Springfield Air Guard wing aims for Space Force mission

An Air National Guard unit such as the Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Wing could do more than support a new U.S. Space Force — its members could be a source of skills that are rare even in the regular armed forces.

“A lot of these National Guard units contain skills that are hard to come by in the regular military,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Arlington, Va.-based non-profit Lexington Institute and chief executive of Source Associates, a defense-focused consulting business. “Depending on what they do in their civilian lives, some of these National Guard people may actually have superior space-related skills.”

Software and application engineers, for example, may offer “extreme expertise that is hard to come by.”

Added Thompson: “If the National Guard and other Reserve units want to get in, they really need to move fast.”

At the Ohio Air National Guard 178th Wing’s change of command ceremony Sunday at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, Gen. James Camp, assistant adjutant general for Air, Ohio National Guard, announced briefly that it was a possibility.

“I’m happy to say that it looks like in the very near future, our ISR group may switch to a space intel mission,” Camp said, using the acronym for “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”

“I wanted to make that public and I think that’s exciting news for Springfield,” Camp said.

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And Col. Kimberly A. Fitzgerald — who made history Sunday by becoming the 178th Wing’s first female commander — also said the unit was “throwing its hat in the ring to be a part of the Space Force mission.”

Guard officials said they hope to know more about the effort in 30 to 60 days.

A request for further information was left Monday with a spokeswoman for the Ohio National Guard.

“I’ve known for a couple of months this was going to happen but still, it’s crazy to imagine,” Fitzgerald said Sunday. “The actual flag being passed, in front of a thousand people from the wing, it’s exciting. I’m so happy to have the chance to represent the people of this wing.”

In June 2018, President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to begin planning for a “Space Force,” a sixth independent military service branch to undertake missions and operations in the domain of space.

And announced this summer: A new “U.S. Space Command” will be the military’s unified combatant command in charge of the country’s defense operations in space. It will become the Defense Department’s 11th unified combatant command, alongside the U.S. Strategic Command, the U.S. Special Operations Command and other commands that serve specific functions or geographic regions.

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