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US Space Force leader visits UND

Commander learns what North Dakota can offer to new military service branch.

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General John “Jay” Raymond, Commander of the United States Space Command and Chief of Space Operations for the recently authorized 6th branch of the military, the United States Space Force, tours UND's Aerospace facilities with Associate Dean Elizabeth Bjerke, left, and Sen. Kevin Cramer Friday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. ⁠— The leader of the newest branch of the U.S. military says universities, such as UND, could be a critical research partner in the years to come.

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., toured UND's space studies program on Friday, Jan. 10, then spent time speaking to ROTC cadets and other UND aerospace students during a town hall meeting.

President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20 and, with it, came the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the country’s sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s the first new military service branch since the U.S. Air Force was created in 1947.

Friday’s visit was one of Raymond’s first public appearances since assuming the duties. During the meeting, Raymond said the research happening at UND will be critical for the Space Force going forward.

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“It’s a really critical and exciting time to be in the space business and, as I learned this morning here at the University of North Dakota, there’s a lot of great research going on,” Raymond said, noting the school is involved in big data and space studies. “If we can help future space officers, I think this school has a great opportunity and we have a great opportunity to work closely with those folks and do some research on topics that are of great importance.”

The Space Force will protect the country from a number of attacks, including satellite jamming, which can have an effect on communication across the country, to cyber attacks. The Space Force is under the Department of the Air Force, similar to the U.S. Marine Corps being a part of the Department of the Navy.

On Friday, Cramer, who sits on the Senate Armed Forces committee, recalled his reaction to the political challenge of creating a Space Force.

“I thought ‘wow, this is history in the making,’” Cramer said of the day the Space Force officially became a branch of the military. “The military and the intellectual and the academic assets of North Dakota are what, more than anything, motivated me to see the value and importance of the Space Force.”

Stefan Tomovic, a second-year master's student at UND, said, after hearing Raymond speak, he believes it is “good for the country to have a Space Force.”

"There are a lot of threats that we don't see or understand in space. But it's crucial to our daily lives,” he said. “Our bank accounts, our GPS -- we live off of it. We need it to survive. So protecting that, I think, is important. And with the Space Force, it provides that ability to protect us from attacks."

Tomovic noted there are opportunities for UND to provide research for the Space Force in the future.

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"We have the spacesuit lab and then we have UAS and then we also have a computer science department. So, all of that is what's part of the Space Force,” he said.

After addressing the media, Raymond and Cramer also spent time at the Cavalier Air Force Station on Friday. Raymond said the Cavalier Air Force Station operates a critical radar that conducts missile warning for the United States. The station also tracks objects that are in space, Raymond noted.

“Cavalier is a critical sensor in that network for the global defense of our nation,” he said. “It falls, today, under the Space Force.”

While the branch’s mission, which is to organize, train and equip space forces to protect the U.S. and allied interests, has been developed, Raymond noted there’s still other work to be done. Raymond is technically the first member of the Space Force. The general showed off his badge during the town hall meeting and chuckled at the fact that his was the very first security badge made for the new military branch.

Raymond said Friday things like what the personnel will call themselves (i.e. airmen for the Air Force) and what the uniforms will look like are still being discussed.

The Space Force will be stood up over the next 18 months.

While the launch of the U.S. Space Force propels the country into a new era, the idea isn’t exactly new.

In September 1982, the Air Force established the Air Force Space Command, with space operations as its primary mission. Cold War-era space operations focused on missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space surveillance and command and control for national leadership.

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Space-based capabilities related to GPS also were used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Air Force Space Command also provided extensive space-based support to the U.S. Central Command after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when the president directed military action against Afghanistan and Iraq.

Work has continued in various ways since then, eventually leading to the formation of the U.S. Space Force.

“The military has a long history in space,” Raymond said.

Raymond is no stranger to Grand Forks. In the 1980s, he was stationed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and met his wife who was a UND student at the time.

WDAY reporter Ken Chase contributed to this story.

011120.n.gfh.SpaceCommander2.jpg
General John “Jay” Raymond, Commander of the United States Space Command and Chief of Space Operations for the recently authorized 6th branch of the military, the United States Space Force, meets with Space Studies professor Dr. Pablo De Leon during a tour of UND's Aerospace facilities as Sen. Kevin Cramer listens Friday at UND. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

011120.n.gfh.SpaceCommander2.jpg
General John “Jay” Raymond, Commander of the United States Space Command and Chief of Space Operations for the recently authorized 6th branch of the military, the United States Space Force, meets with Space Studies professor Dr. Pablo De Leon during a tour of UND's Aerospace facilities as Sen. Kevin Cramer listens Friday at UND. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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