If you just add a ‘k’ at the end of its acronym, you’ll see that America’s newest military command is witty.
And leaders say Space Operations Command, or “SPOC,” pronounced like the pointy-eared Star Trek science officer, is also deadly if needed. The command, which was formally established Wednesday in Colorado Springs, will oversee Space Force satellite operators and others involved in defending those satellites and targeting enemies in orbit.
“If somebody pick a fight with us there, we will win,” pledged Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, SPOC’s Captain Kirk.
The change means most airmen who were assigned to Air Force Space Command now answer to Whiting. It came with a revamped organization chart that eliminated a three-star headquarters in California, which Whiting said cuts bureaucracy and allows the command to be more nimble.
In Colorado, it means new uniform patches for thousands of troops at Peterson, Buckley and Schriever Air Force bases who watch for incoming missiles, track what’s in orbit and control the nation’s military satellites.
But leaders including Space Force chief Gen. Jay Raymond said the change also brings a symbolic break from the past that will allow the Space Force to forge new methods and build a culture that’s focused on the prospect of war reaching orbit.
“We will forever honor our history, but we can’t be bound to it,” Raymond told a crowd gathered in a Peterson hangar for rites inaugurating the new command.
The Space Force, signed into existence by President Donald Trump in December, remains America’s smallest armed service with just over 10,000 troops planned worldwide next year, dwarfed by even the Coast Guard.
But like its larger cousins, it will be divided into a series of major commands. SPOC is the first of those, but will soon be joined by Space Training and Readiness Command, acronym STARCOM, and Space Systems Command, cool acronym pending.
The operations command in Colorado Springs will focus on wars in space, but the main goal is prevention rather than battle, said Raymond.
But if battle comes, the new command must have its troops ready to fight.
“I am convinced a war in space would be fought at high speeds and over great distance, we must be fast and agile,” Raymond said.
The new armed service was created amid growing concerns at the Pentagon and in Congress over space efforts by rivals including Russia and China. Capabilities to counter American advantages in space are growing even in smaller countries, with techniques like jamming radio signals from space filling in for nations that don’t have anti-satellite weapons.
“Our potential adversaries in the space now have enough advanced capabilities that they do get a vote,” Whiting said.
Whiting’s troops are the bulk of forces assigned to U.S. Space Command, which is provisionally headquartered at Peterson. That command will call the shots in a space war, with Whiting’s command providing the troops.
SPOC is also divided into smaller units that come with the space-age moniker “delta.” Those units, the equivalent of Army brigades, are built around specific missions under the command’s purview including computer warfare and running the Global Positioning System.
And, while it does draw a chuckle, commanders swear that SPOC and Spock are not related.
“We didn’t intentionally choose it that way,” Whiting said.
Instead, it’s a piece of military shorthand used since the 1990s for space operations centers.
“We went back to an acronym we have used for decades,” he said.