SoCal Expands on Its Legendary Aerospace History with the Arrival of the U.S. Space Force

Command performance.

  • Category
    Life Outside
  • Written by
    Diane E. Barber
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

In keeping with El Segundo’s globally acclaimed history as the aerospace capital of the world, this spring the Pentagon named the Los Angeles Air Force Base on Aviation Boulevard home to the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC). Activated in August, SSC headquarters manages an $11 billion annual space acquisition budget for the U.S. Department of Defense. The team of more than 10,000 military and civilian professionals is charged with developing, acquiring, launching and sustaining military space systems, including overseeing launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Above: Courtesy of U.S. Space Force

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When Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein was named commander of SSC in August, it marked his fourth assignment at the base during the course of his career. He relocated to the South Bay from Virginia, where he served as the deputy director to the National Reconnaissance Office, which supports the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense. There he was involved with managing strategic and tactical operations, Air Force personnel and resources, and he served as a senior advisor on military matters. His wife, Rachel, is currently completing a clinical mental health counseling residency before joining him next year.

“Returning to Los Angeles Air Force Base and this community is a great honor,” says Guetlein. “El Segundo has a long and storied history within the aerospace industry, and many key partners reside within close proximity to Los Angeles Air Force Base and SSC. This proximity to partners is not offered elsewhere and is crucial to be able to successfully operate in the now congested space domain.”

Guetlein hails from a military family and a small town in Oklahoma. His grandfather served in the Army during World War II, and his father also served in the Army during the late 1960s. “When I was 3, I told my mom I was going to join the Air Force,” he shares. “She thought it was a phase and I that I would grow out of it.”

After graduating from high school, he immediately joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Oklahoma State University. “It wasn’t until I pulled out of the driveway to go to college that my dad realized I was serious,” he remembers. “I was the first one in the family to get a college degree and to make the military a career.”

Above: Courtesy of U.S. Space Force

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The Pentagon’s strategic decision to select El Segundo as one of three U.S. Space Force field command locations lends additional prestige and notoriety to Southern California and its aerospace hub, which includes the Air Force base, the Aerospace Corporation (a federally funded research and development center), research universities and the country’s leading defense companies (Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin).

“I look forward to helping create a unity of effort that sees nations around the world working together to enhance the security, stability, safety and sustainability of space for the benefit of each of us.” 

“El Segundo was selected as the home of SSC because we must be where innovation is happening, and that is right here in one of the nation’s largest hubs of aerospace technology and talent,” says Guetlein. “The fact is, our industry partners are innovating at unprecedented rates, and in many cases they are outpacing our demand signals. The Space Force and SSC specifically must harvest that innovation in order to accelerate the space capabilities we are delivering to the nation and to our warfighters. The partnerships we have and are making with the industry are the key to SSC and the Space Force being able to enhance resiliency in space in the face of determined competitors. This is where we are able to perform our mission of pioneering, developing and delivering sustainable joint space war-fighting capabilities that defend the nation and its allies while disrupting adversaries in the contested space domain the best.”

Above: Courtesy of U.S. Space Force

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According to Guetlein, while the U.S. currently outpaces the rest of the world in space capabilities, our country’s adversaries seek to counter those capabilities. SSC was designed to respond to the threat and deliver world-class capabilities to the warfighters ahead of the threat.

“As a nation we rely on space in nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and our warfighters are dependent on our space capabilities to counter aggression around the globe,” he says. “SSC is about innovation and agility, and success is seeing us rapidly and effectively partner with our allies, industry and other U.S. government agencies to revolutionize the way we do business while fielding innovative solutions to problems. The fact is, the threat in space is real, and in order for us to remain ahead of our adversaries we need to leverage current partnerships and maintain a unity of effort while looking for new, innovative ways to tackle tough space-related problems.”  

When asked what he is looking forward to in his new role as SSC’s commander, he replies, “I think every military commander looks forward to being able to serve alongside some of the best and brightest individuals our nation has to offer. But I am most looking forward to seeing how each of them works to innovate, acquire and field out-of-this-world-class capabilities for our nation’s newest, leanest and most technologically advanced service: the United States Space Force.”

Guetlein proudly shares that his team of military, government civilian and contract employees are among some of the South Bay’s most loyal citizens, and providing family support is an important part of military service. “Our personnel are active in many aspects of community engagement—from volunteering at their children’s schools or through our STEM and academics programs to supporting a wide variety of assistance and relief efforts. Additionally, our personnel work hard and play hard—from participation in sports leagues, coaching, mentoring and recreational gatherings, you’ll find members of Space Systems Command and the Los Angeles Air Force Base pretty much everywhere around town. Space affects all of our daily lives, and we’re all in this together.”

Off duty, Guetlein is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys hiking, camping, the beach and wine tasting. “I love to take advantage of the variety of outdoor venues California and this community have to offer,” he says. As for what he enjoys most about living and working in the South Bay, he shares, “The friendly people and the amazing weather.”

Welcome home, Lt. Gen. Guetlein. We appreciate your service and look forward to the program’s future success here in our community.

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