Profiles in Space: “The goal when I joined was to come to 1st Space Brigade.”
Capt. Anthony Rifaat, an assistant plans officer for 1st Space Brigade, always longed to be in U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, it just took a little time with a stop as an infantry officer. (Courtesy photo by Capt. Anthony Rifaat/RELEASED) (Photo Credit: Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. - In Houston, dubbed “Space City” for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, one grows up surrounded by the idea of space. It’s engrained in the culture of the residents of Texas’ largest metro area.

Entire generations of children grow up immersed in the well-established and famed space industry there. For one child, it became a strong fascination early on.

Capt. Anthony Rifaat, an assistant plans officer for 1st Space Brigade, was one of those kids.

“I’ve always been fascinated with space,” Rifaat said. “Growing up where I was at in Houston, I have a deep affinity for it. I have always wanted to know what makes the universe tick.”

And it was in college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he decided his goal was to be in the Army’s only space brigade. But he knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight.

He gained his commission through the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics in 2015 and was involuntarily branched into the infantry – a job he didn’t necessarily want, but was ready to accept the challenge.

After completing his initial infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was shipped to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for his first duty station.

“It’s not the ideal spot,” Rifaat said. “But as an officer in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, I gained invaluable leadership, how to be a warfighter, and the applications of what it means to be a Soldier.”

Rifaat was in the field two weeks a month training as part of an opposing force (OPFOR) mechanized infantry company where he learned how to fight in a high-tempo, contested operational environment, he said. It was a lot of personal development, not just as a Soldier, but as a young man in his mid-20s.

He said he had some interaction with Army space operations, and gained invaluable insight on how they support the warfighter on the ground, because he was that Soldier in the field.

“I got that experience early on in my career and was consumed by it for a few years,” he said. “It was because of this that I now understand the symbiotic relationship between space operations and the warfighter.”

After another stop at Fort Benning as an Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT) battalion plans and operations officer, Rifaat voluntarily transferred into Functional Area 40, Army Space Operations, and made his way to 1st Space Brigade in early 2021. He had finally accomplished his goal.

“I didn’t know how to get there, and I didn’t know what it looked like at first,” Rifaat said. “It just took some time to figure it out and it worked out. I asked myself, ‘How do you apply what you learned in school and apply it to real-world situations and operations?’ It’s always been about getting actual applicable experience. It seemed like a natural fit with SMDC.”

He then earned a master’s in astronautical engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, as a means to further his space education, before he landed his current position at 1st Space Brigade.

Rifaat downplayed the transition from the infantry to space operations, even though it seems like a drastic step.

“Even though I went from being in the field all the time to sitting in an office, to be fair, we are still Soldiers first, still qualify with our weapons and stay on top of all of our warrior tasks,” Rifaat said. “It’s just now, this is where I want to be.

As an FA40, I understand what it means to support the warfighter because of my experience in the infantry. I understand what the warfighter needs, the processes they use, and their jargon, and I can help bridge that gap between the warfighter and army space operations.”

Along with infantry, Army space empowers every aspect of ground operations. Investment in space capabilities and their integration in warfighting formations assures the nation’s ability to fight and win.