SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Success requires us to trust and empower a diverse group of air and space professionals at all levels to adapt, decide, and act at the speed necessary for current competition and future combat.
On Feb. 24 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, five African Americans from Space Delta 9 built a crew from scratch to perform the 1st Space Operations Squadron’s orbital warfare mission.
The mission of 1st SOPS is to characterize spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit and provide space-based space domain awareness.
U.S. Space Force Capt. Stephen Johnson, Space Delta 9, Commander’s Action Group chief, spearheaded the creation of the team as the mission commander.
He was inspired to implement an all-African American crew to commemorate Black History Month and to inspire young minorities who may be interested in joining the U.S. Space Force.
Johnson hand-picked experienced operators that he previously worked with on crew and said he was confident in the abilities of each Guardian.
“All of them have proven their high, orbital warfare acumen that they have to perform on crew,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to pay it forward. It’s important that we embrace all types of people who are supporting Space Delta 9 and the U.S. Space Force mission.”
U.S. Space Force Sgt. Kyle Lucas, 1st SOPS low earth orbit technician, believes this team highlighted multiple aspects of Raymond’s guidance and adds another layer.
Lucas said growing up being biracial, he saw few African American role models on television. He aspires for this crew to become a beacon of inspiration for middle- and high school-aged children.
“Kids see us and see what we’re doing and think, ‘That could be me. I can go out there and do that,’” Lucas said. “Inspiring the next generation of space operators is the coolest thing about this.”
U.S. Space Force Sgt. Cherrise Streaty, 1st SOPS LEO technician, believes the crew “breaks the glass ceiling” for women and minorities as well.
Streaty said having a crew of African American men and women operate cutting-edge spacecraft designed to protect and defend the space domain demonstrates a fraction of our capabilities.
“Over time we put limitations on ourselves and say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that because I’m a woman,’ or ‘I can’t do that because of what I’ve seen in the media,’” Streaty said. “When [minorities] see our faces and representation of the Space Force, they know they can do that, too. If someone tells them ‘no,’ that won’t suffice for them because they’ve seen it before.”
The crew also represents the “everyday hero” in the world. U.S. Space Force Master Sgt. Crystal Ebert, 750th Operations Support Squadron superintendent was the Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit technician on crew.
She said people don’t need the status of NBA superstar LeBron James or tennis phenom Serena Williams to create change.
“You don’t necessarily have to strive to be the best athlete or pop star,” Ebert said. “What we do here is an everyday career and that’s a more tangible goal for young people to grasp.”
Supporting the 1st SOPS celebration of African American space operators was the 2nd Space Operations Squadron of Space Delta 8.
Former 2nd SOPS operator and U.S. Space Force Capt. Carmilya Jones, Space Delta 8 standardization and evaluation deputy chief, said the group is a great representation of the future and she’s grateful to witness such an event.
“For people of African descent to come together in one room is huge,” Jones said. “This [crew] definitely shows the Space Force values diversity and that we have capable people on billion-dollar systems that ensure the nation’s security, accurate position and timing and that our civilian community is well-taken care of.”
Johnson remains grateful the group came to fruition and continues to push forward goals of representation.
“We’re a small segment of the big picture and we’re trying to get the momentum going for others,” Johnson said.
The members of the crew include:
Capt. Stephen Johnson, Mission Commander
Master Sgt. Crystal Ebert, GEO Technician
Sgt. Kyle Lucas, LEO Technician
Sgt. Onahji Seales-Webster, GEO Orbital Analyst
Sgt. Cherrise Streaty, LEO Technician