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Amid a global pandemic, the Space Force is still working to get off the ground

All things considered, the deadly pandemic shutting down non-essential daily life in cities around the country has not thrown the Space Force too off track, as leaders continue standing up the sixth military service.

So far, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond told Military Times on Friday, the biggest hold-up has been officially transitioning the service’s first enlisted member, who will be followed by 16,000 other Air Force personnel by the end of the year.

“We are going to swear Chief Master Sgt. Towberman into the Space Force,” Raymond said. “The challenge is, he’s in Colorado and I’m here.”

Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, currently Air Force Space Command’s top enlisted airmen, was tapped to be the second member of the Space Force back in February, but restrictions on non-essential travel have postponed his planned spring swearing-in ceremony.

Towberman and thousands of other would-be Space Force personnel are based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, where nearby Colorado Springs is under a shelter-in-place order. There have been three cases of COVID-19 among the 16,000 airmen under his command, Raymond said.

Much of the command has been teleworking, while mission essential personnel are kept separated throughout work spaces amid enhanced disinfecting measures.

“We’ve taken active measures to make sure we can protect and defend all of those capabilities,” Raymond said of his command’s GPS, communications, weather and missile warning missions.

They are still on schedule to transition from the Air Force to Space Force by the end of this year, he said, but the outbreak has altered more than plans to official welcome his senior enlisted adviser into the service.

It was expected that the Space Force would unveil some organizational milestones at next week’s Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, among them, decisions on insignia, a term for its troops and uniforms.

“They have not been postponed,” Raymond said of those announcements, hinting that they would still come next week. “We are moving out at full speed, and I’m really, really pleased with the progress we’re making on establishing the Space Force.”

Over 700 crowdsourced suggestions came in for the official Space Force member term, though Raymond told reporters in February that it would definitely not be “spacemen.”

“We’ve got the naming of our space professionals,” he said.

There are also plans to rename several space-center Air Force bases to Space Force bases, among them Patrick in Florida, as well as Peterson and Schriever in Colorado.

New Mexico’s Area 51 is not on the list, however, Raymond confirmed.

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