WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Team members from across the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command recruited future space operations officers for Army space’s Functional Area 40 during the U.S. Military Academy’s Branch Week, Sept. 8-10.
Branch Week offers cadets the chance to explore career options by learning about the Army’s branches and functional areas. For those representing the FA40 team, Branch Week gave them time to explain the importance of Army space as well as identify cadets interested in becoming space operations officers.
“When talking to the cadets, I like to point out the Stryker, Apache, Blackhawk - all these systems use space,” said Capt. Richard Colvin, executive officer to USASMDC’s deputy commanding general for operations. “The FA40 ensures that the operational Army has access to space so when those Apaches take off, they can get to the objective and kill the enemy.”
Colvin, an FA40, began his career as an officer in the armor branch. He said many cadets and Army officers aren’t aware of the leadership and operational opportunities available to them in the space operations career field.
“As an armor officer I never got to deploy,” he said. “Since becoming an FA40 I’ve deployed twice with SMDC. There’s such a high demand for space that as a space officer you can get a 30-90 day notice and now you’re going to support space operations in places like Germany.”
Colvin said cadets are often confused about the difference between the Space Force and the FA40 career field. He told them although Army space is in the space domain, the focus is on dominating on the ground to support land forces.
“I found the best way to explain Army Space and Space Force is to compare aviation operations,” said Colvin. “Both the Air Force and Army attack aviation operate in the air domain - the Air Force with a focus on strategic operations from the air domain, while attack aviation has a focus on supporting tactical operations on the ground. Army Space is providing that close space support to tactical operations, while Space Force focuses more on strategic space operations.”
Ensuring continued space support means having the right people in the right jobs at the right time – a goal of the FA40 Assured Functional Area Transfer Program.
The command’s Army Space Personnel Development Office manages the FA40 AFAT program, which gives Army officers with science, technical engineering and mathematics degrees the opportunity to become FA40s early in their career through a competitive selection process while in their senior year of college. Cadets from ROTC programs as well as from West Point can apply. Twenty cadets were selected for the 2021 program.
“We’re looking for a talented pool of applicants for the AFAT program,” said Col. Will Starr, Space and Missile Defense School commandant. “We need that next generation of space operations officers. We also want to generate an interest and understanding of Army space.”
To identify applicants, USASMDC participates in events like Branch Week, advanced camps and virtual branch orientations. Team members engaged with more than 150 cadets during the three-day West Point event.
Starr said the FA40 career field is growing and the need for space operations is increasing as the Army moves toward a multi-domain capable force.
“Between now and 2035 these cadets’ careers will be defined by the transformation to a multi-domain service, and Army space is part of every element,” Starr said.
When cadets ask what they need to do to become an Army space operations officer, Colvin tells them to be the best cadet they can be so they get selected for AFAT. Then he says be the best platoon leader they can be so that when they become a space operations officer they can take all their space knowledge and integrate it into the operational Army.
Colvin said that operational experience sets FA40s apart.
“The value of being an FA40 is what Soldiers learn in their basic branch,” he said. “That’s what separates us from Space Force. An FA40 gets basic branch time learning how to be a platoon leader, learning how to do air defense, learning how to do artillery, learning how the operational Army fights as a formation, tactically. Then we become space operations officers.
“Once you have all that tactical knowledge, we make you a space expert and now you can take that space knowledge and integrate it into that tactical Army formation,” he said.
The 2022 FA40 AFAT program is open for applications now and selections will be made in the spring. Interested officers can also apply through the Talent Based Career Alignment during the Captains’ Career Course and the Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program.