PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – One U.S. Army brigade commander said he realized satellites had to be in his future when he reflected on his beginning in the aptly named small Florida town: Satellite Beach.
Col. Stephen Parrish, who oversees the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, the only brigade of its kind, said he has eyed the position since its creation in 2019.
“I’m right where I want to be career-wise,” Parrish said. “I always wanted to make colonel and command a brigade.”
Shortly after receiving his Masters of Strategic Military Studies from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, earlier this year, he received the offer to take command of the brigade.
There was no hesitation in his answer. It was an obvious yes, and it also brought him back to the city he calls home – Colorado Springs. He and his family moved here when he was 12, where he attended junior high and high school.
He started his career as an intelligence officer and has served at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Irwin, California; Yongsan Barracks, South Korea; and a deployment to Iraq. Parrish’s first billet in Army space was in USASMDC’s 1st Space Brigade at Peterson Air Force Base where he served as an intelligence officer.
“My first introduction to Army space was while I was stationed in Korea,” Parrish said. “My branch manager told me I was being assigned to the 1st Space Brigade, and my first questions to him were ‘We have a space brigade? What do they do?’”
His next assignment was at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at the U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, followed by the exercise chief and chief of future operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
“It was an excellent baptism in space operations,” Parrish said of the position. “Having to develop and digest exercise events across the broad spectrum of space functions provided a tremendous, detailed awareness of what space actually brings to the fight.”
Parrish gained more space expertise in Wiesbaden, Germany as the deputy chief to the space support element for U.S. Army Europe, and later the director of space forces for U.S. European Command.
Returning stateside in 2017, he became the chief space concepts integration officer for the Combined Arms Center where he worked in the Capability Development and Integration Center, Mission Command Center of Excellence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
During his time in Kansas, Parrish published an Army high-altitude concept paper exploring the possibilities of using high-altitude capabilities to support Army and multi-domain operations. In addition, he was the lead concept developer for the Theater Space Effects Group that will provide future Army space support to theater and field armies. He developed the concept plan to transition the Future Warfare Center into a Center of Excellence and to restructure USASMDC into functional components. This includes consolidating satellite communication elements into the Satellite Operations Brigade.
After two short years in Kansas, and his time at the Air War College, Parrish is now taking his command one day at a time and is focused on his people and the mission. He said he commands a small, but brilliant group of Soldiers and civilians.
“They work hard and their innovation to use what they’ve got to meet mission requirements makes me proud to be in this organization,” Parrish said. “We’re not sure how or when we might transition to Space Force, but we’ll make certain the new military branch considers our folks’ interests and the mission doesn’t fail.”