Words from Gen. Hyten: Leader, prophet and warfighter

April 18, 2016  - By
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There were well over 100 presentations and speeches given at the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week. However, I only want to speak about one of them briefly. While there were many presentations that were absolutely newsworthy, one presenter had something special and significant to say about the future of space and warfare.

Gen. John Hyten is generally known for his role as the Commander of Air Force Space Command. In truth, he wears many more hats — official and unofficial. Fortunately, his role as the commander of AFSPC works perfectly for our analysis.

Commander AFSPC – Gen. John Hyten (Courtesy of the USAF)

Commander AFSPC – Gen. John Hyten (Courtesy of the USAF)

I have known and respected John Hyten for more than 20 years and have seen him grow and mature in his role as leader, mentor and prophet in all things space. He has grown in his ability to speak his mind in a clear and cogent fashion. This has not always been the case, and he and I butted heads for about 30 seconds one day years ago, with the result that I respect him now more than ever.

John Hyten is and has always been an ardent supporter of GPS not only for the military and joint warfighter but also as a free gift to the world, of incalculable value, courtesy of the United States Air Force.

For those who did not notice, let me say that Gen. John Hyten’s Space Symposium Keynote Address was given without him looking at one note. He barely glanced at his slides or his video — all because John Hyten is not only clear and certain with his message, but he is passionate in his beliefs and he speaks from knowledge and experience as well as from the heart. John Hyten lives and breathes “space” as a domain and as a vision.

Now we get to the prophet part of John Hyten. John is not only an articulate spokesman for space, cyber-space and airmen, he is a true visionary for what is to come. He thinks problems through and is not afraid to question conventional wisdom when it is not truly wisdom. John is not afraid to take on the establishment when conventional thinking puts our warfighters in harm’s way.

In his presentation, John makes a curious and I think debatable distinction. He says:

“…a lot of people think that I’m a warfighter. I’m not; I’m with the organize, train and equip command. The warfighter is Lieutenant Gen. David Buck. He works for the Commander of Strategic Command — that’s where we do operations. My job in Air Force Space Command is to lead the 36,000 men and women — organize, train and equip forces so I can present forces to Gen. Buck — so he can actually do the missions he needs to do. That’s the way it works.”

So now the general and I are going to butt heads gently once again. Gen. Hyten and his organize, train and equip forces are warfighters in their own right. After all, the first tenet of organize, train and equip is “train like you fight.” And interestingly, this is the very point John makes in his insightful and prophetic presentation. We have undoubtedly the best warfighters in the world, bar none, but they and the environment they fight in and through can be better. John makes the point that he is not a space warfighter bringing space to the fight, but a warfighter bringing to bear all the forces and assets that space enables, whether they originate there or merely pass into, through and out of that venerable, heretofore peaceful domain.

John makes the point that we don’t want to go to war in space, but if we must, we will prevail. To do so, we must think in a multi-domain fashion. We must have a space enterprise vision and execute Battle Management Command and Control, all without regard to how the threat is mitigated and ultimately defeated. To ultimately succeed, it is paramount we accomplish this first in training long before it happens on the battlefield, wherever that may be. To train a warfighter, you must first be a warfighter.

So yes, Gen. John Hyten is a warfighter, a visionary, and a prophet when necessary. But the question still remains: Does the corporate Air Force truly recognize his abilities and his prescience? Will he be regarded as Joseph, the cupbearer or the baker? Only time will tell. Regardless, Gen John Hyten is a leader and a valuable asset to this nation. We have been blessed to have him as the Commander of Air Force Space Command and as the steward of GPS.

Until next time, happy navigating. Remember, GPS is brought to you free courtesy of the U.S. Air Force and all the warfighters at Air Force Space Command.

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About the Author:


Don Jewell served 30 years in the United States Air Force, as an aviator and a space subject-matter expert. Don’s involvement with GPS and other critical space systems began with their inception, either as a test system evaluator or user. He served two command assignments at Schriever AFB, the home of GPS, and retired as Deputy Chief Scientist for Air Force Space Command. Don also served as a Politico Military Affairs Officer during the Reagan administration, working with 32 foreign embassies and serving as a Foreign Disclosure Officer making critical export control decisions concerning sophisticated military hardware and software. After retiring from the USAF, Don served seven years as the senior space marketer and subject-matter expert for two of the largest government contractors dealing in space software and hardware. Don currently serves on two independent GPS review teams he helped found, and on three independent assessment teams at the Institute for Defense Analyses, dealing with critical issues for the U.S. government. Don has served on numerous Air Force and Defense Scientific Advisory Boards. He writes and speaks extensively on technical issues concerning the U.S. government. Don earned his Bachelor’s degree and MBA; the Ph.D. is in progress.

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