PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. - Civilians comprise a sizable portion of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s workforce, and many of them work in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kurt Lobeck, a military analyst in campaign planning at USASMDC, is one of them, and is wrapping up a 22-year career with the command in October.
Lobeck looks back fondly on his years in the command, and feels proud of his many years of service to his country, which includes 21 years with the U.S. Air Force. He comes from a strong military background with a grandfather who served in the Imperial German army in World War I, and a father that was in the U.S. Marines in World War II and the Korean War.
“I guess it’s in my blood,” Lobeck said of military service. “And growing up, I knew I wanted to be in a position to have some sort of influence in the Cold War environment we all were subjected to in America.”
Lobeck was born and raised in the city of Orange in Southern California. Growing up, he vividly remembers the duck and cover drills he and his classmates performed in grade school in case of a nuclear attack. It was the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and tensions were high with the Soviet Union. A lot of homes were built with bomb shelters, especially on the coasts.
Lobeck, along with millions of other Americans, truly thought they might not survive the decade, with mutually assured destruction between the Soviets and Americans imminent. Defense of the nation was first and foremost in Lobeck’s mind, and a career in the military seemed the best way to satisfy that need.
He applied and was accepted into all of the military academies, however, he chose the United States Air Force Academy due to its proximity to home. He originally wanted to fly, but lost his qualification due to ongoing migraine headaches, which can leave one incapacitated for periods of time with little or no warning. Instead he became an aircraft maintenance officer in an F-15 squadron.
“It was the next best thing to flying I suppose,” Lobeck said. “My Air Force career saw me go from maintenance, to operational testing, to logistics, to satellite operations.”
He was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 - a profound, yet stressful time to be in Germany - as he described it, and quite a relief.
“My two sons were born in Germany while I was over there,” Lobeck said. “And there was this very real perception that we would all be run over by the Russians if they ever attacked from Eastern Germany.”
Once again, the old Cold War fears were still there for Lobeck, his family, and his fellow military personnel, but they were soon dispelled when the Berlin Wall fell and the invasion never came.
A couple years later the USSR crumbled from within, and Lobeck witnessed the conclusion of the Cold War -- a 44-year period of geopolitical tension that almost brought the world’s two largest superpowers to the brink of nuclear annihilation at one point.
Lobeck retired from the Air Force in 1999, but still wanted to serve his country in some capacity, so he came onboard with USASMDC.
“What better way to serve, other than the military, than to become a civil servant,” Lobeck said. “At that point in time, my job was focused around ballistic missile defense.”
He assisted with the standing up of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greeley, Alaska; the battalion's parent brigade, the 100th Missile Defense Brigade; and the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense at then Schriever Air Force Base.
Later in his career he shifted primarily to work on enhancing the integrated electronic security system at Fort Greely and traveled to and from Alaska numerous times in order to do so. Lobeck, looking back on 43 years of combined military and civilian service, and said he not only cherishes the memories of some amazing experiences but holds various life lessons he gained, dear to his heart.
From his younger days at the USAF Academy, to stepping into a space shuttle 24 hours prior to its launch, to witnessing the Aurora Borealis light up the midnight sky in Alaska, Lobeck admits to having a wealth of fond memories, and said his key career takeaways are readiness, patience and advocacy.
“You could have all the wisdom in the world and every answer to all the Army’s problems,” Lobeck said. “But until the rest of the Army is ready to hear it, it’s not going to happen. So, readiness and good planning, along with advocacy is key. Being able to articulate and have good solid arguments lined up defending the rationale of something is so important.”
Lobeck plans to retire in the small Colorado mountain community of Salida and get involved in programs with at-risk youth. Both of his sons teach martial arts, and he is also kicking around the idea of opening a mixed-martial arts studio with them. Whatever it is he does, he is already planning for the next chapter of his life.
“When you know it’s time to call it, it’s time,” Lobeck said. “It’s been a great ride, and now, at age 65, I’m finally ready. Ready for the next ride.”