An Oklahoma native who commanded the U.S. Air Force Space Command has retired after 38 years of service. Oklahoma native Gen. William Shelton retires as commander of Air Force Space Command, Gen. William Shelton vividly remembers his parents waking him up early in the morning to watch TV coverage of the Mercury and Gemini space missions. Decades later, Shelton said seeing those early NASA missions helped foster his interests in space and flying that would eventually lead him to a career with the U.S. Air Force. Shelton, an Oklahoma native, retired this month from his position as commander of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. Shelton was born in Tulsa and graduated from Moore High School in 1972. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976 with a Bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering. Before being named commander of the Air Force Space Command in 2011, Shelton served in several assignments, including research and development testing, space operations and staff work. Although he spent part of his childhood in the shadow of Tinker Air Force Base, Shelton said most of his exposure to aviation came at Will Rogers World Airport, where he learned to fly “every single Piper engine ever made.” Living in Moore gave him advantages that would help him later on, Shelton said. He had good math and science teachers who helped kindle his interest in those subjects. The curriculum at the Air Force Academy leans heavily toward math and science, so it’s important that cadets be proficient in those areas, he said. “If you’re a slouch in one of those subjects, you’re not going to make it,” he said.
The Air Force Space Command is responsible for running the U.S. Department of Defense’s space operations, including launching and operating American military satellites. That mission led to one of the biggest challenges of Shelton’s career, he said. That challenge came in 2008, when the command was faced with the decision to shoot down one of its own satellites. The satellite was launched in 2006, and its electrical systems failed immediately after it was in orbit. Officials were concerned the satellite would come crashing to earth, possibly releasing a cloud of toxic fuel. Because the earth’s surface is mostly water, odds are that the satellite would have crashed into the ocean, if it crashed at all, Shelton said. But in the end, officials decided to shoot the satellite down. “You just don’t want to take a chance,” he said. More recently, the command has been faced with a different set of challenges in the form of budget cuts. The command slashed about $1 billion from its annual budget in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years combined. Those cuts have forced officials to make difficult decisions, he said. Although the command’s readiness has been affected, it’s still able to fulfill its mission, he said. “I wish I left it in better shape financially; You don’t get to choose your timing Viagra 100mg or your circumstances.” Shelton said. Air Force Space Command got a new leader, but not a new face, when Gen. John Hyten took command Aug. 15. “It’s a dream job,” he said. The general, who replaced Gen. William Shelton, has served as the top deputy for the Peterson Air Force Base command since 2012. He also had a stint as boss of the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base. Hyten is bringing new rules.
In his speech at the change-of-command ceremony, Hyten laid out what he called two red lines that the command’s 40,000 employees and airmen will cross at their peril. “I can handle any news that comes through my door except old news,” Hyten told a crowd of dignitaries, airmen and brass. The general said he looks forward to dealing with problems as they come up, and pledged to get them fixed. But, if you sweep something under the rug, Hyten says you’ll pay. Hyten’s second rule: Treat airmen with respect. “I have no patience for those who don’t treat airmen with respect,” he said. “They have no place in the Air Force.”
The general welcomed more than 60 family members and friends to the ceremony, which marked the biggest accomplishment of his 33-year career.Hyten joined the Air Force in 1981 after graduating from Harvard University. Over three decades, he proved to be a leading thinker in space operations and Air Force computer systems. In addition to squadron and wing commands, Hyten has served as the Air Force’s head satellite buyer and served as Space Command’s director of requirements, which saw him determine what future space assets would be needed. He’s also been one of the Air Force’s leading writers on the possibility of warfare in orbit. Warfare in space is a growing concern for the command, with China and Russia possessing proven anti-satellite missiles and other powers, including North Korea and Iran, on the verge of gaining that technology. The threat to space comes as the military is increasingly reliant on satellites for communication, surveillance and navigation. Air Force Chief Gen. Mark Welsh talked about that reliance during the ceremony to install Hyten. “The simple truth is that without Air Force Space Command airmen and the capabilities they supply, we lose,” Welsh said.
Shelton left the command with a blueprint to protect satellites on orbit, on the theory that America’s satellites are too easily threatened. He pioneered a drive to make satellites cheaper, lighter and more numerous. If one major satellite gets hit, he said, America’s military capability could be seriously degraded. After handing command to Hyten, Shelton talked about the importance of space to the country’s past and future. He recalled the 1969 Apollo 11 landing and man’s first footsteps on the moon. “My fervent hope is we will again find that big idea that will capture the imagination of young and old,” he said,
SpaceTravel.com, Aug 23, 2014
The Oklahoman, Aug 24, 2014
The Washington Times, Aug 24, 2014