By Sean Kimmons, Army News ServiceOctober 24, 2019
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- When it comes to traditional Army units, the 1st Space Brigade breaks the mold.
As the only space brigade in the entire Army, it consists of both an active-duty and Reserve battalion and works closely with a National Guard battalion.
Its total force mission has space Soldiers spread out in 11 countries with a quarter of them on a constant watch for missile threats and satellite activity at any given time.
"It is a truly multi-compo organization," said Col. Eric Little, the brigade commander. "It goes back to the growing demand and the recognition of that contested environment we expect to be in. It's going to take all of those components to provide that support."
That demand is even more apparent after the recent activation of U.S. Space Command, which the brigade's parent unit -- Army Space and Missile Defense Command -- now supports. Congress is also looking to create an independent "Space Force" armed service.
"It tells me what we've known for quite some time and that is: space is a warfighting domain," Little said. "It's a domain that if we're going to win a future fight against a near-peer adversary, we have got to be prepared to engage in that domain."
SMDC has a unique blend of nearly 3,000 civilians and Soldiers, many of whom are reservists.
At the top, the command's three-star leader is active duty and its former deputy was in the National Guard. Little is active duty while his brigade's executive officer is in the Reserve. Other units follow a similar chain of command, or at least interact frequently with units of a different component.
There have also been changes to further maximize the use of the command's reserve forces.
At the headquarters level, the command this year created an Air Defense, Space and Missile Defense Advisory Council that works with National Guard communities across the country to get after policy issues and optimize efforts.
"This is a new charter and it's bearing fruit and we're really excited about it," said Col. Mike Hatfield, senior National Guard advisor at SMDC.
An Army Reserve officer is also now in charge of the Army Satellite Operations Brigade, formerly called Task Force Eagle, a new unit that has combined the efforts of the command's 53rd Signal Battalion and G-6 SATCOM directorate, consisting of reservists, active-duty Soldiers and civilians.
The commander, Col. Tonri Brown, serves a dual-hatted role that includes being the command's chief Reserve affairs advisor, in which he oversees 450 Reserve Soldiers.
"It's one team, one fight," Brown said. "When you look down on our uniform on the left-hand side, you don't see U.S. Army Reserve. You just see U.S. Army."
There are certain benefits, though, of having citizen Soldiers in the formations.
Many of them, Brown said, have careers outside the Army, such as information technology specialist, lawyer or engineer -- all skills that can enhance the space mission.
"They do bring an additional skillset that is very valuable to the team," Brown said.
When it comes to funding, Hatfield said multi-component units offer commanders more flexibility as they typically receive training dollars from both the regular Army and Guard.
"We got to do a better job of leveraging all of our resources and optimizing our effect and that's what multi-compo organizations can give you," Hatfield said.
Both active and reserve-component forces can complement each other, too.
Inside a heavily-secured facility at Schriever Air Force Base, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Mix serves as a crew director for a system that can shoot down enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles in midflight.
The active-duty officer is also the executive officer of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, which is primarily Colorado, Alaska and California National Guard members who support the SMDC mission.
He credits his Guard counterparts for bringing stability and a sense of community to the unit since many stay longer than the normal three-year tour.
"It would be a much bigger challenge on the active-component side because people are constantly rotating in and out of a unit," Mix said. "You get that system knowledge and that history where you're not relearning the same stuff over again as you're retraining folks to get them there. So our level of expertise is much higher."
On the other hand, active-duty Soldiers deliver a breath of life into the unit.
"They bring an outside perspective where you can gain some proficiencies, things that may not be seen by the folks who have been here for a long time," Mix added.
And while manning their control nodes or doing another task, every Soldier in the brigade works full-time due to the strategic nature of the mission -- unlike typical Guard units that only drill on the weekends and for annual training.
The Active Guard Reserve Soldiers in the unit will often transition from Title 32 orders during normal hours and then to Title 10 for an operational mission.
"We're currently deployed," Mix said of his Soldiers. "This is where we'll fight from. We're a 24/7, 365 organization doing our combat mission."