The US Space Force celebrated its second anniversary on Monday as the new branch of the Pentagon navigates the transition from late-night talk show to full-fledged military service.
“Happy birthday, Guardians,” said chief of space operations, General John Raymond, in a monday video message. “We’ve spent the last year focused on continuing to develop this service and then successfully integrating it. Today, what started with one person in the Space Force just two years ago, we now have over 6,650 active duty guards.”
The Space Force officially came into existence on December 20, 2019, when then-President Donald Trump signed that year’s Annual Defense Policy Bill into law.
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Trump has defended the existence of the Space Force and turned it into a reliable line of applause at his political rallies, though it has drawn snickers and sneers from comedians, Twitter users and Trump’s harshest Democratic criticism of him wasting money on space battle fantasies.
But the idea of a separate military service for space predates Trump’s interest and was intended to ensure that the military gave enough importance to protecting against threats from Russia and China to the vital US satellites for military operations and civilian life. In 2017, Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., proposed what they then called the Space Corps.
Space Force, however, struggled to shed its joke image in its first two years.
When then-Vice President Mike Pence announced on the service’s first anniversary that the Space Force troops would be called the Guardians, Twitter users accused the service of stealing the film and Guardians of the Galaxy comics.
When the service unveiled its prototype dress uniform in September, there were jokes about it resembling uniforms worn in the sci-fi series “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica.”
The Biden administration also sparked a row over the Space Force soon after taking office.
In February, White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to dismiss a Space Force press briefing question by comparing it to a previous question she had received about the Air Force paint job. One. This prompted conservatives to accuse him of disrespecting the military.
The next day, PSAki assured the Space Force had the “full support” of President Joe Biden.
Raymond acknowledged the service’s public relations problem in February.
“Space has no mother. You can’t reach out and hug a satellite. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it. It’s hard to have that connection,” said- he said at the time.
Amid controversy and jokes, the Space Force continued to plug into its second year, filling its ranks and other gear with being true military service.
The service began transferring members of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps in its second year, after focusing the first year on moving Air Force personnel.
The service also unveiled its rank insignia, along with the names of its ranks.
And to mark its second anniversary, the service on Monday launched a new recruiting website, spaceforce.com.
Work to set up the service will continue into its third year, including the transfer of Army and Navy missions.
And the debate in Congress over the Space Force is not over. The annual defense policy bill passed by Congress this month requires the Pentagon to consider whether to establish a National Space Guard as a reserve component of the service.
Monday, however, was all about the birthday party.
“It was a great sophomore year,” Raymond said in his video. “I’m excited for the year ahead.”
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