By Sgt. Mary Ferguson (The NCO Journal)November 5, 2007
Fort Bliss, Texas - Top senior enlisted leaders from the U.S. Strategic Command and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/U.S. Army Forces Strategic Command spoke to Sergeants Major Course Class 58 students about understanding and operating in today's expanded battle space, during a briefing Nov. 1, in the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy East Auditorium here.
Command Master Chief William Nissen, USSTRATCOM command master chief, and Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Borja, USASMDC/ARSTRAT command sergeant major, tackled the complex subject from both tactical and strategic levels, challenging the senior noncommissioned officers to "widen their apertures" in preparation for the responsibilities that await them as sergeants major.
"I hear it often - the misconception is still out there that if you're not being shot at kinetically, you're not in the war fight - I'll argue it to the death that when someone somewhere else is giving you the ability to not have that round hit you, they are just as much in the war fight as you," Nissen said.
"The reality is that THIS is today's battle space," he explained while pointing at a projected image of the world surrounded by satellites with connecting lines representing the constant flow of information. "In THIS battle space ... as [sergeants major] you've got to also understand your global assets and regional capabilities as well as your immediate, tactical ones, to be successful."
Borja shared a few of those global capabilities and missions that the Army, particularly its enlisted force, conducts in this extended battle space - capabilities and missions he described as often overlooked by many Soldiers.
USASMDC elements are scattered throughout, and even above, the world with the mission of conducting space and missile defense operations and providing planning, integration, control and coordination of Army forces and capabilities in support of joint global operations, he said.
"How many of you knew that there are Army astronauts'" he asked the senior NCOs. "There are five of them ... one is in space right now, making a difference by supporting our war fighters on the ground."
Borja also offered the students what he referred to as "an in the weeds, tactical level," description of his unit's structure and diverse missions, to include the 1st Space Brigade whose Soldiers are constantly analyzing satellite data, and detecting and intercepting missiles, and the Space and Missile Defense Future Warfare Center whose personnel are working to answer critical questions like, "How can we detect an [improvised explosive device] a hundred meters out'"
Nissen expanded on Borja's words and explained how the USASMDC's Army-level piece fits into the larger puzzle of USSTRATCOM's global interagency operations.
Flipping through slides of intertwining chains-of-command and mission structures, Nissen said, "The complexity of [USSTRATCOM] is really a necessity of the organization considering the literally global battle space that constitutes our area of operation today."
Following the fundamental descriptions of their respective commands, both Nissen and Borja spoke to the students from a senior enlisted leader perspective, explaining the critical roles that Class 58 students, as the Army's next generation of senior NCOs, will play in improving and strengthening these necessary global operations.
"I'm sure you're wondering, 'why in the world is an airborne ranger like me working in space and missile defense''" Borja said. "I'll tell you why - when you get up to the sergeant major-level, it's not necessarily about what you know or are an expert in when inside of your comfort zone. It's about your background and experiences as a war fighter, and no matter what, it's all about the war fighters you lead."
Nissen agreed and elaborated on the importance of this "widened aperture" when understanding the scope of today's battlefield.
"We've got to understand - this wider perspective, and we've got to operate together to be successful. We're doing it better than the guys before us did," he said. "But, as tomorrow's [sergeants major] you've got to do it even better than us. It's the only way we are going to be successful in THIS battle space we're operating in today."