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Guardians of the United States


WORLD Radio - Guardians of the United States

America’s most misunderstood military branch is becoming increasingly important

A solider wears a U.S. Space Force uniform during a ceremony for U.S. Air Force airmen transitioning to U.S. Space Force guardian designations. Associated Press/Photo by Noah Berger, File

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Today on Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast, Kelsey Reid and Jonathan Boes talk about news literacy and so-called digital dementia.

REED: One of the other things that I really want to challenge is this kind of Luddite response to technology. Now, we're trying at Concurrently to have a balanced view.

BOES: If we were totally opposed to digital technology, it would be a problem that we have a podcast.

REED: We can't really, you know, do what we're doing without, we are highly dependent on what the Lord has allowed for man to create, it is not going to be a responsible attitude or practice for us to just completely retreat from the world of technology. And so I kind of resist the tone of “all technology is bad,” which because they do not define their terms of what excessive screen time is, they leave you to assume that you know what they're talking about in some of these terms. Or, you know that you're going to do the research, which we've already made that point; sometimes we are not slowing down enough to do that research.

BOES: I want to go back to this idea of all the links in this article, it really creates the sense that there is a wealth of sources. But when you have so many links, it can both create the sense that there's a lot of evidence, while also presenting so much of it that you can't possibly dig into it all. And so it makes it really easy just to skim and see like, “Oh, that looks like an academic resource. Sure - this is fine.” It can kind of trick your brain into thinking that this article has been really well-researched.

You can hear the entire episode of Concurrently today wherever you get your podcasts. And find out more at

EICHER: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Space Force.

The year was 1947. That’s when Congress voted to create the United States Air Force. Congress would take almost three quarters of a century before voting in another branch.

REICHARD: Right, the Space Force plays a vital role in national security. Yet most people don’t know what it does, or why we even need it.

WORLD Radio Correspondent Jeff Palomino caught up with some members of the Space Force to find out.

JEFF PALOMINO: Members of the Space Force have heard it all. Some find it hard to take them seriously. It doesn’t help that their soldiers are called Guardians.

BABY GROOT: I am groot.

It could also be they’re the only service with a Steve Carrell parody on Netflix.

TRAILER: The President is creating a new branch of the United States Military - Space Force. (Laughter). Which Mark will run. I don’t…hmmm…(Laughter)

But whatever the reason, the United States Space Force is a branch of the military most Americans just don’t understand.

Captain Victoria Garcia is in the Space Force.

GARCIA: Typically, I get asked about alien interactions and UFOs or my ties to NASA…

But it’s not hard to understand the Space Force. It turns out, America’s most misunderstood military branch may, in fact, be its most important.

LLOYD: Space Force is our newest military service. It was founded on December 20, of 2019.

Chief Master Sergeant Caleb Lloyd is the Senior Enlisted Leader for Space Operations Command. He’s stationed at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. The SpOC—as it’s called—does the Space Force’s missions.

LLOYD: We're responsible broadly for the space domain. We're focused on preserving freedom of action in the domain as it becomes increasingly contested and congested.

Technical Sergeant Timothy Steele recruits for the Space Force.

STEELE: All their career fields are really techie, cyber, intelligence, satellite systems. I mean, they control everything in outer space.

That high-level view of the Space Force raises an often asked question: Does America really need a separate service focused solely on space? Whether you know it or not, you do things every day that rely on space. Sergeant Steel has examples.

STEELE: You couldn't use an ATM without the Space Force. They're in charge of GPS. A lot of people don't know that. We wouldn't have Ways or Google Maps and stuff like that without the Space Force.

But it’s not just the American public that needs space. The other military branches absolutely depend on it. Capabilities in space move aircraft carriers from Point A to Point B, guide bombs to targets with pinpoint accuracy, and give real-time pictures of the battle-field not possible with maps. For Capt Garcia, this is another reason we need the Space Force.

GARCIA: We all understand that space is vital to our military operations in all domains. It requires a dedicated military branch to protect that and to deter aggression. It's critical to our national security.

So what does the Space Force do? The branch is led by a four-star General called the Chief of Space Operations. He’s a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From headquarters at the Pentagon the service is divided into three field commands. Space Readiness and Training Command - or STARCOM - brings Guardians into the Space Force. Space Systems Command does acquisitions. They also support space launches in partnership with companies like Space X. The SpOC, where Chief Lloyd works, has nine Space Mission Deltas. Space Delta Two at Peterson Space Force Base does space domain awareness. Among other things, they track over forty-seven thousand objects in space.

LLOYD: They are looking out into space to track objects and understand potentially when, for instance, a collision might happen with the International Space Station.

Space Delta Four is at Buckley Space Force Base. That’s just outside Denver.

LLOYD: They’re our missile warning Delta. Their focus is missile warning for intercontinental ballistic missiles to theater ballistic missiles.

In twenty-twenty, missile warning made all the difference to 2,000 American troops at Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq. Here’s a report from 60 Minutes.

60 MINUTES: It was the largest ballistic missile attack ever against American forces.

Guardians at Buckley gave the exact location of that attack, and no lives were lost that day. The other seven Space Mission Deltas do things like electronic warfare, intelligence, and cyber operations. One Delta even does something called orbital warfare. Think of that as a “neighborhood watch” program, only one that operates twenty-two thousand miles from earth.

LLOYD: And I think that is really the bulk of Space Operations Command in a really succinct way.

The idea for a separate space branch of the military has been around since the 1990s. There were many options of how to do it. In the end, though, bi-partisan Congress decided to put it in the Department of the Air Force, just like the Marine Corps is in the Department of the Navy. The Marines may refer to themselves as “The Few, the Proud,” but there are over one hundred seventy-thousand active duty marines. The Space Force? It has only 8,000 active duty guardians. This leads to our last question about the Space Force: Why would anyone want to be in it? For recruiter Sergeant Steele there are a lot of reasons.

STEELE: Their career fields in the Space Force is the main driving factor for applicants wanting to be in there. They get to deal with ultra-high technology. They get to receive a top-secret clearance. And then just being a part of something bigger than yourself definitely is awesome.

So, next time you hear about the Space Force, don’t think this.

LIGHTYEAR: To Infinity and Beyond!

Instead, remember this.

LLOYD: They should never know they needed us, but they should always know that we're developing the capabilities to maintain freedom and security and as we progress as a society out into the heavens that we're always going to be there. We're always ready.

Reporting for WORLD—and everything over it—I’m Jeff Palomino.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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