The Spirit of Attack Transcends Domains

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Christopher A. Fernengel
  • 4th Space Control Squadron
Following this past year as commander of the mighty Warhawks of the 4th Space Control Squadron and reflecting upon my previous assignment as the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron Operations Officer, two items become crystal clear when considering Space Mission Task Force. These two elements – mindset and development – create the necessary environment for warfighters to win current and future engagements.

These elements provide a deliberate path towards developing the right mindset for today’s warrior, regardless of air, space, cyber, land, or sea domains, which will increase a unit’s combat effectiveness and lethality.

The first element is mindset. Author Bruce Gordon’s excellent book, “Spirit of Attack,” describes both personal and shared stories of fighter pilots during various conflicts.

However, the spirit of attack was first captured by a German Luftwaffe fighter pilot.

"Only the spirit of attack, born in a brave heart, will bring success to any fighter aircraft [weapon system], no matter how highly developed it may be," said Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland, a World War II Ace.

We believe this spirit transcends the air domain, and provides the lens that all warfighters need to utilize to win current and future engagements.

Technology alone doesn’t win wars. At premiere training events like Red Flag and Weapons School Advanced Integration, thinking adversaries such as the 527th SAS, act as a “sparring partner,” to develop our crewmembers into optimizing our weapons system.

The attitude is simple: every time we step to our weapon system, we need to have the mindset of us walking into a room with our adversary and only one of us is walking out. We must be prepared to take the offensive and win.

We may not be take fire like a combat aircraft, however, our weapon system, when operated by a team of highly-trained professionals will directly enable the protection of good guys and simultaneously enable friendly forces to eliminate enemy threats.

Our recent fallen hero, Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, and his warrior team embody this spirit of attack. They knew every day they stepped to their “jet,” they must be ready for the enemy because the merciless enemy is waiting, ready for them.

Bieren and his team’s steadfast example abroad demands our relentless preparedness in garrison. When we are called upon, we must be ready to show this same spirit.

The second element is development. We must build our people for future challenges. This starts by tracking experience levels of space control professionals, which is a critical element for the strategic outlook of the mission area.

However, the need is not limited to space control.

First, we must develop a robust upgrade program to grow operators into instructors, evaluators, mission planners, tacticians and weapons officers.

Second, we must identify and recognize highly experienced personnel. In the 4th SPCS, we call these individuals DEMONS. The title is reserved for highly experienced, credible space control professionals across 14 different Air Force specialty codes. These warfighters represent the top 20 percent of unit personnel.

Each member receives a patch representing the credibility and experience of those members. Although not everyone earns DEMONS status, it serves as a distinguishable milestone to strive to achieve.

Finally, we must grow a capable cadre with a depth of experience by deliberately vectoring those within the Space Control enterprise. This can be accomplished at all career stages, to include the tactical (16th SPCS, 527th SAS, 25th Space Range Squadron, 17th Test Squadron), operational (National Space Defense Center, Joint Space Operations Center), or strategic (Joint Staff/J39, Combatant Command/J39, AF Space Command) levels.

The DEMONS and Spirit of Attack mindset are intended to foster a culture where we push ourselves and one another to work as a team towards constant improvement in all facets of our lives. Regardless of rank or experience we need to challenge and empower our people to step up, lead, and compete on an everyday basis.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” Proverbs 27:17.

Healthy, friendly competition must reside at every level of the organization in order to reach our potential.

Our team of operators, maintainers, engineers, security forces and support personnel continue to sharpen those around them in their pursuit of excellence.

As Airmen, we must embrace the winning mentality of NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi.

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit,” said Lombardi.

We must and will win. Our Nation demands it.
“CAW CAW!!!!”

We seek to sweat in training exercises so that later, we don’t bleed in combat.