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Galaxy X Team Global Journey Ending with Insights from USINDOPACOM

  • Published
  • By Lisa Sodders, SSC Public Affairs

Six Galaxy Fellows recently returned from a two-week tour of Korea, Japan and Hawaii with a greater understanding of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) region, its history and how the U.S. Space Force works with allies in the region to stay ahead of the threat.

The Galaxy Program is a joint Space Systems Command/National Reconnaissance Office (SSC/NRO) junior force rapid professional-development program that provides a fast, flexible, rapid capability delivery experience that advances solutions to operational capability gaps in under six months. There are two cohorts every year.

During the six-month program, Galaxy Fellows go on several rapid tours of sites spanning from intel, operations, joint units, the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and industry partners, to better learn the perspectives and challenges of the USSF/NRO mission, industry partners and stakeholders, and how the USSF can better collaborate for mission success. They are also assigned books on leadership, decision-making, modern warfare and geopolitical issues to further their knowledge.

The current Galaxy X cohort consists of Capt. James Coyne, NRO; Capt. Victoria Ponder, Space Launch Delta 30; Alex Ruiz, Space Systems Integration Office at SSC; David Myung, S2 (Intelligence); and 1st Lts. Amelia Butler and Tyler Tavrytzky, Military Communications and Positioning, Navigation and Timing at SSC, and runs through March 2024.

“The Galaxy program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take an educational deep dive into the Space Force and its many partners, to connect with people face to face. That direct communication is invaluable for junior officers and civilians’ development,” Ponder said.

“This program provides the junior force with a key moment to see the mission from a different lens,” Ponder added. “As military members, we need to know what our allied partners are doing, and we need to build those relationships because, as we move up in rank, that’s going to be important – our ability to connect with those partners.”

“Connecting with the operators and getting their perspective helped me to understand that the threat is real,” Ponder said. “I got a lot of value out of getting detailed intel briefs and learning about planning.”

On their most recent tour, cohort members visited: multiple embassies; SpaceFor Korea; Osan Air Base; USF-Japan; U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys; the QZSS Program Office, a joint program office working to host a space domain awareness sensor on Japan’s regional version of GPS; Astroscale, a private orbital debris removal company headquartered in Tokyo; JSAT, a commercial satellite company; and several markets and museums to absorb the local culture.

In Hawaii, they met with the Joint Integrated Space Team USSPACECOM; attended a SOFPAC meeting (United States Special Operations Pacific); met with U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific S8; members of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT); and U.S. Pacific Air Force (PACAF).

“The Galaxy cohort visited South Korea, Japan, and Hawaii for the "go see" phase of the program,” Myung said. “Previous cohorts had never been to South Korea or Japan so expectations were limited to understanding the operational picture and threats from our adversaries.”

“This trip was extremely eye-opening, not only from a broader Space Enterprise standpoint, but also from a threat standpoint,” Coyne said. “To get intel threat briefs from the people who were threatened was jarring. It was exceptionally jarring to be only 35 miles from the DMZ (demilitarized zone,) and in such close proximity to the South China Sea. Being immersed in the Korean and Japanese culture was an amazing experience as well — both countries were so warm and welcoming.”

“It was also extremely important to learn the dense and vast history of both — those histories shape the current context of relations/negotiations,” Coyne said. “It was a very humbling experience to know that although the U.S. has our own deep history, we are talking thousands of years for Korea and Japan.”

“Moving on to Hawaii, it was chilling to see the bullet holes still at the PACAF Headquarters,” Coyne said. “I think it was a great reminder to see where we have been, and where we could potentially go. I’m really excited to bring that outreach perspective back to the USSF and NRO to really contextualize who we are supporting and protecting.”

“I learned that Space Force units were really small but still had a full mission to execute,” Myung said. “It was surprising to me how far advanced Japan's civilian space capabilities are and how they are expanding into space for their Self Defense Forces while following the confines of their constitution.”

“Japan has a robust launch and space vehicle industry and is one of the few countries that make their own satellites and ground stations,” Myung added. “They also have advanced scientific space mission with NASA which can be leveraged for other missions.”

Myung said he also learned a lot while visiting Korea.

“Their military space sector is only recently growing and on Dec 1st, launched its first military ISR satellite,” Myung said. “This followed a recent launch of DPRK's first military ISR satellite on Nov 22nd. The fact that South and North Korea are quickly expanding their military capabilities in Space was insightful and relevant to our mission.”

“The biggest takeaways for me concerned the employment of space forces,” Myung said. “With Space Force units being smaller compared to the sister services, it needs to do more with less. That means acquisition organizations like SSC will have to help operational units with automation and better interfaces to allow them to get relevant data faster to increase speed of decision making.”

“This trip highlighted the heroic efforts that space operators made to accomplish various missions that keep our forces safe and lethal even with limited tools and personnel,” Myung said. “It gave me a renewed sense of the acquisition mission to be able to connect with the operators and end users.”

“This TDY (temporary duty assignment) allowed me to gain valuable insight into the current state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific region,” Tavrytzky said. “The numerous discussions with leaders at U.S. embassies and military organizations allowed me to gain a first-hand perspective that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to garner.”

“Specifically, this trip accentuated the importance of resilient, advanced space capability in order to maintain peace and stability in the region,” Tavrytzky said. “I now have a firm understanding of the warfighter needs in the Indo-Pacific Command, and how the Space Force can support the joint force and U.S. allies and partners.”

“The TDY to INDOPACOM provided profound insights,” Butler said. “Observing the day-to-day operations and witnessing the collective determination to achieve the mission were crucial highlights. Bringing back this sense of urgency to my organization is invaluable. Sustaining communication among the varying AFSCs and bases is critical for collaborative efforts against the threat.”

“The trip was an eye-opening experience that broadened our perspectives on the threat, the fight in 2026, the complexity of mobilizing a joint force, and the significance of the space capabilities that Space Systems Command (SSC) is delivering,” Ruiz said.
“Heading into our trip, I was hoping to gain a better understanding of the operational landscape in INDOPACOM and what we as space acquirers could do to better partner with mission partners, allied nations, and international commercial partners,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said his key takeaways were that the acquisitions and operations communities need to maintain a close relationship to ensure USSF is delivering capabilities that meet the users’ needs; in the event of a future conflict, the role space capabilities play will depend on focus, and USSPACECOM’s and USINDOPACOM’s requirements may differ; and the acquisitions community needs to ensure it has the implementation plan in place for all the systems it delivers, including the requisite logistical plans for deployment and installment.

Ruiz said he looked forward to taking the lessons he learned back to the SSC/S8 Planning and Programming team so the entire team can benefit.

“I understand that not everyone can get the opportunity to travel to these installations as we have through the Galaxy program, so we intend to do what we can to share the experience with our team members,” Ruiz said.

“Finally, I would like to note that it was incredibly motivating to speak to the end-users operating our systems as well as the warfighters in theater that depend on the capabilities we deliver and sustain,” Ruiz said. “Our team members throughout the Departments of Defense and State are fully committed to mission success and the camaraderie that we share with our sister Services is inspiring. The various leaders that we met with were gracious with their time and offered insightful leadership and career advice.”