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Published:June 27th, 2006 22:42 EST
Former astronaut takes command of Air Force Space Command by Capt. Karim Ratey

Former astronaut takes command of Air Force Space Command by Capt. Karim Ratey

By SOP newswire

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN)  -- Gen. Kevin P. Chilton assumed command of Air Force Space Command in a ceremony here June 26, presided over by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

Current and former national defense leaders, active and retired senior officers, community leaders and active-duty servicemembers gathered at the parade field here to welcome AFSPC's newest commander. He succeeded Gen. Lance W. Lord, who retired April 1.

General Chilton is the first astronaut to earn a fourth star. He pinned on the rank of general in a promotion ceremony the morning of his assumption of command.

In his speech, General Moseley illustrated General Chilton's capabilities to lead the command.

"There is no one better prepared to lead Air Force Space Command today than General Kevin "Chili" Chilton. Chili, you're a great commander, a great Airman, a great leader, a great astronaut -- you know air and space power first hand. You understand the needs, the nuances of command, and you know the challenges ahead of us as an air and space force," General Moseley said.

General Chilton said he was excited and humbled to lead a "fantastic team" of total force military, civilian and contractors who deliver Air Force space capabilities for the defense of the nation.

"This command really is unique compared to every other major command, in my opinion," said General Chilton. "I'm talking about the unique fact that every operational unit of this command is CHOP'd (change of operational control) to our nation's combatant commander for space (U.S. Strategic Command). We are in the fight, 24-7, 365 days a year."

General Chilton spoke briefly about upgrading the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles, prompt global strike, responsive space capabilities and bringing improved situational awareness and command-and-control tools to teammates who deliver space capabilities to the fight.

He also spoke about AFSPC assets being an "invisible force."

The planet's most powerful strategic deterrent, the ICBM, exists out of sight, below the ground. The bits and bytes that transmit weather, warning, communications and navigation are transmitted through the ether to the end user, and the satellites are out of sight, but not out of mind, General Chilton said.

"To tell you the truth, I kind of like the idea of being invisible and powerful…and that is exactly what you are," General Chilton said to the men and women of AFSPC. "You are the power behind this great force."

General Chilton said his commitment will be to remain focused on organizing, training and equipping the command to provide the asymmetric advantage Airmen bring to today's fight.

The general is a 1976 distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a command astronaut pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours.

General Chilton joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1987. At NASA he flew three space shuttle missions on Space Shuttles Atlantis and Endeavor and served as the deputy program manager for operations for the International Space Station program.

He now leads nearly 40,000 space and missile professionals who provide combat forces and capabilities to USSTRATCOM and North American Aerospace Defense Command. General Chilton is responsible for the development, acquisition and operation of the Air Force's space and missile systems.

SOURCE:  U.S. Air Force