By Wes O’Donnell
Managing Editor of In Military, InCyberDefense and In Space News.
For the better part of six decades, our imaginations have been tempered by science fiction as to what a space force uniform should look like.
Perhaps it’s the clean black and gray lines of Star Wars’ Galactic Empire? Or maybe it’s the pajama-like onesies worn by members of Starfleet from Star Trek. A common theme that permeates the sci-fi militaries of the future often imagines a Navy-type structure.
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The space forces in pop culture are often comprised of “fleets” of warships.
Fictional capital ships have a familiar naval nomenclature like cruisers, destroyers and carriers. Our fictional space force members even have naval rank structures like ensign, commander and captain.
But in the real world, the domain of warfighting in space currently belongs to the now second-youngest military branch, the United States Air Force. Formerly the Air Force Space Command, the U.S. Space Force was officially declared the United States’ sixth branch of the military by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
This week, the U.S. Space Force officially unveiled the new Space Force uniforms, which instantly sparked a frenzy on Twitter.
The new Space Force uniforms look awfully familiar:
Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations, debuts the Space Force uniform. (Space Force)
For months, many servicemembers have been wondering how the Space Force will distinguish itself: A unique training base, education pipeline, rank structure, motto, patriotic song and, of course, a distinct uniform.
For the uniform, we now have an answer – the Space Force will go with the U.S. Army’s familiar Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniform with distinctive “U.S. Space Force” nametapes and custom unit patches.
Twitter was not amused…
Why are you wearing forest camo in space?
Were these uniforms not available: pic.twitter.com/NZa1Qu18BV
— Windthin ~ Rebel Scum & Snark Jedi???️??❄️ (@windthin) January 19, 2020
I know this is hard to understand, but on the left there is a picture of camouflage and on the right there is a picture of space. Study these carefully until you can see the difference. pic.twitter.com/7HhAeHRyrm
— JRehling (@JRehling) January 18, 2020
However, while social media was busy joking about the Space Force uniforms, top Space Force enlisted leaders are focusing on providing capabilities to warfighters.
Chief Master Sgt. John Bentivegna, senior noncommissioned officer for Combined Force Space Component Command and Space Operations Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., spoke to U.S. and Japanese service members Tuesday during a “Space Symposium” at Yokota, home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo.
According to reporting by Stars and Stripes, Bentivegna said, “We are trying to get that right [the uniforms] but what’s more important is the organizational structure and how we, as an operational service, provide capabilities to the warfighter.”
An Air Force officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told InMilitary “I understand that the Space Force won’t initially be operating in space, so it makes sense to outfit our people in uniforms that reflect the terrestrial environment. However, a distinct image is important, not just for recruiting, but necessary to step out of the shadow of the Air Force and truly be a unique branch.”
In the near future, Space Force officials will meet with President Trump to talk about logos, naming conventions and ranks for the new force. Since the President was a strong advocate for the Space Force’s creation, perhaps he will provide additional guidance on distinct uniform requirements for America’s newest military branch.
As a veteran, I understand the cost savings of not having to design and produce an entirely new uniform. Nevertheless, if the Space Force is going to emerge as a distinct military branch, it will need a decidedly space-looking uniform. It doesn’t have to be Starfleet’s pajama-like onesies, but it needs to be functional, comfortable and unique.
Until then, rest assured that the professionals in America’s newest branch are providing incredible air and space capabilities to our nation’s warfighters in any theater of operations.
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