To See the World: Three Imperatives for Missile Warning Success

  • Published
  • By Col. Miguel “MAC” Cruz
  • Commander, Space Delta 4

In 2014, while serving as squadron commander, I wrote an article capturing elements of what constituted my leadership philosophy. In the article, I described the balance between taking care of the mission, unit personnel, and myself as the three pillars of sound leadership. These three elements have not changed over the years but they have – combined with changes in our strategic environment – prompted me to develop a Delta command approach motivated by three distinct imperatives: our oath as foundational to everything we do, our mission’s role in national security, and the development of space warfighters as key to operating in the new space environment.

We are all familiar with our oath of office. We are required to offer it at enlistments or commissioning ceremonies and by tradition, we repeat it every time we pin on a new rank. It’s a worthy tradition because it reminds us, at just the right intervals of our careers, why exactly we chose to serve and why we continue to serve. Simply put, our oath reminds us we serve a purpose much larger than ourselves.

Our oath gives us our reason. It is our WHY. Our oath is reflected in our Department of the Air Force core value of “Service Before Self.” It is also reflected in the Army’s values of “Loyalty” and “Selfless Service,” the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ value of “Commitment,” as well as the Coast Guard’s value of “Devotion to Duty.” Our Space Force core values will also reflect our oath as the long-lasting foundation of our young Service. In short, our oath gives purpose to everything we do; from the way we conduct ourselves, to the way we treat each other, and of course, how we perform our mission.

Expanding on that reality, we must also recognize that providing strategic and theater missile warning to the United States, our allies, and combatant commanders worldwide is too critical of a mission. Frankly, it is not only a national security imperative, but also key to some very important concepts, both doctrinally at the strategic level, and more tangibly, at the tactical level.

First, consider our Space Capstone Publication. It captures five core competencies: Space Security, Combat Power Projection, Space Mobility and Logistics, Information Mobility – where missile warning plays a key role – and Space Domain Awareness. However, missile warning represents more than just Information Mobility. The bookends of our core competencies – Space Security and Space Domain Awareness – are also influenced significantly by the capabilities enshrined in our missile warning mission. This is because without missile warning, there is no Space Security. Similarly, without many of our missile warning sensors, we would have incomplete space domain awareness. Strategically, our missile warning mission bookends the core competencies of the U.S. Space Force.

Second, in a tactical sense, Space Delta 4 units play a very tangible role in the front and back ends of the military kill chain. At the front end, our sensors find, fix, and track targets. At the back end, they have a piece in the assessment phase of the chain. Thus, it is not farfetched to think the space kill chain starts and ends with us! To these, we can add our sensor’s significant contributions to technical intelligence and theater battle space awareness. Space Delta 4 not only sees the world, as our motto suggests, but allows our mission partners and allies to see it as well.

Just as we recognize the importance of our mission to national security, we must also recognize this new operating environment requires Guardians and Airmen to develop and sharpen skill sets not demanded of them before. The importance of our missile warning mission demands mastery because our nation and our allies expect it, demand it, and deserve it. This mastery must be reflected in technical prowess, but also in a mindset, attitude, and approach commensurate to the new reality in space.

When the nation declared space a warfighting domain, it recognized this domain is no longer the sanctuary it once was. In doing so, it provided the impetus behind standing up both the United States Space Force and United States Space Command. It also created the requirement to grow and develop a cadre of space experts capable of fighting and winning in space.

Thus, our call now goes beyond being merely cyber, intel and space operators; we are now called upon to be space warfighters. This new breed of space warfighters must think, act, and plan like the warriors in other Services who make up the strength of our nation’s warfighting might. This is a deliberate and important distinction – we must be warriors to be effective warfighters. We must be good teammates to be good warriors. We must have a change in mindset to be a successful force.

Recognizing space as a warfighting domain removes proximity to the fight as a defining element of the term warfighter. It necessarily expands the term to include those who fight and produce effects from afar. Most importantly, it helps define space warfighters not only in terms of location, but also in terms of the attitude, demeanor, and assertiveness with which we approach our craft, whether on shift or on staff. In short, it requires us to develop and inculcate a warrior’s ethos and culture.

Looking forward to the next two years in command, I recognize both the challenges and opportunities in front of us; to maintain readiness to win a fight today, to posture Space Delta 4 to fight and win in future wars, and to grow and develop the next generation of missile warning warfighters. I eagerly look forward to tackling these alongside my Space Delta 4 teammates. I am convinced our efforts will set the foundation for missile warning warfighting. Our efforts will also proclaim loudly and boldly – to both our friends and our potential adversaries – that we are proud Guardians and Airmen, that we are warriors and masters of our craft, and that the space kill chain… starts with us!

Videmus Mundum!