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Former astronaut speaks at JSPOC dining-in

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Maj. Gen. Susan Helms, the U.S. Strategic Command director of plans and policy, visited Vandenberg as a guest speaker at the Joint Space Operations Center’s dining-in at the Pacific Coast Club here April 10. General Helms is widely known for holding the world record in extra-vehicular activity as well as her prominence as being the first female military astronaut. (U.S. Air Force photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Maj. Gen. Susan Helms, the U.S. Strategic Command director of plans and policy, visited Vandenberg as a guest speaker at the Joint Space Operations Center’s dining-in at the Pacific Coast Club here April 10. General Helms is widely known for holding the world record in extra-vehicular activity as well as her prominence as being the first female military astronaut. (U.S. Air Force photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A former NASA astronaut and the current U.S. Strategic Command director of plans and policy visited Vandenberg as the guest speaker at the Joint Space Operations Center's dining-in at the Pacific Coast Club here April 10.

Maj. Gen. Susan Helms spoke on the importance of the military's space missions and thanked the men and women of the JSPOC for their contributions.

"The JSPOC is clearly the hub, heartbeat and soul that brings space effects to the warfighter today," said General Helms. "There is no doubt of its importance or relevance and future in terms of what it means for the mission of not only the United States Air Force, but all of the joint forces - and all of that happens here."

Among the general's many career accomplishments, she is widely known for holding the world record in extra-vehicular activity (work done by an astronaut away from earth and outside of a spacecraft) as well as her prominence as being the first female military astronaut. General Helms served 12-years as an astronaut with NASA before returning to the Air Force in July 2002.

"The civilian side of the space business was obviously very fascinating and a wonderful opportunity," she said. "Then again, the military side of space has been even more fascinating and I am extremely glad to have come back and hope to make contributions."

The experience General Helms received as an astronaut has helped to develop her into the military leader she is today.

"There are some very interesting experiences I have had, not just flying in space, but also the fact that I had the chance to interface with a lot of different cultures and people who come from different points of view," said General Helms. "I think it was helpful in developing the skills needed to bring a team together when I came back to the Air Force after the NASA tour."

General Helms spoke optimistically about the future of joint military space missions.

"I think we are still in the baby steps of understanding how space can be used to do all kinds of wonderful things for our country and our international allies and partners," she said. "I think space has a very bright future for not only the Air Force, which has obviously had a very large hand in the space missions, but also the country and our international community at large."

One way Vandenberg hones in on its space competencies is through competitions such as the Air Force Space Command's Guardian Challenge, which General Helms is all too familiar with.

"I would have to be loyal to the 45th Space Wing Sharks, but I know that the Hawks will give them a tremendous fight," said General Helms, who is a former commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. "I know how good the Hawks are because I have been toe-to-toe with them. The good news is, no matter who wins, it is going to be a battle of champions. Go Sharks!"