Guardians of the High Frontier

Space Force took a year to decide what to call their uniformed members.

The nation’s newest military service is being roundly lampooned for its odd choice of nickname.

Defense One‘s Marcus Weisgerber (“Space Force Troops Get a Name: ‘Guardians’“)

Two days before the U.S. Space Force’s first birthday, its troops received their collective name: Guardians.

The new name for military’s space professionals, announced on Friday by Vice President Mike Pence, may appear to be a play on the Marvel superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But Space Force officials said it was a callback to a 1983 motto.

Since its standup on Dec. 20, 2019, the Space Force has grown to about 2,400 active-duty personnel, mostly Air Force personnel who were responsible for the military’s space mission before the new service was created. In 2021, the Space Force is expected to grow to about 6,400 active-duty Guardians, as Army and Navy personnel start transfering into the new service, Gen. Jay Raymond, the chief of space operations, said on a call with reporters earlier this week.

Raymond on Sunday will officially become a member of the Joint Chiefs.

The Space Force’s first year has been a “full-on sprint,” said Justin Johnson, a top defense official who is performing the duties of the assistant defense secretary for space policy.

In addition to the Space Force, there’s a handful of new space organizations around the Defense Department. There’s the U.S. Space Command, a combatant command that provides space support to military commanders around the world. There’s the Space Development Agency, a satellite buying organization that pre-dates the new service. It has ambitious goals to buy one satellite per week. And there’s Johnson’s job, a new top-level Pentagon position established by the same law that created the Space Force.

“A lot of them are still growing and maturing, but now it’s just about delivering results,” he said. “And there’s ton of work to do.”

[…]

Form the onset, the service has been an occasional target of late-night comedians. Netflix even launched a satire starring Steve Carell — and the streaming network renewed the show for a second season in January. But those involved say the service is no laughing matter.

Steve Beynon of Stars and Stripes (“Space Force troops are now called Guardians”) adds:

Troops serving in Space Force are now referred to as Guardians, Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday.

“It is my honor on behalf of the president to announce henceforth the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as Guardians,” Pence said during a ceremony to celebrate Space Force’s first birthday, which is Dec. 20. “Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Guardians will be defending our nation for generations to come.”

The announcement comes after months of troops in the military’s newest branch being referred to using the placeholder title of “space professionals.”

“The opportunity to name a force is a momentous responsibility. Guardians is a name with a long history in space operations, tracing back to the original command motto of Air Force Space Command in 1983, ‘Guardians of the High Frontier,'” a tweet from the Space Force’s account stated following the announcement.

WaPo‘s Christian Davenport (“The Army has soldiers. The Navy has sailors. The Space Force now has ‘guardians.’“) rounds up the Twitter reaction.

Stormtroopers wouldn’t have worked. Plus, it was taken by the Galactic Empire, anyway.

So Guardians it is. The Army has soldiers. The Navy has sailors. The Marines have, well, you know. And now the Space Force has Guardians.

In a speech at the White House on Friday afternoon commemorating the one-year anniversary of the newest branch of the Armed Forces, Vice President Pence made the announcement, saying the Guardians would “ensure that America remains as dominant in space, and from space, as we are on land and sea and air.”

No, it had nothing to do with the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” though the jokes began immediately on Twitter and will no doubt provide more grist for the writers of Netflix’s farcical series “Space Force.”

Pence was serious about the name. And so is the Pentagon.

The jokes pretty much wrote themselves:

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    This whole “Space Force” thing is just so…dumb. Unnecessary, superfluous, the product of America’s worst-ever President. And now this?

    I really feel sorry for the people who have to staff what is already the laughingstock of the rest of the military.

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  2. CSK says:

    The image of Trump at the helm of his own lil rocket ship…I can’t stop laughing.

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  3. I still think these functions should have remained in the Air Force.

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  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Obviously Trump was hoping that the troops of this branch would be called the Stormtrumpers, but,,,

    Perhaps at some point the incoming Sec of Def can direct the Joint Chiefs to recommend whether or not this branch should be returned to AF control.

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  5. PJ says:

    Guardians?

    Well, I guess we have proof that the Russians hacked the U.S. Space Force in the SolarWinds attack.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    My first thought was that someone needs to carefully monitor the Marines – they might fall down and hurt themselves laughing.

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    Odd. In the To Insanity and Beyond picture he looks like Orson Wells. Maybe Orson Wells playing a very angry insane person.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Seeing as they are members of the Space Farce, I propose we call them Farstians.

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  9. Teve says:

    They totally didn’t steal Star Trek’s logo, too.

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  10. al Ameda says:

    @CSK:

    The image of Trump at the helm of his own lil rocket ship…I can’t stop laughing.

    A ‘Dukakis commandeering the tank’ moment.

    By the way, ‘Guardians’?
    Was ‘Proud Boys’ taken and copyright protected?

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  11. CSK says:

    @al Ameda:
    This is a lot funnier than the Dukakis shot, which admittedly made Dukakis look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    Shouldn’t “guardians” be the National Guard?

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  13. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: @Steven L. Taylor: While I’m a skeptic of a fifth service, the idea has had bipartisan backing for 20-odd years now. The argument is essentially that for creating the Air Force: It’s a unique domain and we need a service whose sole mission is to think about spacepower. Under the Air Force, it was always a bastard stepchild and would always have been that.

    @Teve: As Steven noted when the logo was announced, that critique has been widespread. It’s pretty clear, though, that the Trek logo was modified from old Air Force and NASA iconography and that Trek has influenced future iconography.

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  14. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    Under the Air Force, it was always a bastard stepchild and would always have been that.

    Now it’s a bastard stepchild that got thrown out of the house.

    I’m trying to see the pluses, I really am. I’m fully aware that the fact this was pushed forward by the worst President America has ever had to endure is coloring my perception of it and maybe if it had been done differently it would look better to me.

    Anyway, we’re probably stuck with it now, so might as well work on making it work. By all accounts the senior staff are good senior NCOs and officers, which will help.

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  15. Teve says:

    @James Joyner: huh. So the delta appeared 5 years before the original star trek show

    https://twitter.com/spaceforcedod/status/1286013197179379712?s=21

    Learn something new every day!

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner: @Mikey:

    By the time the USAAF split from the Army there were such things as airplanes – as many in Europe and the UK had noticed by that point. There are currently no such equivalents for the space force. I find it odd to contemplate a military force without weapons or warriors but with a hefty budget. The word boondoggle comes to mind.

    Knocking enemy satellites down is not a mission that requires a whole new force and I’m damned if I see what other mission they are to perform.

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  17. sam says:

    Well, they’re going to have to have some kind of camo. I suggest solid black with little twinkly things all over.

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  18. inhumans99 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Well, when Hugo Drax attacks us from his orbiting city in space we will need the Space For..wait, what’s that you say, this scenario is from a fun to watch James Bond film, well color me embarrassed.

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  19. PJ says:

    @inhumans99:

    Well, when Hugo DraxElon Musk attacks us from his orbiting city in space we will need the Space Force.

    Fixed it for you.

    Four letter forename and four letter surname…

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  20. PJ says:

    And how much would I want an edit button right now?

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  21. Tony W says:

    The Coast Guard is thrilled!

    They just moved up a notch.

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  22. Slugger says:

    Reading that announcement from the top down, the first word to encounter my eyes is “Heritage”. What heritage can a service that is a few years old have? I don’t remember the Space Force making an inspiring stand in any battle. When I think of American heroes in space, I think of John Glenn, USMC, Neil Armstrong, USN, and Chuck Yeager, USAAC. Seems like the right stuff for the mission was more important than the branch of service.
    I do hope that the Guardians will be instructed in hand to hand combat with Kzinti.

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  23. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds: That same thought came to me as well–separating the airplanes from the Army and creating a separate Air Force made sense because the missions are entirely different. But there isn’t a whole lot of distinction between what’s below 100km and what’s above, mission-wise.

    Maybe at some point in the future spinning off a new branch with responsibility for the space mission would make sense. At this point in history it’s just adding a new bureaucracy to a mission already being accomplished just fine, and we did it to please a jingoistic moron and indulge his grade-school-level fantasy.

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  24. Teve says:

    @Slugger: LOL

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: I thought it looked like Shatner doing James Tiberius Kirk in his dotage (with hints of Denny Crane), but then I looked at the name tag and realized who it was.

    And was that an old-time car tail light image grafted onto the suit or is it original with Buzz Lightyear? Never watched Toy Story, so I have to ask.

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  26. gVOR08 says:

    @Mikey:

    That same thought came to me as well–separating the airplanes from the Army and creating a separate Air Force made sense because the missions are entirely different.

    A good case can be made that the AF should never have been separated from the Army in the first place, much less now splintering off a Space Force. It ensures that the primary field of battle will be the Defense budget.

    And the terms of the equipment split, that the AF gets all the jets and the Army can only have propeller driven A/C, was very 50s. (OK, 1947.) It did drive helicopter development, perhaps past reason, but it also gave the A-10 Warthog to the AF with a requirement to support the Army and Marines. The ground support mission seems to get the priority you’d expect from a service dominated by fighter jockeys

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    @sam:

    Well, they’re going to have to have some kind of camo. I suggest solid black with little twinkly things all over.

    Too late. I seem to be frequently reminded of a bit in A Bridge Too Far where a British paratrooper remarks to Col. Frost that the twigs and leaves in the camouflage netting on their helmets might be inappropriate on a balcony in the middle of the town of Arnhem. But it was probably better than the Navy’s blue camo. I have no idea against what background that’s supposed to hide anyone.

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  28. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There was a Space Gun.

    Bad ideas just keep coming back. But with Trump out, we may be spared a third generation

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  29. Kathy says:

    @Slugger:

    Maybe during the revolutionary war, it was important to capture the airports to keep the Royal Space Force from landing reinforcements.

    AS for Kzinti, you just throw carrots at them until they die of disgust.

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I still think these functions should have remained in the Air Force.

    Serious question: Why?

    To me, this sounds a lot like saying that the Air Force’s functions should have stayed in the Army. There is even less overlap between Space Force operations and the air-breathing Air Force than there was between Army ground forces and Army Air Corps operations.

    Space operations are unique, and important, and require a completely disjoint set of skills from the rest of the Air Force. Why would you want them to continue to be managed (and limited) by a set of general officers whose Divine Order has fighter pilots at the top, and non-pilots at the bottom?

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  31. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    The argument is essentially that for creating the Air Force: It’s a unique domain and we need a service whose sole mission is to think about spacepower. Under the Air Force, it was always a bastard stepchild and would always have been that.

    Sorry, Dr. Joyner — I didn’t see your reply before I posted mine. You were more concise.

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There are currently no such equivalents for the space force.

    Dude, satellites don’t fly themselves. Seriously. When they stop active maneuvering, we call them ‘debris’.

    Between launch operations, orbital management, and dealing with space junk, there is more than enough for a Space Force to concern itself with — even if you don’t also give them responsibility for development and acquisition of new space assets, or consider offensive and defensive operations in orbit. Keep in mind that the GPS constellation is the single most economically valuable artifact mankind has yet produced.

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  33. sam says:

    @gVOR08:

    But it was probably better than the Navy’s blue camo. I have no idea against what background that’s supposed to hide anyone.

    A couple of years ago hereabouts, we were talking about that. I asked if it was for hiding in the water. Someone said they call it the “man overboard” camo.

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  34. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    But there isn’t a whole lot of distinction between what’s below 100km and what’s above, mission-wise.

    Could you expand on that a little? I don’t see any similarities at all. Different propulsion, different systems, different missions, different threats, different operating environment… Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln…?

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  35. DrDaveT says:

    @gVOR08:

    And the terms of the equipment split, that the AF gets all the jets and the Army can only have propeller driven A/C, was very 50s.

    Yes, but you can’t blame that on the split — the Air Force didn’t make the Navy give up its fighters, after all. The Army should have its own fixed-wing pilots and close air support assets, because that’s a fundamentally ground force mission. Having a separate Air Force doesn’t prevent that; it’s a separate stupidity.

    I don’t want some fighter jock in charge of SATCOM systems, or ballistic missiles, or space-based ISR, or PNT assets. It’s bad enough having them in charge of bombers and tankers.

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  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Keep in mind that the GPS constellation is the single most economically valuable artifact mankind has yet produced.

    I agree. But it was created without a dedicated branch of the military. As for launches, hell, Elon Musk is launching spacecraft.

    As soon as you create a branch of the military the search for weapons systems begins. You know that first on the list will be satellite killers. Now, if we have credible evidence that hostile powers are acquiring that technology we have no choice but to respond. But Space Force Command is not going to want to wait. In due course satellite killers will need to be defended against by satellite killer killers. And once we (or yes, possibly the Russians or Chinese) militarize space it’s trillions of dollars out the door to buy deadly toys we all would be better off without.

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  37. JohnSF says:

    Can some please, please ensure that the formal motto of Space Force is “Klaatu barada nikto.”

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  38. JohnSF says:

    In light of recent events what about Cyber Force: “The enemy attacks; we relax.”

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  39. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    Perhaps the motto should be: “It’s a cookbook!”

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  40. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    “I live to serve!”

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  41. Mikey says:

    @DrDaveT: I guess I was trying to state something and didn’t do it very well. Maybe “concept-wise” would have been better? I don’t know.

    I guess to explain my thinking: Think of “aerospace” as a concept and then we have to decide when the “space” piece becomes both distinctive enough and significant enough to warrant spinning it off as its own full branch of the military. We’re not there yet. The Air Force was doing just fine handling the space piece of aerospace, from a military perspective. We don’t need a “U. S. Space Force.” All we’ve done is take something the Air Force was doing and pulled it out to give it its own bureaucracy. It’s entirely superfluous.

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  42. Mikey says:

    @gVOR08:

    The ground support mission seems to get the priority you’d expect from a service dominated by fighter jockeys

    I lived that mission for the first half of my Air Force career and yeah, pretty much. Things have improved in recent years due to the wars and consequent elevated visibility of close air support, but the Air Force is forever trying to kill the A-10 and give the CAS mission to other airframes that simply can’t perform it half as well for three times the cost.

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  43. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    “To serve mankind.”

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  44. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    “With some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

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  45. JohnSF says:

    @Mikey:
    It’s peculiar, really. Do all USAF star-track guys have to swear a secret blood-oath to the nether powers promising to kill off the A-10?

    Slight irrelevant anecdotage: will always recall back in the 90’s walking across some fields in Worcestershire, and a staggered foursome of A-10’s came over.
    I swear, any lower and I could have stood on a stepladder and repainted the undersides.
    Ugly bastards! LOL.

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  46. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    The Air Force was doing just fine handling the space piece of aerospace, from a military perspective.

    This may be where we disagree. I’ve been following space acquisition for a while, and I don’t think that TSAT and SBIRS and GPS OCX and Space Fence (etc.) qualify as “doing just fine”.

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  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: Exactly! And, @CSK: We’re about 10 years away from having a generation of people who don’t understand the joke, unless we’re there already. I was 10 when the episode first aired.

    ETA: actually 9. I turned 1o that summer.

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  48. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Yeah, I know. I was a little kid, too. But maybe the next generation–so to speak–can catch the original Twilight Zone on Youtube.

    It’s funny how well even people who were children at the time can remember TZ.

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  49. Teve says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Keep in mind that the GPS constellation is the single most economically valuable artifact mankind has yet produced.

    I’m opposed to what I see as naive space goals inspired by unrealistic SF. Let’s have colonies on Mars! Let’s put all our factories in space! Etc. But GPS is one of the greatest things ever made, and reinforces the role of government in building infrastructure and how it can create new markets and economic value multiples.

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  50. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Funny thing is, I never saw Twilight Zone. Can’t recall if it was ever broadcast in UK, but I never saw it if it was.
    I read the Damon Knight short story some time in the 7o’s.
    (Or 8o’s – memory begins to fade LOL ).

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  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m damned if I see what other mission they are to perform.

    G.P.S.

    And I say this as someone who has never used it, but knows a thousand or so who do.

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  52. @DrDaveT:

    Serious question: Why?

    Let me allow that I don’t have a super-strong opinion on this and can further allow that this is not my area of expertise.

    I think the simple answer is that I am not 100% convinced that the duplication of management and overall structure, with the commensurate cost, is worth it or necessary.

    Really, by the logic you provide, we ought to have a separate cyber force as well. I am not sure that is necessary.

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  53. JohnSF says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Sure, GPS is a critical part of modern infrastructure.
    As are some other satellite services.
    But how does a “Space Force” secure these assets more than a USAF Space Command plus a hefty SecDef boot up the arse of the Air Force leadership could achieve?

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  54. JohnSF says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    In all seriousness, a separate network security task force makes rather more sense.

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  55. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The Space Force is under the Department of the Air Force–so its much like the Marines and the Navy in that respect. Remember, we do have a United States Space Command–which is a Joint Command. Other Services have Space equities although the Air Force has the largest equity.

    Im ok with the way its structured being part of the Department of Air Force and not an actual separate entity–frankly, the best analogy is probably the Coast Guard (except its in DOD vice Treasury) which is a niche trade that would be an odd duck within the Navy.

    I have a young relative the recently enlisted in the Air Force and he applied and was accepted in to the Space Force. We are very proud of him.

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  56. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    I have a young relative the recently enlisted in the Air Force and he applied and was accepted in to the Space Force. We are very proud of him.

    I hope his legal guardians are pleased that he will also be a guardian.

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  57. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Really, by the logic you provide, we ought to have a separate cyber force as well.

    For offensive cyber operations, I think that case could be made. (Defensive cyber shouldn’t even be a separate thing from key performance parameters…) Just as a case could be made that a single joint special forces branch would be more efficient and effective than each Service having its own.

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  58. DrDaveT says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    The Space Force is under the Department of the Air Force–so its much like the Marines and the Navy in that respect.

    This is not necessarily an argument in favor of that arrangement. When there is competition for funding between the wet Navy and the Marines, the Marines generally lose, and not because they have the weaker case.

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  59. dazedandconfused says:

    Soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and…Guardian: Which term is the most appropriate prophylactic brand name?

    The poor bastards! I suppose it was either that or “spaceman”. So it goes…

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  60. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I still think these functions should have remained in the Air Force.

    Well, first, one could say that their is no air in space, so the idea of an AIR force just doesn’t apply. Since we seem to have broken up our fighting forces closely aligned to the medium in which they fight kinda makes sense.

    Still, I was hoping that space would not be militarized, but I’ve always been an optimist, continually having hopes dashed by conservatives. and now the facist trumpists as well.

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