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Kehler: ‘AFSPC has been entrusted with a national mission’

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. -- Gen. Robert Kehler, Air Force Space Command commander shakes hands with Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, after concluding his visit here Tuesday, Jan. 08. General Kehler's visit consisted of a tour of Vandenberg's launch facilities, Maj. Gen. William Shelton's promotion to Lt. Gen., as well as meeting with Vandenberg Airmen and leadership to address questions and concerns regarding the misson of the Air Force and Air Force Space Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Matthew Plew)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. -- Gen. Robert Kehler (left), commander of Air Force Space Command, shakes hands with Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, after concluding his visit here Jan. 8. General Kehler's visit consisted of a tour of Vandenberg's launch facilities, Lt. Gen. William Shelton's promotion, as well as meeting with Vandenberg Airmen and leadership to address questions and concerns regarding the misson of the Air Force and AFSPC. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Matthew Plew)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. --  Gen. Robert Kehler, Air Force Space Command commander coins five members of Vandenberg's 30th Security Forces for their service while deployed to Iraq during his visit here Jan. 08. This was one of many visits General Kehler made during his one day stay at Vandenberg where he also met with base leadership and addressed questions concerning the future of the Air Force's mission and the future of Air Force Space Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Matthew Plew)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. -- Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, thanks five members of Vandenberg's 30th Security Forces for their service while deployed to Iraq. This was one of many visits General Kehler made during his visit to Vandenberg Jan. 8. He also met with base leadership and addressed questions concerning the future of the Air Force's mission and the future of AFSPC. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Matthew Plew)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- For the first time in his short tenure as commander of Air Force Space Command, Gen. Robert Kehler walked off a plane Jan. 8 on the Vandenberg flight line and took a stroll down memory lane.

The former 30th Space Wing commander was back at Vandenberg to hold a commander's call as well as participate in the promotion ceremony of Lt. Gen. William Shelton, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space (under U.S. Strategic Command) and commander of 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command.

General Kehler said he was proud of the 30th Space Wing.

"Air Force Space Command has been entrusted with a national mission, and that mission is getting more important every day," General Kehler said.

"The extraordinary professionalism of the men and women assigned to Vandenberg to include Airmen, government employees and contractors has not changed," he said.

The general's experience in the use of U.S. space capabilities grew during his assignments as the director of National Security Space Integration, chairman of the Space Superiority and Nuclear Deterrence Panel, and deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

The space mission is critically important for the future, the general said. All U.S. military space capabilities get to orbit from two primary places, Patrick AFB, Fla., on the East Coast and here at Vandenberg on the West Coast.

"Vandenberg is continuing a string of 56 successful launches, and that only happens with professionals dedicated to the mission," he said.

Due to new and emerging geopolitical stressors, space is more important now than ever, he said.

"As I look into the future, I see a time when Air Force Space Command must be prepared to operate and deliver its space capabilities in a contested environment," General Kehler said. "We saw some of that evidence when the Chinese tested their anti-satellite weapon and reminded the whole world that there are capabilities that can threaten our space systems."

The Chinese ASAT test occurred Jan. 11, 2007, when China destroyed one of its weather satellites.

The current catalog of space debris directly attributed to China ASAT test is about 2,500, which puts every nation's space capabilities at risk.

For some 30th Space Wing members, hearing the general's concerns first hand was eye opening.

"As a new member of the space community, it is eye opening to think that other countries may be committing to use space as a military asset," said 2nd Lt. Brian Guetchschow, a mission flight control/range control officer with the 2nd Range Operations Squadron. "Most people have never considered space to be a potential battle zone."

Working in that contested environment means shifting priorities.

"I believe one of our top priorities is to improve our space situational awareness, the protection of space systems on the ground and the links that puts them together," General Kehler said. "Space is shaping the American way of warfare in this century just like air power shaped it in the last century."

The general said he not only takes pride in the mission and space capabilities that Team "V" provides, but also that it accomplishes this while deploying a large number of Airmen.

"This base deploys more Airmen than any other base in the command," he said. "Although the large number impacts the workforce, you continue to perform at the highest of levels."

The high number of deployments means going to a combat area is becoming a reality for many Team "V" servicemembers.

Airmen should know there are big changes happening in the Air Force, but there are reasons for them. Airmen should not worry about the problems the Air Force faces but should continue being the solution, General Kehler said.

The commander left the Vandenberg Airmen with a challenge.

"It is not the machinery or the technology that makes the Air Force," he said. "It is the Airmen. In everything you do strive for perfection."