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Clear Space Force Station Maintains Missile Defense, Adds 'Domain Awareness' Role

U.S. Space Force

The commander of Clear Space Force Station says a new sign outside the main gate may be the only change the public will notice since the name of the facility formerly known as Clear Air Force Station was changed last week. But Lt. Col. Bill Hassey says the insignia of the newest branch of the military that’s emblazoned on the sign symbolizes a change in culture that’s under way at the installation.

Lt. Col. Bill Hassey says the mission of Clear Space Force Station remains the same as when it was an Air Force installation: scanning the horizon for incoming enemy missiles and if detected alerting the operators of the nation’s missile-defense system.

“We’re still going to be doing missile warning, missile defense and space domain awareness,” Hassey said in an interview Friday.

The space domain includes satellites in orbit. Maj. David Kim is operations director for the 13th Space Warning Squadron at Clear. And he says the unit uses an older but upgraded radar and a space-based infrared-sensor system to detect and warn of incoming missiles. He says the advanced Long Range Discrimination Radar at Clear isn’t yet available for that purpose, because the $1.5 billion system is not yet fully operational.

“We’re radiating 24/7 to pick up any adversarial threats and pass that information along our chain of command so that they can make a determination on whether or not those threats are real,” Kim said.

Hassey says the Space Force wants to keep its personnel focused on that ultimate higher ground and equip and train them to operate in what’s become an increasingly contentious frontier. It’s part of what he says is a change in culture that’s under way at Clear and throughout the Space Force.

“It’s about being lean and agile, to adjust to the current competitive environment that we face in the space realm,” he said. “And we are focused solely on that.”

Hassey commands both the installation and the 13th Space Warning Squadron. And he and Kim both have transferred from the Air Force to Space Force. He says Clear has about a dozen Space Force servicemembers, who’re referred to as “guardians.” And he says there’s a lot of affinity still between the two services, because the new organization grew out of the old one, and because the Space Force still falls under the Air Force’s organization chart.

Credit U.S. Space Force
The Space Force's insignia includes the distinctive arrowhead-shaped "vector."

“Like the Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy, we are under the Department of the Air Force,” he said.

Hassey says Space Force personnel will continue to wear the basic Air Force-issued camo-style uniform. But they’ve got different insignia, including the so-called “vector” logo that looks like an arrowhead pointed upward, into the cosmos. And there are different name and service tapes.

“We have different name tapes, and it says “U.S. Space Force” on them,” he said. “And they are in a lighter blue, so they are distinct.”

Right now, the only place Alaskans are likely to see those uniforms is around Clear, because Hassey says as far as he knows that’s the only military installation in the state that’s scheduled to be redesignated as a Space Force base.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.