Buckley’s unique warfighter mission illuminates way forward

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Buckley Air Force Base boasts America’s Premier Space Wing, installation support to 95 multiservice and multinational units, a population of over 94,000 Team Buckley members, and a mission that is critical to the future of nation’s safety.  

That alone gets attention of senior leaders at all levels of government, but it should also perk the attention of any potential adversary; because every space operator is a joint warfighter.

“Space is a joint warfighting domain and you are warfighting Airmen,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command. “There is nothing more critical to our nation than the mission you are doing at Buckley, and I thank you.”

Raymond and Chief Master Sgt. Brendan Criswell, AFSPC command chief, engaged with Buckley Air Force Base Airmen March 17 and gleaned the unique mission sets of the 460th Space Wing.

The beginning of the engagement with Buckley warfighters began with a base overview and mission brief by Col. David Miller Jr, 460th SW commander. This was followed with 1st Lt. Conor Melanson, 460th Security Forces Squadron flight commander, who showed the expertise of the base’s security response with a scenario designed to test the interoperability of both active duty and Colorado National Guard Airmen. He also discussed the practices the Defenders are using to accommodate potential security disruption on the airfield before they come to fruition.

Following the demonstration on the flight line, the leaders transitioned to the Mission Control Station and Col. Lorenzo Bradley, 460th Operations Group commander, discussed changes in the space operator community and the best way to implement the new Space Mission Force at Buckley.

Capt. Bryan Becker, 11th Space Warning Squadron director of operations, explained the creation of the Overhead Persistent Infrared Battlespace Awareness Center and the way they are leveraging Overhead Persistent Infrared to provide real-time battlespace awareness in support of combatant commanders and global operations.

After that, Royal Australian Air Force Flt. Lt. Michael Neumann, SBIRS RAFF commander and 2nd SWS chief of weapons and tactics, relayed the uniqueness of the Space Operations Center at Buckley, as it is the only floor in the Air Force that seamlessly merges operations with command and control. He also explained the way they flawlessly integrate four Coalition partners using a “best-athlete” approach (top performer is who accomplishes the mission, regardless of nationality).

Rodney Buffington, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron project management element chief, presented the general with the details on future construction projects within the 460th OG. He defined the plans to improve the SBIRS Operations Facility, Buckley’s number one construction project, expected to cost $37.8 million and secure future operations for decades to come. In addition to improving the power infrastructure with a new facility, Lt. Col. Charles Hassell, 460th CES commander, unveiled plans to enhance the backup generators and fill manpower needs, creating additional resiliency to ensure that Buckley can continue to provide unparalleled missile warning for the nation and its allies.

Once the engagement completed inside the 460th OG, the general and chief sat down with the newest members of the Flight Commander Course and Airman Leadership School Class 17-C for lunch and a mentorship session.

“It is rare as junior enlisted members that we get the chance to pick the brain of our top leadership,” said Senior Airman Brandon Moyer, 460th Space Communication Squadron circuit actions technician. “Hearing him speak very passionately about improving the development of Airmen really helps; especially going through Airman Leadership School. I definitely will be able to take everything he addressed and apply it to my leadership skillset.”

Following lunch, the team transitioned to the Buckley Dental Clinic, the newest dental facility in the Air Force and the first on base since World War II. Here, Col. Matthew Hanson, 460th Medical Group commander, outlined the future medical facilities as they move on base to better support Team Buckley. He explained that with the “massing the medics” initiative, the 460th MDG would improve the medical readiness of the force and deliver trusted care to Airmen and their families.

Staff Sgt. Porter Ostler, 460th MDG NCO in-charge dental lab element; Staff Sgt. Irma Meza-Orozco, 460th MDG NCOIC infection control; and Capt. Ryan Haywood, 460th MDG general dentist, showed the general the new dental facility and a behind-the-scenes look at the operations required to keep it functioning at a high level. They explained the process for building teeth at the clinic and how that saves the Air Force time and money, how the clinic sterilizes equipment to ensure the safety of patients, and what procedures are available to secure medical readiness for Team Buckley.  

Throughout the day, while the AFSPC leaders wove themselves into the mission and the Airmen, Mrs. Mollie Raymond, the general’s wife and quality of life champion, engaged with the family support functions on base. She spoke with key leaders inside the Child Development Centers and the Buckley Chapel. There she was presented with the unique new programs developed to take care of Airmen and Families, a pivotal leadership priority. She also visited the First Term Airmen Center and the on-base dormitories to hear suggestions on how to improve the Airmen’s lives outside of work.

Raymond ended the day with a commander’s call, using this forum to pass along his vision for a successful AFSPC. However, more importantly, time was made available for Airmen to directly address the general on matters that affected them the most. The AFSPC commander and command chief fielded questions regarding how to improve space mission effectiveness, enhance training, explore quantum computing options, overcome the hiring freeze limitations, reduce additional duties, and streamline Enlisted Professional Education.

The general offered his thanks throughout the day to the men and women of Buckley.

“I really appreciate taking time out of your day to show me what you do every day at the base,” said Raymond. “Thank you for your leadership and everything that you do.”