we haven’t conducted effective combat operations, joint combat operations around the world without the Space Force being right in the middle of targeting and warning, the delivery of precision guided weapons. Our satellites, our Space Force have been there. Could you talk to us a little bit about what you’ve learned as you’ve been in the fight over the years. And what you’ve learned from your joint warfighting counterparts, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, as well as from your allied counterparts, as together you don’t just deter your threats but you take them out, on demand. And then Chief if you could follow up, that’d be great.”

Thompson: “And that’s, that’s one of those areas, general, where we can, we can really, really need to count on and learn from the entire joint force. As you said, I had the opportunity, in a couple of senses, to be in that fight, and the first was when I spent a year deployed with Air Forces Central as director of space forces. And that’s where, now, I was in that assignment as a senior colonel. Unfortunately, that was the first time in a 20-plus year career where I was deeply engaged with the rest of the joint force, where I started to understand what it meant to be a warfighter, to be a war warrior, to integrate with the rest of the joint force, to integrate with forces in other domains and other services, what it meant to plan together, to execute together, what it meant to make contracts and commitments as part of an integrated command mission team. Those are the sorts of things we can and we must learn from the rest of the joint force as we go forward. Like I said, I did that as a senior colonel, and I was one of the rare few who had that opportunity at that time. What we need to learn from the rest of the joint force are those lessons that they have learned over decades and centuries as warriors in those domains, and we have to be able to provide that very early on to all of our Guardians in their first assignment is, how do I operate as part of the joint force, how do I make commitments and contracts, how do we conduct part of the integrated campaign and integrated operations. We can also learn from them, what it means to be warriors and Airmen. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are warriors. What it means to be a warrior in each of those services and domains is different, but there are ideas and attributes that we can learn as we continue to build and learn and grow, and define what it means to be a warfighter whose job is to provide and protect and deliver capabilities in the space domain.”

Wright: “Outstanding. Chief, please.”

Towberman: “Yes sir. You know, on the enlisted side, I think many would have seen [Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón] Colón-López yesterday announce that a new joint enlisted PME model is being announced, and so we’ve been right there, Space Force been right there. In fact, you know, we stole a little bit of talent and borrowed, borrowed some talent, to help us develop our training ecosystem, if you will. And we’ve got some chiefs on the, on the team. One of them spent a lot of time on the Joint Staff, helping develop the joint model. So, you know, I’ve deployed a couple of times in my career, or 19. And so, certainly very, very important to me personally, professionally, and I think we’ve got the right folks in place, we certainly have a great team, kind of around the Department of Defense senior enlisted leadership team, to look at a joint model and invest in, in our Guardians, as well as, as everyone else. You know, it’s really a two-pronged effort from the service first, for ourselves. We need joint smart space warfighters, and we’re going to do everything we can to build that every step of the way. From day one, we’re talking all-domain and, and joint concepts, already in basic training now for Guardians. And so from the very, very beginning of their careers to really be embracing this, and be joint smart space warfighters is really important. We’ll also help our U.S. Space Command teammates in the joint force, all the services, build space smart joint warfighters in all, in all of their respective services. So it’s kind of a two pronged effort, and we’ll always help on that front as well. And then, you know it comes together into the joint team that has kept us ahead, and will keep us ahead, you know, moving forward, that we’ve always had. But it’s pretty exciting, I think we’ve got great, certainly on the enlisted side, we just have got a great team right now, really focused on how do we build the best joint NCO corps, senior NCO corps in history, and I couldn’t be happier about where we’re at and where we’re headed.”

Wright: “Great points. You know, and our Guardians are more and more forward deployed. Just, as Gen. Thompson talked about. We did, AFA has an air and space warfighters in action series we did, and the 7th Air Force commander and the command chief at Osan were talking about now Guardians on the peninsula, in South Korea, looking North Korea in the eye, so there’s terrific warfighting operations, joint warfighting operations, already being led and supported by Guardians, more to come it sounds like, so that’s awesome. So let’s talk a bit about the rank structure. Both of you have been very involved in a somewhat different rank structure for our Guardians. And I’m sure there’s a good deal of interest in that for our audience, so start with Gen. Thompson, and then chief, if you would.”

Thompson: “Yeah, if you don’t mind, why do I ask Chief Towberman to talk about the changes we’ve made and why we’ve made them, and then maybe I’ll add a few more thoughts. Chief?”

Towberman: “Yes, sir. So, so, you know, we’ll start with, you know, we worked through this, we did crowdsource lots and lots of ideas. And then we kind of, kind of systematically went through them, with sort of some assumptions up front. We knew we had to be credible in the joint force, but we wanted something that was built, kind of forever. And that was tricky, right? Because if you’re trying to plan for something to be relevant and sticky, if you will, 100 years from now, how do you do that? How do you guess right? And what we didn’t want to do is be the Jetsons, or the Edsel, right, and make some trendy, you know, fantasy-based guess at the future. We wanted to kind of look historically, through the lens of, hey, if something has lasted 1,000 years, it’s probably going to last 100 years. And around the world, and throughout the centuries, the same sort of ranks have shown themselves over and over again in enlisted, in enlisted forces, you know, everywhere. So we were kind of, that’s where we were. We thought, hey, this more traditional noncommissioned officer ranks is probably the way to go, where we want to be bold is in the way that we use them, the way that we grow them, the way that we manage that force. And so the specialist ranks are E1 through E4. We were very deliberate to say, hey, we’re not going to call them first, second, third class, we’re going to treat them more as, as one group, where the levels within that group are mostly in the control of the specialists. So it’s gonna take us a while to really tease this out, and how these competency-based approach to promotion works. But ideally, you know, ideally, long term what we see happening is that I come in, and when I can prove I can do x, y and z, then I get promoted. That a time-dominant model where I have to wait around regardless of what competencies I might have come in with, regardless of what competencies I might have developed faster than my peers, that I get to kind of step up when I show that I’m ready for the next level. And so we’re excited for this kind of leveling concept, and why we just are saying, hey, specialist 1, 2, 3, 4. Sergeant, our first NCO rank, the first place where institutionally we’re going to say, hey, you’re now really, truly responsible for the lives and career of other people, and by the way, their loved ones as well. We really wanted to put this strong servant rank of sergeant right there, to say, at the first level of supervision, there’s nothing more important than serving your team and their, their family and loved ones, and so from there, it looks like the Air Force, as everyone has reminded me, and that’s not because we didn’t move away from the Air Force, it’s if we walk through on a rank-by-rank, and Technical Sergeant, maybe more than any other, was where we really felt like this is what matters. We want technicians. We want technical experts. This is the definitive rank: Technical Sergeant. We’ve left the door open. If we decide to go with technical tracks, and we might. We had a conversation just this morning about what that might look like, and perhaps, if I want to kind of just spend my, my life on an ops floor, and that’s what I’m really into, and I’m really, really good at it, and I want to stay really good at it, and I don’t want to do some other things, but I want to stick around, and I want to be invested in more, then maybe we go Technical Sergeant, you know, one, two, and we step up from there, like we’re doing with the specialist ranks in the junior enlisted. So we’ve left the door open for those things, and, and we feel that we did pretty well. We’re understandable to the joint force, it’s, it’s um, it’s able to absorb us into that joint fight without confusing anyone, and, and we think we’ve given some real kind of purpose, to our junior enlisted ranks, and then to our, our first NCO ranks along the way, to really say, hey this is why you’re here, this is your reason for existing, and let’s try to help you remember that every day by the rank that you’re wearing on your sleeve, or your chest, or wherever. And insignias are, are not based, so we’re about to roll out some test rank insignias next month, we’re excited about that, to get feedback and figure out what that insignia looks like in new uniforms, and all those things coming up later in the year. So that’ll be exciting as well. I probably took all of Gen. Thompson’s time away, but there’s so much to talk about with those enlisted ranks, and we’re very proud of the way that we went.”

Thompson: “So, if I can, so let me add a little bit about, let’s say the discussion of ranks in general. Certainly those of you following the debate and discussion in the press, there were a lot of people with opinions, and ideas, and things they thought were important about ranks, personal opinion, and I’m gonna say very frankly, I think that that discussion and the idea that there was going to be some deep and significant cultural impact of the Space Force in a general discussion of what ranks should be was way over emphasized, and, frankly, not particularly supported in analysis. If you think about it, if you think about it, people connect first with their service, right, a Marine doesn’t tell you that they spent their career as a captain or a corporal, they say they were a Marine. We talked about a culture of Airmen in the in the Air Force in the past, we’re talking about building Guardians. The next thing they connect to, oftentimes, is their mission area, whether you’re a seal, or you’re a cyber warrior, or you’re in intel, we connect with our missions and, and the things that we do, which includes all ranks. And so, that’s critically important. Then, finally, this idea that because we’re going to change the rank structure, somehow, some sort of cultural significance is going to be imbued from what’s happened in the past in another service just didn’t seem to have any basis in in analysis. So I think the most important thing in that regard was we made changes that were important that we need to make, and now it’s important for us to build the culture based on our service, based on our mission capabilities, and what we call each other in terms of ranks, and what it means will naturally evolve.”

Wright: “Thanks, sir. If I could summarize, it sounds like no matter what, you’re all about fighting and winning in the space domain.”

Thompson: “I think… in face, the best analysis was done by a brand new second lieutenant who graduated from the Air Force Academy back in 2020, who said, you know I don’t really care what rank you call me. I want to get after fighting the war and winning in space.”

Wright: “Let me talk a little bit about, as much as you can, the reality of the threat. The Space Force was established because of growing recognition that space was no longer a sanctuary. So, two experts here to share with our audience, as much as you can, the unclassified level, the reality of the threat to what, certainly our military and, and much of society has become dependent on, including GPS for example, that we can’t take for granted.”

Thompson: “So, that that is, that is in fact the case. And while the Space Forces now less than 18 months old, right, we’re approaching our 15-month birthday. The reality of the threat and what we needed to do about it has existed for a long time. In fact, it became a stark reality for the leaders of the nation as far back as 2014, when the administration at the time said, ‘We have a serious threat. This is a warfighting domain. We need to address that threat.’ The activities that began through, carried into the last administration and is now carried into the new administration, is an acknowledgement by the national, our national leaders of all parties and all branches of service, that it is something that we need to be prepared to address, not because we choose or want a war in space, but because our adversaries have gone in that direction. They’re threatening our capabilities in the domain. We have to protect them, because if we don’t, the implications to the terrestrial, for the Soldiers, the Sailors, the Airmen, and the Marines on the ground, to their mothers and fathers, to the security of the nation and the American people, means that we put our forces and our nation at extreme risk if we don’t address this threat. And so, the threat to GPS, the threat to the other satellites. The threat to the forces, because they’re under the surveillance of adversaries, space systems, is now so acute that establishing force is imperative. And here we have an opportunity. The nation responds to crisis in a tremendous way. We now have the opportunity to do two things: First, either be ready when the crisis ensues, rather than responding, or more significantly and more, more importantly, I think, prevent the crisis from occurring. Deterring the crisis, because nations see that we’re ready, we’re prepared, and that they cannot expect success by beginning or extending a war in space.”

Wright: “Chief, to add?”

Towberman: “How, how can I add to that? That was fantastic. I stand down. That is, that is perfect.”

Wright: “Well let’s talk just a minute about space as the digital service. Some people understand that, a lot of us don’t. So if you could break down what it means to be a digital service, so that it’s, for our audience, it could really be helpful, and I know I know you all came, we’re talking to the experts, so.” 

Thompson: “Well, since I stole the last question, Chief, you start, and maybe I have to say what else can I saw when we’re done.”

Towberman: “You know, you know, I’ll be honest, we are still kind of working through exactly what does that mean. We know that it means a couple things. One, it means that we’ll all be enabled, that there will be a degree of literacy, if you will, digital literacy across the entire force. And we’ve already gone after some licenses that are available to all Guardians, so that they can grow and become digitally literate, so that, so that they have X amount of capability, which will put us at X amount more than, than most people. On top of that, however, we also know we need some true, true digital, digital fluency or proficiency of some. And so we’re working through what that looks like, and how do we bring kind of elite programming skills and elite digital talent across the force. How do we train it, how do we incentivize it, how do we use it so that, so that we can have these sort of super coders, as we call them, make a real difference in real time, across all of our mission sets. And so we’re not quite 100% got that figured out yet, but no mistake that the CSO, this is where he wants to go. We’re excited to go there, we think there’s all kinds of opportunity, and I think we’ll know when we, when we, you know we had a conversation once on a visit with a very important company in the space business, and we were talking about digital engineering, and one of the engineers quipped, he said, ‘You mean engineering?’ I think we’ll have this digital service correct when we stop saying digital Space Force and someone just says, Oh, you mean the Space Force? That’s when we know we will have cracked the code, when everybody knows that everything we do is digitally enabled, is digitally supported, and is digitally, the digital limits are really the only limits that we have. So as we kind of wrap our heads and our imaginations around the endless things that we can do, I think in cyberspace, like that’s, that’s gonna be the secret. When it stops being a thing, and it’s just this ubiquitous reality of the Space Force, and then we will have completed our transformation.”

Thompson: “The chief is exactly right. This isn’t about the future. Digital is about the reality today. And I’ll be frank, for people like me, I tell my staff all the time, I’m a digital dinosaur and digital for me is a bolt on. But again, if you think to the past and 100 years ago, as both the airplane and armor were capabilities, those, those armed services and those military professionals who sought, who understood it, who knew what they had to do, and quickly adapted and integrated those into military operations, saw success in the 20th century. Those that did not did so at their peril. This is sort of an element of, if we don’t build this service, and everything we do on this platform and this approach, we, we threaten ourselves with, with obsolescence and irrelevance. And we have the opportunity from the start, to, to do things on a digital basis, and as, as the chief said, stop, someday not be called the digital Space Force, just be called Space Force, and it’s understood what it means from a digital standpoint.”

Wright: “Great. The two of you are so smart that you can explain it so I can understand, so thank you. Let’s talk a bit about your partnership with industry over the years. Building and flying satellites is complex, it’s complex in the technology, usually leading-edge technology, and it certainly requires a level of, level of engineering skill that has to come from a partnership with industry. If you all could, could talk a bit more about the importance of the industry partnership, what you expect from industry, and oh by the way, we’re getting into the requirement for readiness. How do we sustain readiness across our Space Force capabilities?”

Thompson: “Yeah, so this is yet another area where we’ve done things in the past, we know how to work effectively with industry in the past, but if there’s not just a desire to, to, perhaps, evolve that relationship but, but imperative. For, for several reasons. First of all, there’s tremendous energy, innovation, and, frankly, investment in the commercial side of space these days. Space in many way, in many ways, the commercial industry as, as innovative in producing new ideas for capabilities, for utilization, for architectures, for technology, that what we need to do is partner with them, understand that, and where it makes sense, either leverage directly, or adapt what they’re doing to our force structure. And right now I would tell you, honestly, we don’t know 100% exactly what that means. I will tell you, we absolutely know and understand that part of that is the deep need to change and adapt our acquisition approach, and how we acquire space systems. I know we’ve had an imperative from Congress, and we’ve been working both with the Department of Defense and the administration and Congress in how to adapt that system. But what we really need, and we’re looking forward to in our engagement when it comes to designing forces, to creating architectures, is, how should our relationship with industry change in the future, and that’s a two-sided discussion. It probably involves not only a deeper level of interaction, in terms of helping us, in terms of ideas on architectures and capabilities and design, but also perhaps a different relationship in terms of the flow of people and expertise back and forth between industry and into the Space Force. I think that’s a part of the deep understanding of the technologies and the capabilities and the domain that we’re going to have to have as a force to be able to adapt.”

Wright: “Chief, thoughts?”

Towberman: “We haven’t yet decided what our core values might be. But in all of these conversations, a recurring theme is a theme of teamwork, of connectedness, of collaboration. This inclusiveness that we feel is, is in the DNA of every Guardian and in the DNA of the Space Force. And so whatever that looks like going forward, I expect that that teamwork, that inclusive nature, that really is part of who we are, extends the industry, that extends to our coalition partners, extends to commercial partners, extends across the joint force, extends to our civilians and our uniform folks. Like we really, I think, however this plays out, we’re going to do it well, because it’s going to be what defines us, one of the many things that defines us as a service, is that we get collaboration, we get teamwork from day one. It is who we are, something we can’t live without. And so, I think, however this plays out, and we need, you know, time and we need help to figure it out fully. But I think when, when collaboration is, is the oxygen that you breathe, that you can expect that it’s gonna be, it’s gonna work out pretty well in the end.”

Thompson: “We as, as uniformed members, we enjoy the great appreciation of the American people. They, I can’t tell you, you know, how often it is you’re out in public in uniform, people just thank you for what you do. And so on. So many times, you know, people understand and recognize and thank us for our contributing, contribution to national security. Oftentimes, the civilian members of the force don’t get enough credit. And oftentimes, the, both the defense industry as it exists today, and even the commercial industry, and others, don’t get the appreciation they deserve for their contribution to national security, not just day by day, but how they keep us fresh in the future, and so I think part of this is, we need an appreciation of them, and our advocates and support and those, and an opportunity here to say, not only do we need them and partner with them today, and they are key to our future, but it’s our opportunity to tell them: Thank you for what you do, for your role in national security.”

Wright: “Thanks, we have one minute to go. Gen. Thompson, huge audience out there, a cross section from Congress, to those community partners that are around your deltas, supporting your deltas, a lot of opportunity and need for public support and education. So, do you have an ask for the audience?”

Thompson: “I do. Yes, thanks. And that really is it, it really is that that public education piece, is to help us to continue to sell the message of the things that we do, the capabilities we’re providing, the importance. We’re such a small force, but we punch so far above our weight, we need the, those who understand what space is and what, what it does, to connect with the American people, and help them understand. They may have had an Airman, a Soldier, Sailor, or Marine somewhere in their past who they connected with and they understand. We are so small, most people have never met a Guardian. So for all of you out there who understand who we are and what we do, help us with that education, so that the American people truly understand the importance to national defense.” 

Wright: “Well, super. Gen. Thompson and Chief Towberman, we can’t thank you enough. This was just outstanding, and on our nation so fortunate to have you in your leadership roles at this critical time in our nation’s history. Semper Supra. And we’ll be right back with Amy and Tobias.”