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'First in Space' Soldiers provide space-based services and products

Army Space Support Team 1 and the 10th Mountain Division Space Support Element pose for a group photo following Warfighter Exercise 18 in October.

Army Space Support Team 1 and the 10th Mountain Division Space Support Element pose for a group photo following Warfighter Exercise 18 in October. (U.S. Army photo)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado -- -- "First in Space" is a common phrase at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. This phrase is a well-earned source of pride that emphasizes the Army's role in the first successful U.S. satellite launch in 1958.

As time, warfare, technologies and operational demands continue and increase, a small group of combat-tested, combat-ready Army space professionals stand relevant and ready ... providing space-based products and services to military formations and civilian agencies worldwide.

These Soldiers form the Army Space Support Teams -- the deployable space operations providers of the U.S. Army. Residing within all three components of the Army (active, Reserve and National Guard), these Soldiers provide space-based products and services, while simultaneously seeking and applying new tactics, techniques and procedures across all five areas of space support to operations -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR; missile warning; environmental monitoring; satellite communications; and positioning, navigation and timing, or PNT.

According to Maj. Eddie Gorbett, commander, 2nd Space Company, the ARSST was officially activated, Jan. 1, 1995, and teams began deploying to the field to provide space support to operations.

"Army Space Support Teams were present during the combat operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, providing space support to operations, missile attack warning, and information operations support to commanders in the U.S. Central Command area of operations," Gorbett said. "Since that time, I would estimate that we have been integrated into higher echelon staffs more than 200 times. In the last year, we have supported more than 16 exercises for every geographic combatant command except U.S. Africa Command."

Today, an ARRST is a six-Soldier analysis team, comprising two officers and four enlisted Soldiers, each having a unique space-related skill. ARSSTs exist within SMDC's 1st Space Brigade in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

They provide situational awareness of space capabilities, space assets, space products and their impact on operations. Teams integrate with divisions, corps, Joint Task Force, Marine Expeditionary Force, Theater Sustainment Command, and Army Service Component Command headquarters.

"It doesn't matter what month it is, our teams are always forward deployed bringing space capabilities to the Warfighter," said Gorbett. "It's a pretty neat mission set. As we continue to progress along into 2020, I really believe the Army Space Support Teams will become more and more viable as technology improves. Space domain is contested and it's not going away."

Their mission is "to deploy globally to execute planning, coordination, integration and synchronization of space support to operations, space situational awareness, and special technical operations/alternative compensatory control measures in support of military and civilian operations."

With more than 70 percent of the Army's key weapons and equipment relying on space-based service or capability, ARSSTs are becoming more and more relied upon.

Col. Richard Zellmann, commander, 1st Space Brigade, agrees ARSSTs have important missions that continue to evolve.

"It used to be that space was uncontested. It was assumed that it would always be there," Zellmann explained. "Even then, we had Army Space Support Teams to take the high tech gadgetry the Air Force put into orbit and translate the data received into capabilities for the Warfighter on the ground."

"I think our predecessor in this job, retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Story, used the buzz phrase 'space to mud,' because the Air Force really understands the gadgetry they have on orbit but not really how the Army fights," he continued. "The members of the Army Space Support Teams were people who grew up in different branches in the Army. They understood how the Army fought. And then we sent them to school to understand what the Air Force had purchased for space. Put those two things together, and that's kind of the genesis of the Army Space Support Team."

Zellmann said the ARSSTs were originally the translators. In other words they would take the technical information and translate it into the capability to help the Warfighters on the ground.

"It was all about making us fight better. It was making us more efficient. But it really wasn't about countering what the adversary had or protecting what we had, because it wasn't contested," he said.

"Today, space is contested, and we still have the same force structure at the division, the corps, the Army," said Zellmann. "We have three to five people depending on the level you're at, and those people have to manage current operations, future operations, plans, and they have to do that 24/7. At best there are five people who have to cover down on three different time horizons 24/7. They just don't have the capacity."

In the present, Zellman explained that ARSSTs are an additional capacity that can be attached to a division, corps or Army level staff to help win in that contested space environment.

"Originally the mission was more about making us better. Today it is more about understanding what the adversary has that can take away space and what we have in our formations at the Army level that depends on space," he said. "Then we have to understand and work through the military decision making process -- figure out what we think is going to happen in this conflict, where do we think the various warfighting functions in the Army are going to have difficulty, and how can we help them out. And then conversely, how do we go after the adversary's space dependence and take it out so we that we have the advantage."

Zellmann said the ARSSTs are unique as they reside in all three Army components.

- Six ARSSTs are in the active component
- 10 ARSSTs are in the Reserve component
- 12 are in the National Guard

"We have to use them all. All of them have readiness targets today. All three components have to have a certain number of teams ready to deploy in order to meet the demands of the various operational plans that are out there," Zellman explained.

"All three components are training within 100 yards of each other," Zellmann continued. "That's very beneficial as a force because we all have the same standard across the board. You won't be able to tell downrange whether that is an active team, a reserve team or a National Guard team, because we are all trained at the same level by the same school and same people."

The synergy from the proximity is beneficial, according to Zellman, paying dividends for readiness across the armed forces.

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