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STARCOM Launches Guardian Support Program
by U.S. Space Force Ethan Johnson
Space Training and Readiness Command
January 16, 2023

A U.S. Space Force Guardian’s first permanent change of duty station should be an exciting time in their career, but that excitement is often followed by anxiety and an overwhelming number of changes. This is especially true for our youngest Guardians, ages 18-24.

That is where the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) pilot Guardian Support Program aims to help. Modeled after the United States Air Force Academy’s Cadet Sponsor program and Tinker’s Home Away from Home program, the Guardian Support Program aims to build connectedness with Guardians by taking a holistic approach focused on quality of life.

USSF Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond congratulates newly graduated Guardians and their families after a basic military training graduation ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas on June 23, 2022. The ceremony marked a milestone as the first BMT graduation to include all-Guardian flights, taught by Guardian military training instructors, using Space Force specific curriculum. (U.S. Space Force photo by Ethan Johnson)
USSF Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond congratulates newly graduated Guardians and their families after a basic military training graduation ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas on June 23, 2022. The ceremony marked a milestone as the first BMT graduation to include all-Guardian flights, taught by Guardian military training instructors, using Space Force specific curriculum. (U.S. Space Force photo by Ethan Johnson, Space Training and Readiness Command)

“The intent of the Guardian Support Program is to help shape Space Force culture by focusing on our core value ‘Connection’ and ensuring our youngest Guardians have everything they need to be successful as they embark on this new career and amazing journey,” said Barbara Bratton, a member of the GSP pilot team. “We hope that by building a connection with our youngest guardians, we will be able to provide them with a whole host of support for any of the problems they may face.”

“We want to build a connection-focused community that can help young Guardians with the struggles of adjusting at their first duty station,” said Daisy Seballes, a member of the Guardian Support Program pilot team. “Not necessarily space-force-specific questions, but more along the lines of how do I navigate the world around me.”

Through the pilot program, local community members volunteer to be “supporters” for an assigned Guardian. Each supporter will attend an hour-long in-person or virtual training session where they will be briefed by the chaplain’s office, Military and Family Life Consultants, and a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response representative. During this training, the GSP pilot team will also review the supporter’s guidebook and answer any questions they may have.

“We want to give our supporters as many tools and resources as possible so that they have ideas of things to do with their Guardians and ways they can reach out for help if their Guardian needs it. We want Guardians to know they have someone they can trust to help guide them in the right direction,” said Bratton.

After completing the required training, GSP supporters commit to hosting a Guardian and provide a safe and welcoming environment with opportunities for home cooked meals and inclusion in events and activities throughout the year.

A U.S. Space Force Guardian hugs a family member after graduating from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas on June 23, 2022. The ceremony marked a milestone as the first BMT graduation to include all-Guardian flights, taught by Guardian military training instructors, using Space Force specific curriculum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Miriam Thurber)
A U.S. Space Force Guardian hugs a family member after graduating from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas on June 23, 2022. The ceremony marked a milestone as the first BMT graduation to include all-Guardian flights, taught by Guardian military training instructors, using Space Force specific curriculum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Miriam Thurber)

Guardians voluntarily participate in the pilot program and will be selected as they approach graduation from initial skills training in February at Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA. Their first duty station must be in the Colorado Springs area at either Schriever or Peterson Space Force Base. New Guardians who have already graduated from initial skills training and arrived at their first duty station are not eligible to participate in the program at this time.

Once all Guardian participants have been identified, the GSP pilot team will match them to their supporters living locally in the Colorado Springs area.

“The matching process begins with forms both supporters and Guardians will complete. The forms ask questions like, what are your interests, what is your home state, what are your family’s top three sports and/or hobbies, gender preferences, etc.,” said Seballes. “If one prefers to be outside hiking and snowboarding and the other prefers to stay inside watching movies, they might not be the best fit for each other. We want to make sure we find something in common that they both love and enjoy and can instantly form a connection over.”

When the Guardian arrives at their first duty station the Squadron commander will be notified that the Guardian is a volunteer participant and will be given information on how the program will work and the contact information for the pilot team should they need anything.

The GSP pilot team plans to host numerous events throughout the duration of the pilot so that they can bring as many program participants together as possible.

“Being such a small and close-knit force, we have a great opportunity to build connection not only between a Guardian and their supporter but among Guardian participants so that they can create their own community and go out and do things together,” said Seballes.

As the pilot progresses, the GSP pilot team will check in with Guardians and supporters periodically to see how things are going and offer any assistance if needed. For now, the one-year pilot program is operating solely using volunteers. There’s hope that if successful, the pilot may evolve into a broader program within the United States Space Force.

“If we can make one Guardian feel not isolated and feel like they can reach out to someone if they need help, then this pilot will be a success,” said Bratton.

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Minor editing without impacting facts.

U.S. Space Force | U.S. Department of Defense

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