• In this image from December 2020, former Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Barbara Barrett, walks with Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Brown, before a ceremony unveiling the newly decorated Space Force hallway at the Pentagon. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force
     In this image from December 2020, former Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Barbara Barrett, walks with Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Brown, before a ceremony unveiling the newly decorated Space Force hallway at the Pentagon. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force
  • Lt. Gen. Nina M. Armagno, USSF, director of staff of the Office of the Chief of Space Operations of the U.S. Space Force, delivers a keynote address at West 2021 on Wednesday celebrating AFCEA's 8th annual Women's Appreciation event.
     Lt. Gen. Nina M. Armagno, USSF, director of staff of the Office of the Chief of Space Operations of the U.S. Space Force, delivers a keynote address at West 2021 on Wednesday celebrating AFCEA's 8th annual Women's Appreciation event.

U.S. Space Force to Welcome This Week First Round of Guardians from Sister Services

June 30, 2021
By Sandra Jontz and Kimberly Underwood
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Top USSF leader honors women during annual AFCEA Women's Appreciation event at West 2021.


The U.S. Space Force (USSF) this week plans to announce the first transfer to its ranks of 50 sister-service members who are leaving the Army, Navy and Marine Corps to become Space Force guardians, said Lt. Gen. Nina M. Armagno, USSF, director of staff of the Office of the Chief of Space Operations of the Space Force

“It’s important to know that as we grow, we’re bringing over missions, systems and personnel from our sister services, and this week, we’re going to announce the first 50 interservice transfers,” she said during an interview this week.  

Between May and September 2020, 88 people comprised the then-nascent Space Force—86 of whom were cadets from the Air Force Academy. Since September 2020, the service has been growing organically and by transferring personnel from the Air Force as leaders build the all-digital service. “Space … is the only operational domain where our operators are not there,” said Armagno, who has a 32-year career with the Air Force before her migration to the Space Force a year ago. “We experience our domain through data, and it’s so important to create a digital service where we can capitalize on understanding the data, moving it faster and being better trained.” 

A digital engineering ecosystem in development at the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles will further enhance how the Space Force builds, tests, deploys and sustains all it creates, said Armagno, the only person to have commanded both USAF launch wings and the Space Force’s first female general officer. 

Leveraging that pioneering distinction, Armagno also shared details of her notable career, an inspirational personal journey and lessons learned during her keynote address during the AFCEA Women’s Appreciation event at the West 2021 conference

Her address began with praise for her educator parents, who always inquired about the details of Armagno’s and her two younger brothers’ progress at school. “If you think about what they were doing, they were teaching us accountability, honesty and excellence from an early age and more than anything, my parents reinforced in all of us that you can do or be anything you want to be in this world — as long as you set your sights on it and work hard.” 

Armagno set her career sights on becoming an astronaut and heeded early on the advice of an Air Force Academy adviser to “make yourself indispensable,” she said during her pre-recorded keynote showcased during the virtual conference. “I became an instructor and evaluator. I volunteered for additional duties. I volunteered anytime for anything that was going on.” 

And she’s been instrumental in helping create a gender-neutral service, evidenced by an example such as keeping gendered terms out of its culture. This week, Armagno told those viewing the Women’s Appreciation event that women don’t need to “be one of the boys” or shrug off bad behavior to succeed. “I tell all of the young women watching today: You don't have to put up with any of that. Not the jokes, not the comments, certainly not being talked down to or being made to feel less than you are because you're a woman.” 

Throughout her career, Armagno identified good leaders and has worked to emulated them throughout her career. “Culture is a leader’s responsibility and it's one that I personally take very seriously. 

“You have to respect people enough to want to help them improve and help them thrive,” she said during the keynote. “If you sugarcoat things or if you avoid those tough conversations, that's really not leadership. That's certainly not trying to help people grow and thrive in the environment you create.” 

The environment that she and others are working to create as the Space Force grows to an anticipated 16,000 guardians—the term its service personnel are called—over the next few years centers on a strong, diverse and inclusive culture. The service’s first human capital strategy, scheduled to be released in August, sets the foundation for a culture “where every person is heard, every person is respected; [where] there is no tolerance for racism, discrimination, or extremist behaviors of any kind,” she said during the interview. “We want to and have been focused on recruiting and retaining diversity, and not just diversity in gender or race or age. It’s really diversity of thought, experience, skill sets—we believe that diverse teams are more innovative, better problem solvers, less prone to group-think types of situations.”  

Additionally, many future guardians will need skills in the traditional STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics — disciplines to fill the narrow career fields of space operators, intelligence, cyber, communications, acquisition, engineering and software coding, Armagno said, but also versed in creativity and problem-solving. Guardians of future will need to use both sides of brain, she added, “with boldness and energy to find solutions to complex problems.” 

For those seeking careers in the Space Force, the sky is not the limit, she said — quoting the branch’s slogan and the sign in the service’s Pentagon hallway that Armagno maintains has surpassed that of the U.S. Marine Corps as the “coolest.” 

“My hope is that for every young soldier, sailor, airman Marine and guardian, that you'll be completely accepted for who you are, for what you bring to the table, for your immense skill set and for your hard work. And I really hope that you are shown a path to success, and that you are thriving in a healthy environment in which you work. 

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Each year for the past eight years, AFCEA has presented its Women's Appreciation Award during the West conference, selecting from an excellent slate of candidates. This award is given to women and men who have gone above and beyond to further the careers of women, including supporting women's work endeavors, mentoring women, promoting STEM scholarships, advocating on the behalf of women for promotion and actively developing shared opportunities for women in the workplace. 

Women’s Appreciation Award 2021 – WEST 2021 

Congratulations to all!  

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