In the year since Air Force Lt. Gen. John Shaw assumed command of the Combined Force Space Component Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, he handled major events from establishment of the U.S. Space Force to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Shaw spoke about the year of challenges before passing the torch Monday to Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt during the CFSCC’s first change-of-command ceremony since the command’s creation in October 2019.
“There’s no place I’d rather be than doing operations,” said Burt, who described her new command as the “heart” of the U.S. military’s space operations. “We are warfighters. We are the center of space operations. Space is part of an American way of life and an American way of war.”
Held inside a hangar located at the Combined Space Operations Center, a subordinate unit of the CFSCC, the ceremony was traditional in the sense that it had the decorum and pageantry that usually comes with such events.
The unit’s first change of command occurred when Shaw took over for Lt. General Stephen Whiting, but there was no ceremony since assets from the previous unit — the Fourteenth Air Force — transitioned into the newly formed Space Force, according to a Vandenberg spokesman.
Monday’s ceremony included a grand display of allied flags, a multibranch color guard and a performance by Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Division Band. The audience sat in physically distanced chairs and everyone wore masks, except for some who delivered public speeches.
Space Force Gen. James Dickinson, who was in attendance and gave a speech, explained the significance and symbolism behind the time-honored tradition of passing military authority from one leader to the next. The ceremony comes as the U.S. transitions into a new presidency and following SpaceX’s launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday.
“We’re making what already exists stronger by showing continuity of mission through a transfer of leadership at the very top,” Dickinson said. “This very command is still active right now in terms of supporting that great launch last night [and] in terms of providing our human space flight support to that operation.
“Even though we [bid] farewell [to a] sitting commander and welcome a new one, this simple but symbolic powerful change-of-command ceremony reflects how rapidly we’ve matured our military space organizations.”
In her address to the crowd, Burt, who was previously stationed on base as a major from 2006 to 2008, said she will elevate the work of her predecessor. She said she also intended to bring an “innovative, forward-thinking and digitally-focused” approach to the CFSCC.
Burt said she’d continue to break barriers, specifically in terms of sharing information with allied and corporate partners.
The CFSCC (pronounced “sif-sick”) is a joint command that includes military representatives from most branches and those from allied countries, such as Canada, Germany and France, and whose personnel provide “gold standard” satellite capability to military operations across the planet on a 24-hour basis.
The data produced by the unit is highly-classified and falls under a system that is meant to protect sensitive information by labeling it “unclassified,” “confidential,” secret,” or “top secret,” although Burt indicated that sharing information strengthens relationships among allies.
As an example, Burt referenced the “Five Eyes,” or the intelligence alliance between the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“I’m not trying to say that security isn’t important,” Burt said. “But what I’m saying is, is making sure we aren’t overly classifying things so we can best share with our partners.”
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