HUNTSVILLE, Ala. –
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tom James, Joint Task Force-Space Defense commander, was the first Army Space Operation officer to advance beyond the rank of brigadier general at a ceremony in Huntsville, Alabama, Aug. 10, 2021.
U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander, presided over the ceremony, recognizing James and his historic promotion on what he deemed “a great day to be a Soldier.”
“It’s interesting now that he is the senior FA40 Army Space Officer, I remember his story of him getting ready to deploy into combat for Desert Shield/Desert Storm,
Dickinson said. “He was among the first people issued a DAGR (Defense Advanced GPS Receiver) for what is called the First Space War — the first war that we fought with space capabilities. Now in his current job he is responsible for protecting and defending that very constellation.”
Dickinson highlighted U.S. Army Space Operations officers and what they bring to the fight.
“One of the things that make them very special not only for the Army, but for the joint force and really our allies and partners, is the fact that the FA40 community brings an officer who has, and in this case a very elite, an operational background to the joint space enterprise,” he said. “Meaning they understand how we do combat operations, planning for them, executing them, training for them in another domain, in this case the air and land domains, and we apply that to the space domain.”
That operation background amassed for James during 40 months deployed in combat. He served in seven different countries and three geographical commands outside the United States. In addition to gaining operations experience, he concurrently earned four master’s degrees, completed numerous military space courses and attended the Harvard Senior Executive Fellowship Program.
“Tom has done an incredible job and the Army absolutely recognizes that and his potential to do more for the Army and in this case the joint community, the Department of Defense and our nation,” said Dickinson. “That’s why Tom was picked as the very first FA40 to be a two-star general. This is a signal of how important space is to Army senior leadership. He is a joint space senior leader and has an incredible reputation within the joint community as being the expert. I am honored to be here today to recognize [his] promotion.”
In his comments to those gathered who make up the “life story of my military career,” James offered thanks and appreciation for their education, mentorship, support and leadership leading up to this day. He continued his focus on people throughout his comments.
“People are the most important part of what we do in space operations,” said James. “I am standing here today in front of you because of the wonderful people I’ve worked with much more than my personal efforts. Our community of space warfighters is much more about the people than the technology. It is so easy to become over enamored with the bright, shiny, interesting technology of our business.
"Let’s face facts, space technology is cool,” said James. “To work with, to develop, to test our boundaries and practice and there is no lack of innovation and all of that is absolutely necessary for us to develop the marked advantage over potential adversaries, and how we will use the space domain and how we will protect and defend our access to space. But the people in our community is what makes us effective.”
James spoke about the advances in technology in the last 21 years since he became an Army Space Operations officer, recognizing it would likely “pale in comparison” to the technology advances in the next 21 years.
“I’ve had the grand opportunity to see the tremendous growth in space integration … that will not only continue to advance but continue to accelerate,” he said. “It has to as a key part of our national security strategy because our adversaries are not sitting still. It’s all about the people, people are the real major weapon system of warfighting. In our mission area, I am so impressed with how professional the people are and how aggressive they are about getting the job done.”
Dickinson and James thanked gathered family members for their support and sacrifice through the years. James also thanked Vietnam veterans for their sacrifices and acknowledged they didn’t get the “welcome home” recent warfighters receive. He continued his people focus and thanked those with whom he’s currently assigned to lead.
“I want to recognize the Space Troopers at the Joint Task Force-Space Defense for all that they do to develop the environment to ensure our enjoyment of unfettered access to space and what that offers our society,” said James. “I love what I do. I am so glad I have a few more years at it. I know I am here today because of the efforts of many others. This ceremony is more of a testament to them than it is to me, their devotion to duty and leadership. I owe you and them my best efforts in the next chapter of this journey of my service to the United States.”
James enlisted in the Mississippi National Guard in 1982, initially serving in medical and special operations units as a combat medic. Later he served as a Special Forces Operational Detachment-A Team executive officer while receiving his commission as a U.S. Army officer and earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in molecular biology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He entered active duty as an aviation officer, serving more than 10 years as an aeroscout, assault and attack aviator while assigned to aviation battalions in the 3rd Armored Division in Germany, in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea and in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne).
James became a member of the first cohort of U.S. Army Space Operations officers in 2000. He commanded the 1st Space Battalion and the 1st Space Brigade in Colorado Springs, Colorado.