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Space Force, COVID, and Space Launch Delta 30 – Reflecting on Col Mastalir’s legacy at the Western Range

Photo of Colonel Anthony Mastalir

Col. Anthony Mastalir, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, speaks during his U.S. Space Force induction ceremony May 14, 2021, Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. Mastalir's induction to the USSF preceded the redesignation of the 30th Space Wing to SLD 30 in a ceremony that followed. (U.S. Space Force photo by Michael Peterson)

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, waves during the Santa Barbara Veterans Day Parade Nov. 9, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Approximately 116 Airmen from Vandenberg marched in the parade as well as four military working horses, two military working dogs and ten vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie)

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, waves during the Santa Barbara Veterans Day Parade Nov. 9, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Approximately 116 Airmen from Vandenberg marched in the parade as well as four military working horses, two military working dogs and ten vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hanah Abercrombie)

Photo of command team watching launch

The 30th Space Wing space launch command team watches the liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon-9 carrying the Sentinel-6 satellite, at the Western Range Operations Control Center, Nov. 21, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. By managing and operating the Western Range, the 30th SW provides launch partners and their customers access to space with specialized facilities, equipment and personnel that assist with launch success. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Jason DeLucy, 30th SW command chief, close the 30th Space Wing 2020 time capsule in celebration of the one year anniversary of the U.S. Space Force Dec. 17, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Jason DeLucy, 30th SW command chief, close the 30th Space Wing 2020 time capsule in celebration of the one year anniversary of the U.S. Space Force Dec. 17, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The time capsule preserved items that represent this moment in history and will be revealed in 2039 to show future Air and Space professionals about the daily life Vandenberg Air Force Base members and their hopes for the future. (U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy)

Photo of base leadership

Base leadership from the 30th Space Wing and Combined Force Space Component Command received COVID-19 vaccinations during their visit to the 30th Medical Group point of distribution, Jan. 8, 2021, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Since the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Vandenberg AFB on Jan. 6, vaccinations have been administered as part of Operation Fight Back. Base leadership included (from left to right): CMSgt Heath Jennings, CFSCC command chief; CMSgt Jason Delucy, 30 SW command chief; Brig. Gen. Michael Conley, CFSCC deputy commander; Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, CFSCC commander; Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30 SW commander; Ronald Cortopassi, 30 SW executive director; and Col. David Rickards; 30 SW director of staff. All received their initial COVID-19 vaccination in line with the Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccine plan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)

Photo of Vandenberg Space Force Base redesignation ceremony

Col. Anthony Mastalir, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, furls the 30th Space Wing guidon as the new SLD 30 guidon is unfurled during a base renaming and 30th Space Wing redesignation ceremony May 14, Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Space Force photo by Michael Peterson)

Photo of Space Launch Delta 30 all call

Col. Anthony Mastalir, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, provides information on the U.S. Space Force and changes in the SLD 30 structure during a commander’s all call May 25, 2021, at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Space Force photo by Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The time has come to bid a fond farewell to Col. And Mrs. Anthony Mastalir as they complete their Space Launch Delta 30 tour.

During a recent interview, Col. Mastalir spoke of his initial impression of the then Wing, now Delta.

“When I was selected to assume command of the 30th Space Wing, I was ecstatic to be back in the launch business,” said Mastalir. “With the launch mission, you can see your hard work culminate with a rocket or missile climbing into space. It is a visceral experience and an essential capability for the United States Space Force.”

Upon assuming command in July 2019, he established the foundation for the way ahead.

“The top priority is always to execute the mission. In my experience, this is best accomplished by ensuring your Airmen and Guardians serve in an environment where they can be successful,” said Mastalir. “At the same time, we needed to prepare the Western Range to support an increased demand for launch services. Continued efforts to build the ‘Range of the Future’ and modernize our infrastructure are at the center of this priority, with two significant focus areas.”

According to Mastalir, the first focus area supports the acquisition effort—virtual data centers, improved communications, efficient planning and scheduling functions, enhanced weather, imaging, and command and control capabilities. The second focus area ensures the base infrastructure is ready to support an increase in launch services, including water, electricity, commodities, and roads and harbors. 

“We’ve made a lot of progress in these areas, but there is still much work to be done,” he said.

Mastalir’s time at Vandenberg will be remembered for two significant distinctions, leading the wing through the unknown of the COVID-19 pandemic while transitioning the installation and personnel into the unknown of the U.S. Space Force.

“Our COVID-19 response required a continued balance between keeping our members safe and executing the mission. For the installation to be successful, we needed teamwork across all of Team Vandenberg, including dependents,” said Mastalir. “Many of the challenges we faced were outside of our control. Some households lost their second income. Isolation and quarantine requirements tested our mental resiliency and degraded our mental health. Fortunately, our leaders and commanders found other ways to remain connected and still conduct the mission. The members of Team Vandenberg were compliant and followed the guidelines to slow the spread, and it worked. We maintained one of the lowest infection rates within the DoD. Our medical group was among the first certified to receive COVID vaccine shipments. As a result, our installation has the highest vaccination rate within the U.S. Space Force and is second in the U.S. Air Force. We have distributed more than 12,000 vaccines to our enrolled beneficiaries.”

Mastalir spoke of what it was like to balance such significant events during his command.

Commanding during a global pandemic was a test for leadership, but not the only uncharted territory Team Vandenberg had to navigate over the last two years. “In December 2019, the President signed into existence the United States Space Force. The last time we stood up a new branch in the U.S. Armed Forces was in 1947 with the creation of the U.S. Air Force. We did not have a detailed roadmap in 1947 and found ourselves in a position to pave a brand new path for a new service,” said Mastalir. “The past 18 months have provided Vandenberg members with the opportunity to write history: We participated in the establishment of the first Space Force field command, we will participate in the establishment of the second field command, members of Vandenberg made the transition from Airmen to Guardians, our installation was renamed to Vandenberg Space Force Base, and 30th Space Wing was redesignated as Space Launch Delta 30. Much consideration went into these decisions and although it will take time to work out all of the details and have everything operating smoothly, for now, we are headed in the right direction.”

Mastalir spoke of his most impactful moments during command at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

“Without a doubt, my favorite moments were spent building relationships with the outstanding men and women of Team Vandenberg and watching them succeed as they aspired to accomplish their personal and professional goals. I am so proud of each and every one of them,” he said. “There are a few events that stand out in my mind, mostly because they represented the culmination of a lot of hard work and determination. I remember the Veteran's Day parade in Santa Barbara, where we got to showcase our people and our missions. I felt it was important for our Airmen to see first-hand how much their local community appreciated their service to our country. Later that year, we gathered at the Pacific Coast Club to watch the President sign legislation creating the Space Force. The place was packed, and the excitement was palpable. I'll never forget the Unity Day at the parade grounds in the wake of the George Floyd murder the following summer. It was a wonderful example of a community coming together during a challenging time for all of us. Throughout the summer, my thoughts and prayers were with our firefighters as they tackled one blaze after another in what turned out to be one of California’s worst wildfire seasons ever.”

Mastalir continued to reminisce over his favorite moments at Vandenberg.

“In September, we watched the first set of Airmen make the transition to Guardians in front of our headquarters building. Shortly thereafter, we began ramping up for the Sentinel 6 mission. It was a tremendous success, but only because the entire team worked diligently to manage the risk in the days leading up to lift-off. It was also the first return-to-land mission in several years, scheduled on a Saturday with great weather, so a lot of people came out to enjoy the launch and landing,” he said. “I’ll never forget the Airman Leadership School Class 21C graduation at the club. It was our first official “dine-in” gathering since COVID protocols shut everything down the year prior. It was a significant milestone for #Operation Fight Back. Then two years of hard work culminated with the successful launch of a Delta IV-Heavy from SLC-6. Watching NROL-82 climb into the sky in the first open minute of the first launch attempt was a sight-to-be scene. I was happy for everyone who touched that mission,” he said with a smile. “Finally, the base renaming ceremony and the activation of Space Launch Delta 30 was exhilarating. Again, nearly 18 months of planning went into making that a reality—a huge win for Vandenberg and the United States Space Force!”

The installation’s most significant accomplishment during his command was 100 percent mission success.

“Maintaining 100 percent mission success throughout a global pandemic is no small feat. That was the result of every Team V member playing their role. Part of our legacy is that when we had the time available to us, even throughout the public health crisis, we took full advantage of the opportunity to think through and prepare for the future,” he said. “We laid the groundwork for materiel infrastructure improvements and took the time to improve our internal processes and procedures. We focused effort and energy into ensuring the base will be prepared five or ten years from now when the surge in demand for launch services materializes. That will be key.”

Mastalir continued, “Moreover, Vandenberg has always excelled at solving unique or novel challenges. For example, when the United States withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Secretary of Defense wanted to demonstrate America’s intermediate range ballistic missile capability to challenge foreign threats, the Secretary chose Vandenberg. We were able to launch the first IRBM from Vandenberg on one of our test pads. That was a critical strategic message to send to our adversaries. Other potential test organizations have seen the level of expertise and professionalism we bring to our customers, and there is growing interest in collaborating with Vandenberg Space Force Base. These are not standard missions; they have special unique requirements and require tailored solutions by stellar leaders and expertise.”

Mastalir is excited for the future of Vandenberg and the SLD 30 as it continues the transition to the U.S. Space Force.

“I feel hopeful and excited,” he said. “There are many changes coming down the pipeline: establishment and transition under Space Systems Command, activation of Delta 1, beddown decision for STAR Command, GBSD beddown, commercial spaceport development, new launch provider partnerships…While these changes will come with challenges, they will also provide unlimited opportunities for growth and development as we continue to establish our new identity as a United States Space Force installation and Space Launch Delta 30.”

Mastalir expressed his confidence in Vandenberg and that SLD 30 will continue to execute the mission and increase our role in providing a robust, relevant range and spaceport of the future in the central coast.

In his parting message to the members of SLD 30, he states, “First, be bold.”

“Since the establishment of the United States Space Force, we have continued to evolve, adapt, and have experienced perpetual change. We are charged to be bold, think boldly, and act boldly with agility and a sense of purpose. This charge reflects the highest level of confidence from our senior leaders. You have earned that confidence, and you continue to earn that confidence every step of the way.”

“Second, jealously guard your endless curiosity. Robert Wilson Lynd, an Irish writer, once stated, "There are two sorts of curiosity—the momentary and the permanent. The momentary is concerned with the odd appearance on the surface. The permanent is attracted by the amazing and consecutive life that flows beneath the surface.” He continues, “Permanent curiosity enables the technological advancements of tomorrow. Carbon fiber boosters, 3-D printed rockets, deployable launch systems with crews of 3 or 4 individuals. Space Launch Delta 30 is limited only to the extent of your endless curiosity. Unleash your imagination, take time to think, and never hesitate to ask, ‘What if?’.”

“Finally, prepare to stay busy because the calm before the storm is coming to an end. Major forces across policy, the financial and commercial sectors, and defense industry trends have aligned to produce an increased demand for the launch services you provide. Your continued efforts to build the ‘Range of the Future’ and the ‘Spaceport of the Future’ will ensure we are postured to answer the call. Vandenberg Space Force Base will continue to anchor our most critical strategic interests.”

Mastalir concluded by thanking the members of Team Vandenberg for their hard work, dedication, and professionalism. He said that as he moves on, he will miss the people the most.

Following the relinquishing of command, Col. Mastalir is preparing for a deployment.

“I will be deploying to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. While there, I will be standing up U.S. Space Forces Central Command,” he said. “This is another critical step in establishing the United States Space Force as an independent service. I am humbled by the opportunity and excited for the challenge. I will take with me the many lessons I learned at Vandenberg.”