JTF-SD Soldier becomes Guardian

  • Published
  • By Ms. Bridget Bonnette
  • Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs

Coming from a graduating class of only 80 people in the small town of Tulia, Texas, Stephen Compton began his career in the U.S. Army as a combat arms and artillery Solider.

Compton, the son of a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, had spent his life working in agriculture and knew that enlisting in the military was his one-way ticket out of a small town. So, at 18 years old, Compton enlisted into the U.S. Army with plans to get an education and travel the world.

As a combat arms and artilleryman, he completed multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM. Not long after, he began a three-year special duty assignment as an Army recruiter.

“Growing up in a small town, I was a quiet and reserved individual,” said Compton. “Recruiting for the Army taught me interpersonal communication, which broke me out of my shell and tremendously benefited me throughout the rest of my career.”

Once Compton hit his 10-year anniversary on active duty, he wanted to acquire a skillset that would be applicable both in and outside the military sphere. Compton’s personal background in cyber and coding drove him to explore the intricacies of electronic warfare, ultimately foreshadowing his future as a Guardian.

For Compton’s first assignment as an electronic warfare specialist, he was stationed with the 2-7 Infantry Battalion. “I went from kinetic fires on the combat arms and artillery side to nonlethal fires on the electronic warfare side,” said Compton. “I experienced a real role reversal.”

After his time was up as the electronic warfare noncommissioned officer in charge for the Korean Peninsula at 8th Army creating and developing EW systems, he received a call from his branch manager offering him his first official space assignment, but he was hesitant to fully commit.

“I turned it down initially,” said Compton. “It was something completely unknown to me and while it sounded like a great opportunity, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

It was shortly thereafter that Compton arrived at the Joint Task Force-Space Defense’s operations center, the National Space Defense Center.

When Compton arrived to the unit in 2018, the NSDC had just transitioned to 24/7 operations, marking a significant step for the expanding, interagency team focused on protecting and defending the nation's critical space assets.

Compton was first assigned to the communications element of the NSDC, tasked with standing up its first targets division. Throughout his time at the JTF-SD, he worked on systems design and process applications for the NSDC, became the unit’s First Sergeant and ultimately became the senior enlisted leader for the Army element and intelligence directorate. Compton played an integral part in standing up the JTF-SD as it exists today. 

 “There is so much to that organization and the level of responsibility that [the JTF-SD] has to national defense and the security of our nation, it’s almost overwhelming,” said Compton. “Even at a lower level, you still have a great amount of responsibility because there is no room for error. It is really a testament to how well we do our jobs.”

As a U.S. Army Master Sergeant within the JTF-SD, Compton made the decision to pursue the U.S. Space Force’s Interservice Transfer Program and was one of nine E-8’s selected from a pool of over 4,000 applicants.

“I was contemplating retiring from the Army altogether, but the opportunity presented itself to join a new service,” said Compton. “I wanted to be a part of something and help build it from the ground up. I wanted to help Guardians shape their futures.”

On June 30, 2022, Compton officially transferred into the U.S. Space Force during a ceremony at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tom James, commander of the JTF-SD, and U.S. Space Force Chief Master Sgt. Jacob Simmons, senior enlisted leader of Space Operations Command, presided over the transfer ceremony.

"The inclusion of other services propels the Space Force on a path to find its own unique approach to most effectively operate in the space environment," said James. "MSG Compton, now SMSgt Compton, embodies the warfighting skills of a combat-tested Soldier, partnered with the technical skills required to protect and defend the space domain."

Compton states that one of the highlights of his career was working at the JTF-SD and helping to stand up the unit.

“My greatest takeaway from working within JTF-SD is every day was an adventure. The level of work that is conducted within the JTF-SD is critical to our National Security and its defense. I was a part of that and the team that made that happen day in, day out, every hour of every day.”

In his new capacity as a Guardian, Compton was selected to be the senior enlisted leader for the 10th Space Warning Squadron at Cavalier Space Force Station, North Dakota.

“[The U.S. Space Force] continues to challenge me every day by placing me into roles that I normally wouldn’t have done in the Army,” said Compton. “I think transferring is the best thing I could have done for myself personally and professionally, and it’s exciting.”
Compton leaves his own advice for those considering transferring into the U.S. Space Force:

“For anyone who is also considering transferring, bring your A-game and be prepared to work hard,” said Compton. “We have a lot to accomplish and we need diligent, intelligent, and creative individuals to quickly advance the force to higher levels.”

For more information about the U.S. Space Force Interservice Transfer program, visit https://www.spaceforce.mil/Transfer/