The Army's newest battalion came into existence on a Fort Carson parade field Monday.
The 200 reserve soldiers of the 2nd Space Battalion in Colorado Springs will back up their active-duty comrades to make sure troops in the field have the signals they need from space. It's a move by the Army that shows how the service is increasingly reliant on satellite services that are increasingly marked as targets by America's enemies.
"The capabilities these soldiers bring to the fight are unmatched by any nation in the world," said Lt. Col. Erikk Hurtt, who took the unit's top job minutes after it was formally activated. The battalion falls under the Colorado Springs-based 1st Space Brigade and joins an active-duty battalion and a Colorado National Guard unit on the job.
Brigade commander Col. Richard Zellmann said gaining a reserve unit is a boost, because reserve soldiers tend to stick around for years while their active-duty compatriots make frequent moves.
"They help maintain stability," he said.
The Army is the military's biggest consumer of satellite data. The service relies on satellites to communicate on the battlefield, navigate its vehicles, target its weapons, warn of incoming threats and gather intelligence on the enemy.
In recent months, though, commanders have had soldiers grabbing compasses and paper maps out of fear that enemy jamming or attacks in space could take out American military satellites.
The 2nd Battalion space teams will help military leaders counter jamming and fight their way through battles where space-based assets are at risk.
The fears of a fight in space gave birth to the new battalion, Zellmann said.
"Most of us would agree that the rapid change of the space domain to a contested domain made the difference," he said.
The new battalion will join the other elements of the brigade soon in a new headquarters at Fort Carson. The space brigade has for years been housed in an anonymous office building off Powers Boulevard.
The Army announced this year that the unit is moving behind Fort Carson fences as security concerns increase.
The new battalion is already busy. Zellmann said two of the unit's space support teams are now deployed.
Hurtt said his soldiers will focus on how space is used on the battlefield. That means heading overseas to combat zones to ensure American units are connected to satellites.
"We fight wherever the fight is," he said.
Unlike most battalions in the Army, which can trace their organizational history back for decades or much more, the space unit came into existence with a clean slate.
Units rely on history as a source of motivation in battle. Hurtt said he's working out how his troops will write their history after Monday.
"It starts with ethics and values," he said.
With history comes something else the 2nd Space Battalion lacks: traditions.
Hurtt said he's not worried about his troops building their own rites.
"Tradition, that will be the fun one," he said.