'Happy Birthday, Guardians': Space Force Celebrates Its Second Birthday

A U.S. Space Force civilian observes the second anniversary of the branch
A U.S. Space Force civilian observes the second anniversary of the branch on Dec. 20, 2021 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Space Force photo by Tre Davis)

The U.S. Space Force celebrated its second birthday Monday as the Pentagon's newest branch navigates the transition from late-night talk show punch line to full-fledged military service.

"Happy birthday, Guardians," Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond said in a video message Monday. "We've spent this past year focused on continuing to build out this service and then integrating the service to great effect. Today, what started with one person in the Space Force just two years ago, now we number over 6,650 active-duty Guardians."

The Space Force officially came into being on Dec. 20, 2019, when then-President Donald Trump signed that year's annual defense policy bill.

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Trump championed the Space Force into existence and turned it into a reliable applause line at his political rallies, though it elicited snickers and snears from comedians, Twitter users and Trump's harshest Democratic critics about him wasting money on fantasies of space battles.

But the idea for a separate military service for space predates Trump's interest and was meant to ensure the military is putting enough focus on protecting against threats from Russia and China to U.S. satellites vital to military operations and civilian life. In 2017, Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., proposed what they were then calling the Space Corps.

The Space Force, though, has had trouble shaking off its butt-of-joke image in its first two years.

When then-Vice President Mike Pence announced on the service's first birthday that Space Force troops will be called Guardians, Twitter users accused the service of ripping off the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie and comic books.

When the service unveiled its dress uniform prototype in September, there were jokes about it resembling uniforms worn in science fiction series "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galactica."

The Biden administration also caused a row over the Space Force shortly after taking office.

In February, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to dismiss a press briefing question about the Space Force by comparing it to an earlier question she got about Air Force One's paint job. That prompted conservatives to accuse her of disrespecting the military.

The next day, Psaki assured that the Space Force has President Joe Biden's "full support."

Raymond acknowledged the service's PR problem in February.

"Space doesn't have a 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," he said at the time.

Amid the controversy and jokes, the Space Force continued to plug along in its second year, filling out its ranks and other accoutrements of being a real military service.

The service began transferring members from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in its second year, after focusing the first year on moving people over from the Air Force.

The service also unveiled its rank insignia, as well as the names for its ranks.

And to mark its second birthday, the service on Monday launched a new recruiting website, spaceforce.com.

Work setting the service up will continue into its third year, including transferring missions from the Army and Navy.

And the congressional debate over the Space Force isn't done. The annual defense policy bill passed by Congress this month requires the Pentagon to study whether to establish a Space National Guard as the service's reserve component.

Monday, though, was all about the birthday celebration.

"It's been a great second year," Raymond said in his video. "I'm excited for the year ahead."

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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