Every year, for our July 4 concert, the Dallas Winds plays a medley of armed service anthems as a salute to veterans. This year, as I listened during rehearsal, I realized something was missing. As the music swelled around us, I leaned over to my boss and asked, “What about the Space Force?”
My question got a laugh, but it made me wonder: What about the Space Force? Was it a real branch of the military? Did it even have an anthem? I decided to find out.
Is the Space Force Some Kind of Joke?
On March 13, 2018, then-president Trump announced that “space is a war-fighting domain,” and he intended to establish a new branch of the armed services: the Space Force. He made it sound like the idea was just something he thought of one day, and he repeated the name so often it began to sound like a joke. Late Night host Stephen Colbert called it, “The president’s boldest idea that he got from a Buzz Lightyear Happy Meal toy.”
Those of us who grew up at nearly any time since 1967, when the original Star Trek hit the airwaves, immediately got onboard. We focused on images of Captain Kirk and—I dunno, Luke Skywalker? Commander Peter Quincy Taggart?—zipping through the black void in X-wings and TIE fighters to battle the evil . . . Aliens? Russians? Chinese? That part wasn’t really clear, but we knew it could be epic, even if it sounded silly.
A Little History
But the truth is, former president Trump didn’t just dream up the Space Force one day while he was shaving. The idea for the Space Force was born back in the middle of the twentieth century, even before the Russians launched the first artificial Earth satellite. The United States Army, and later the United States Air Force actively discussed the strategic importance of space from 1945 through the 1950s. When Sputnik went up on October 4, 1957, the race to control Earth’s orbital space began in earnest.
Military tacticians will tell you that whoever controls the high ground has the advantage in battle. Space is the ultimate high ground for our planet. Our national defense system relies, in part, on intercontinental missiles, and our whole, world-wide communications system relies on satellites. Your phone, your car’s radio, and your GPS navigation system depend on uninterrupted space-based communications capabilities. Any hostile force that can disrupt those capabilities would put the United States at a serious strategic disadvantage.
Once you understand that, the Space Force begins to make a whole lot of sense.
Things Get Real
Then one day the government announced that they had a logo for the Space Force. It looked suspiciously like Starfleet’s logo. But never mind that. Had the former president really just waved his tiny little hands and created a whole new branch of military service? Surely, with our do-nothing Congress, there ought to have been an epic debate over the creation of a new armed service. How did I miss that?
Turned out, after decades of quiet discussion about the need for the Space Force, some PR genius at the Pentagon probably just caught the former president’s attention. Perhaps a power point presentation with images of epic space battles, mixed with some John Williams music? However it was done, it convinced the former president to champion the idea of the Space Force, claiming it as his own. The expense was quickly folded into the 2019 Defense Authorization Funding Bill. This annual not-much-to-argue-about spending measure funds the entire military budget with bipartisan support. And, hey, presto! Just like that, we had the Space Force.
Today’s Space Force
So yes, there is a Space Force. It currently has around 10,000 members, but they are distinctly earth-bound desk jockeys, monitoring our nation’s orbital assets for signs of trouble. Collectively, members of the Space Force are called Guardians, following the tradition in the Air Force of referring to personnel as “guardians of the high frontier.” (No bio-engineered raccoons need apply.) Their ranks mirror the Air Force, with Specialists, Command Master Sergeants, and the Chief of Space Operations.
The Space Force Anthem
Is a very traditional, somewhat fusty turn-of-the-last-century march the right anthem to lead our Guardians to infinity and beyond? A choral group called Voices of Freedom thinks not. They have written their own anthem for the Space Force. You can decide for yourself if it strikes the right note.
Or perhaps you will side with a conductor I know, who said, “They should just go with the Main Title Theme.” Whatever the Space Force choses, it’s clearly time for us to update that medley of armed service anthems we perform every year.
One More Question
While I enjoyed educating myself about the United States Space Force, and understand the serious nature of their mission, I still struggle with the snark. I want those X-Wings and TIE Fighters. I wonder if the Specialist uniforms will turn out to have red shirts. And I have one more burning question:
What kind of camo do Space Force Guardians wear?
As ever, we owe many thanks to a lot of people for the illustrations in today’s post. Let’s start by thanking “CCA School Gurgaon,” source for a visualization of an iconic TIE Fighter-versus-X-Wing conflict. It comes with a product description that doesn’t credit an artist or explain a lot. But, whatever it is, it can be yours for only $43.99.
Air Force Magazine published the rocket-launch photo with its editorial about Space Force, “Seize the High Ground.” It shows a ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile System’s Center as it lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 on March 26, 2020. Air Force Magazine credits the photo to United Launch Alliance, which is a company that builds rockets to the buyers’ specs.
GEEK-OUT ALERT: ULA has a “build your own rocket” interactive feature that doesn’t seem to require any pre-payment guarantees. For the right person, just supply the imagination and they’ll tell you what they can build for you. Bonus: feel your eyes bug out at the price tag!
Both Weird Sisters Publishing and Artdog Studio have our roots deeply embedded in science fiction. So we, too, instantly saw the parallels between the logos of the USSF and Starfleet Command. The BBC similarly had no compunction about going there, when it came to a logo comparison image. Even so, they acknowledged the importance of a Space Force. See the article here.
On a more serious note, check out how much information you can find on the U.S. Space Force’s official website. There’s even a place where you, too, can sign up to become a Guardian. Have you got the Right Stuff?
And finally, Art & Seek published the Dallas Winds concert photo with an article previewing the Dallas Winds 4th of July concert in 2019. You also can access a YouTube video of the Dallas Winds performing The Star-Spangled Banner on this page. Photo by Sean Deuby, via Art and Seek. Sean Deuby takes photos in the Dallas area (scroll down on this site to see his atmospheric image from SMU), but he doesn’t seem to have a website or social media for his work.
Once again, many thanks to all of these folks! We couldn’t have created this post without you!