PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., –
Focusing on cans instead of cannots in a COVID environment, U.S. Space Command’s top enlisted member hosted a professionalization day for noncommissioned officers across the command and its subordinate units Dec. 9.
U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker facilitated discussion on everything from warrior culture and ethos to ethical decision making to annual and quarterly awards to suicide prevention and mental healthcare during the daylong session, which included in-person and virtual attendees from USSPACECOM, Peterson Air Force Base and units like the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.
Virtual guest speakers included Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón "CZ" Colón-López, the U.S. Armed Force’s senior enlisted service member. Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the United States Space Force, was scheduled to attend, but couldn’t due to a last-minute conflict.
U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, USSPACECOM commander, and U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, USSPACECOM chief of staff, attended in person to give their perspectives on leadership, the important role of noncommissioned officers in USSPACECOM and the commander’s vision.
Unlike most military organizations, USSPACECOM has more officers than NCOs, and Stalker wanted to take the time and effort to focus on the professionalization of the team so attendees could better understand the commander’s intent and how it translated the necessity of the enlisted leaders to deliver.
“I want to build a command that competes and wins every day,” Dickinson said.
The general went on to say the United States had the best NCO Corps in the world, and he continued to be impressed with their talent, dedication and professionalism.
He encouraged attendees to leverage their intellect and professionalism as it allowed the command to work through issues at a higher level.
“I’ve been the product of great NCO leadership, from platoon sergeants to command sergeants major, and my style is to empower the NCO Corps as best I can,” he said.
Leonard talked about the unique and important role of an enlisted leader, encouraging attendees to step up and be part of the command teams in their directorates and organizations. Share the enlisted perspective, he said, and communicate where the organization is going in a concise and consolidated way that’s in alignment with the rest of the command.
The day wasn’t just about the USSPACECOM mission. Attendees tackled tough issues like suicide and mental health and leadership issues presented in the Fort Hood Independent Review, which was released Dec. 8 by Ryan D. McCarthy, Secretary of the Army.
Colón-López didn’t shy away from addressing what he called a basic failure of troop leading.
“We can fix a lot of behaviors, a lot of broken processes with accountability,” he said with his well-known candor. “But that takes courage from the leader to be able to go ahead and call the baby ugly and move forward and come forward and bring to the decision makers solutions to those problems.”
He encouraged NCOs to question anyone who dismissed an issue by saying, “that’s not the way we do it here.” They either know there’s a problem and they’re ignoring it, he said, or they just don’t want to deal with it.
“So just have the guts to try and get in the fight,” the SEAC said. “Get in the ring and start fixing things if you see a problem. … It is your watch, ladies and gentlemen. Do not let that happen on your watch.”
Colón-López talked about courage, saying it was a common trait he saw in warriors. Courage has many faces, whether it’s valor, moral courage or humility, he said.
He urged the attendees to be courageous.
“Don’t go and act based on self-preservation because there’s no self-preservation in combat — it’s called cowardice,” he said. “There’s no self-preservation in leadership — it’s called selfishness. And there’s no self-preservation when it comes to your integrity. Your integrity is based on what you do, based on actions that are imposed on your life on a daily basis and the situation that you have to deal with.”
The SEAC also told the NCOs they would have to step outside of their comfort zones as they helped develop and execute warfighting capabilities in space.
“You have a pretty tall order in front of you, but I’m pretty sure every single one of you is up to the task,” he said. “That is why people like Master Guns Stalker and Chief Towberman are going to go ahead and take this fight to the enemy in a way that no one has ever done before.”
Dickinson told attendees to make themselves better, make their units better and make their sections better at every opportunity because at the end of the day, it was all about winning.
“You are the backbone of this command and not just the headquarters here, but throughout the entire command,” Dickinson said. “And I would tell you I have high expectations.”