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Special operations staffer joins Space Force

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In a first, an Air Force officer assigned to the U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) has been inducted into the Space Force.

Air Force Captain Santiago Duque-Ayala, a Field Ordering Officer (FOO) Program Manager, was chosen for lateral transfer to the U.S. military’s newest service. He is now a Space Force Acquisition Officer.

The Space Force is responsible for several capabilities and mission-sets, including navigation, orbital warfare, missile defense, satellite communications, electromagnetic operations, and GPS services.

As a Field Ordering Officer (FOO) Program Manager, the chief contracting officer responsible for training and assigning agents who purchase mission-essential items for U.S. troops, Duque-Ayala played an important role in Operation Octave Quartz, the repositioning of U.S. troops from Somalia to elsewhere.

Space Force Capt. Santiago Duque-Ayala posed for a photo after being inducted into Space Force in Stuttgart, Germany, Feb. 19. (Photo illustration by Captain Timothy Vaughan)

Describing his experience in SOCAFRICA, Duque-Ayala said in a press release that “it was a huge culture shock that forced me to change my mindset. It was a humbling experience that made me want to know more and rekindled my drive to be in the military. You get excited about things you don’t know, especially when it’s things you can be a part of. Either we all go together, or we keep going our separate ways, but at the end of the day there is nowhere but up.”

The Space Force is facing an uphill battle to better integrate itself in the DOD apparatus but also compete with other militaries with space aspirations.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Recently, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the Pentagon’s space enterprise is still not as well integrated with the other services and unified combatant commands as he would have liked. Such issues, however, are to be expected from a brand new service that is still filling up its ranks with officers and enlisted troops.

Russia and China, who recently announced their intentions to collaborate on the building of a joint space station on the Moon, are building capabilities to challenge the U.S. in the space domain. Their whole-country approach makes them that much more difficult adversaries as they are able to combine public and private forces for a common goal, whereas that’s not always the case in the U.S. and Europe.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and national security. He is a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School.