By Staff Sgt. Jazmin Smith, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --Although military installations are designed to function as a standalone city, this has never been the intent. Leadership has recognized this and continues to emphasize the importance of being active members of the community.
The relationship between Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and its surrounding communities is that of a synergetic nature. Because of the value Buckley AFB places in this partnership, joint members from the base met with the conglomeration of local members during the annual State of the Base luncheon at the Radisson Hotel in Aurora, Colorado on Jan. 22, 2020.
The event covered an array of topics and allowed a discussion to open with the public and members of the base. Cohosted by the Aurora Chamber Defense Council and Rotary Club of Aurora, it also had members of the Aurora Police Department and many other highly-esteemed organizations present.
The keynote speaker was Col. Devin Pepper, 460th Space Wing commander. During his brief, Pepper discussed the economic impact the base has on the surrounding areas as well as current and future operations.
Buckley AFB contributed nearly $1.3 billion into the community during fiscal year 2019. Additionally, it’s estimated Team Buckley indirectly created over 5,500 jobs in the local area, worth an estimated value of over $329 million in salaries.
“It remains and will always be our priority to make Buckley a great place to live and to work, not only for our service members, but also for the members of this community,” said Pepper. “The revenue and more importantly, the jobs Buckley creates for the community, are invaluable and we depend on the technical skills and knowledge of those people who call Aurora and surrounding community’s home to accomplish our mission.”
Buckley AFB now encompasses every service of the U.S. Armed Forces. Amidst over an audience of over 250 people, Pepper emphasized the strategic importance of a total-force team and the allied mission partners from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and outlined their critical roles.
“Team Buckley is a joint base in all but name, and we are fortunate to be a team comprised of every service of our United States Armed Forces,” said Pepper. “We recognize the strategic importance of partnering with our closest allies to defend our shared interests. We cannot be as capable nor as effective in our mission areas without the strong partnership we have with our Allies.”
To adequately explain what goes on behind the scenes at Buckley, Pepper addressed the functions and endeavors of the “Big Five” mission partners -- The 140th Wing Colorado Air National Guard, the Navy Operational Support Center, the Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado, the Army Aviation Support Facility and the Air Reserve Personnel Center.
After sharing the momentous updates from the past year, Pepper refocused on the significance of Space Force and what the public can expect to see in the future.
In 2019, Team Buckley brought a $1.4 billion satellite into live operations improving its no-fail missile warning mission. With increased detections, Team Buckley played a key role in protecting U.S. Forces in Iraq during the recent Iranian missile strikes.
“Space is no longer considered a benign environment for us to operate,” said Pepper. “Our adversaries have made space a warfighting domain. The United States would prefer that space remain free of conflict, but potential adversaries are rapidly developing strategies, organizations, and capabilities to exploit our reliance on space. We now must think through and apply new tactics, technics and procedures which will allow us to operate in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment.”
On Aug. 29, 2019, U.S. Space Command was stood up as the 11th Combatant Command for the Department of Defense. There are still many unknowns on what USSPACECOM will look like as it’s still in its infancy, but the intent behind it is clear.
“The mission of USSPACECOM is to deter conflict, defend U.S. and Allied freedom of action, deliver space combat capability to the joint and combined force and develop joint warfighters in order to advance U.S. and Allied interest in, through and from the space domain,” stated Pepper. “What is fundamentally different about this USSPACECOM than from the previous combatant command, is that the law establish space as a warfighting domain, on par with land, sea, and air.”
On Dec. 20, 2019, the President signed into law the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act establishing the United States Space Force as the sixth military department in the DoD. To clear up some confusion, former Air Force Space Command personnel are now assigned to the U.S. Space Force, but these assigned personnel are still Airmen within the U.S. Air Force.
“The U.S. Space Force will help the DoD meet the challenges of the future space security environment,” said Pepper. “Space is integral to national security and our way of life, and this service will posture us to compete, deter, and win in an era of great power competition.”
One thing for certain is Team Buckley and Aurora have made history as “Aurora’s Military Base” is now aligned and presents its forces and combat capability to the commander of USSPACECOM. The event concluded with remarks from the installation commander to the members of the community for whom their support is greatly appreciated.
“Our Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Coastguardsmen, civilians, contractors and Allied Mission Partners will continue to be our nation’s sword and shield thanks to your steadfast support,” said Pepper. “My commitment, as well as my team’s commitment to you, is continued excellence from Aurora’s military base. We will continue to be a proud partner and represent the best America and our Allies have to offer. We look forward to an enduring partnership with you as we launch into a new chapter with the stand up of United States Space Force.”
There are so many facets to any great partnership, many of which require communication to be successful. The great leaders on and off base have fortified this bond and plan to continue doing so.
“I’ve been fortunate to be on both sides of the very special relationship between Buckley AFB and the Eastern Metro area,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Rene Simard, Executive Vice President of the Aurora Chamber and former 460th SW command chief. “The key to that relationship has been the consistent willingness of base leadership to share information with the community. The State of the Base luncheon is a prime example. The result is an extremely supportive community that understands the commitment and sacrifices of those who serve our country.”
Special thanks to Kevin Hougen of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and Regina Edmondson of the Rotary Club of Aurora for making the State of the Base event possible and providing continued support.