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1st SOPS to receive 2021 AFA Citation of Honor

Space Delta 9 – Orbital Warfare’s 1st Space Operations Squadron group photo

Space Delta 9 – Orbital Warfare’s 1st Space Operations Squadron was notified of its selection as a Department of Air Force-level winner for the Air Force Association’s 2021 “Citation of Honor” Aerospace Award, April 9, 2021. In the squadron’s first year under the newly-formed U.S. Space Force, 1st SOPS members established never-before seen combat readiness standards through state-of-the-art tactics aimed at increasing the advantages of friendly forces over potential adversaries.

Space Delta 9 – Orbital Warfare’s 1st Space Operations Squadron logo

Space Delta 9 – Orbital Warfare’s 1st Space Operations Squadron logo

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Space Delta 9 – Orbital Warfare’s 1st Space Operations Squadron was notified of its selection as a Department of Air Force-level winner for the Air Force Association’s 2021 “Citation of Honor” Aerospace Award, April 9, 2021.

The Citation of Honor dedication reads: “For the outstanding contribution of an individual or organization to the development of aerospace power for the betterment of mankind.”

In the squadron’s first year under the newly-formed U.S. Space Force, 1st SOPS members established never-before seen combat readiness standards through state-of-the-art tactics aimed at increasing the advantages of friendly forces over potential adversaries.

Critical to his organization’s success, U.S. Space Force Capt. Andrew Marin, 1 SOPS assistant director of operations, said, “Innovation and great ideas are not rank dependent; so many of our initiatives came from enlisted technicians and young officers – they are the tactical subject matter experts here.”

Furthermore, 1st SOPS was critical in designing a process that helps U.S. Space Command assess risks related to combat and how to best synergize forces across multiple domains—an endeavor which directly shaped a concept of operations for the National Defense Strategy task implementation.

In addition to the aforementioned breakthroughs, 1st SOPS combat engineers, led by Engineering Flight Commander, U.S. Air Force Maj. Tim Flesch, also successfully conducted Commercial Augmentation Service tests to supplement Space Control Network contact requirements. They did this using commercial antennas around the globe in order to download Space Defense data directly from spacecraft. What this amounts to is more resilient communications infrastructure from which Airmen and Guardians can effectively carry out their mission. Over 800 tests were completed on the Operationally Responsive Space-5, alone, a single-spacecraft constellation with the primary mission of providing space domain awareness.

Another highlight for 1st SOPS took place when U.S. Space Force Capt. Clare O’Reilly, 1st SOPS mission commander, participated in the first USSF Core Values conference. “Guardians from all over the world brainstormed our guiding values, and within 1st SOPS, [we] worked with almost all of our members to bring to life exactly what ‘orbital warfare operations’ look like in practice,” said O’Reilly.

“In this squadron, leadership is not something that solely depends on your rank or your duty title.  We empower all Airmen and Guardians with this, to allow them to bring ideas forward and actually have ownership in all aspects of our mission,” said 1st SOPS Senior Enlisted Leader, U.S. Space Force Senior Master Sgt. Richard Justice.

It was precisely because of this mentality that 1st SOPS was able to accomplish the kind of work that ultimately led to AFA’s decision to recognize the unit with the honor.

What exactly does “orbital warfare operations” look like in practice? As part of DEL 9, combat mission crews conduct 24-hour operations to deter, defend and defeat adversary threats in space.

Combat crews, orbital analysts and combat engineers are responsible for planning and executing operations of spacecraft in low-earth and geosynchronous orbits all in the name of protecting and defending U.S. and allied interests in space.

For 1st SOPS, the future of their mission is ever advancing. “It is a privilege to be a part of the Orbital Warfare spacepower discipline; from major training overhauls, to force structure realignments, and innovative teams, the mission area continues to evolve to dominate fielded and future threats,” said U.S. Space Force Tech. Sgt. Cory Takaki, 1st SOPS flight chief.

U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Bryan Bell, 1st SOPS commander, is incredibly grateful for the hard work 1st SOPS members like Takaki, Marin, O’Reilly, Flesch and Justice put forth, ultimately leading to the citation.

“The Space Force’s inaugural capstone doctrine challenges us to pursue new and bold ideas, take prudent risks and learn from failure,” said Bell. “Our command team gets to witness this as the women and men of 1st SOPS take daily ownership of this charge – we are extremely proud of the team and grateful that others recognize their dedication to enhancing military spacepower and securing our nation’s interests on-orbit.”

Bell is set to receive the award on behalf of his squadron sometime before the end of the year.

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