Mollie Raymond is the wife of newly appointed Space Force Chief Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, making her the first military spouse in the newly created sixth branch of the military. Military Times freelance reporter Natalie Gross recently interviewed Raymond about what it’s like helping to shape a new branch.
Military Times: President Donald Trump named the Space Force as its own separate, sixth branch of the military last December. I want to know what went through your head when you found out your husband was going to be the top leader of the Space Force, making you the first Space Force military spouse?
Raymond: Well, first of all I was just very excited — very excited for our nation and our space members and their families, and of course I’m just very excited and proud for my husband, Jay. We’re both just very honored and humbled by this opportunity. It’s just a very historic time, and it’s an amazing experience.
Military Times: How many Space Force spouses are there right now? It’s still small, right?
Raymond: Yes. Officially, right now it’s just my husband and soon it will be our senior enlisted adviser Chief [Master Sergeant Roger] Towberman [since sworn in after this interview was conducted]. There are 16,000 members eventually who will be assigned to the Space Force, but we’re still working a plan to transfer personnel. To be determined how many people exactly will be in the Space Force. We’re working that plan.
Military Times: There’s been some controversy about whether we actually need a Space Force. What’s your response to that when you hear people say that?
Raymond: I know there exists some skepticism by many Americans, but the reality is that every one of us depend daily on our assets in space. We wouldn’t be able to use cell phones, GPS. I used my GPS three times yesterday. So, banking, ATM, pumping gas — all of those activities. You know, our military uses our space capabilities to keep us safe. And we need to protect that space domain just like we have to protect air, land and sea, and that’s why we need the sixth branch of the military.
Military Times: You’re blowing my mind right now on how much we actually use it.
Raymond: It really is amazing. Our way of life, our prosperity, our security, our communications — we all depend on space. It’s hard, though, because you can’t see what’s up there, but we have to protect our way of life, and we’re just so grateful to have the Space Force. Our nation is going to be very, very fortunate to have this sixth branch of the military.
Military Times: Can you explain what the Space Force is going to do, exactly, and how they’re growing it and welcoming folks in?
Raymond: Sure. The mission of the U.S. Space Force is to organize, train and equip space members in order to protect our U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force, the combatant commanders. And then throughout the next few months, the units and the personnel from the Air Force and former Air Force space command will be transferring into the Space Force. We will welcome them like, you know, we welcome all members into the military. Some will be commissioned and others will just be reassigned to the Space Force.
Military Times: I want to hear about your military journey thus far. You’ve been an Air Force spouse all these years. Looking back do you see any particular season of military wife life that has prepared you for this position?
Raymond: You know, I’m originally from St. Paul, Minnesota. I grew up in the same house — never moved — the same community, same schools, and I met my husband Jay when I went to college in the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. It was his first assignment. We got married shortly after I graduated, and I didn’t know anything about the military lifestyle. Nothing. The first move to California, I just really struggled. I was so far away from home, it was just a different culture there. Our first assignment was at Vandenberg, California, which now we’ve been there four times and I absolutely love Vandenberg. It was just a hard adjustment.
Looking back now, we’ve been married 33 years. All of them have been in the Air Force, of course, so it’s hard for me to think that now my husband is going to be retiring from the Space Force. I’m very proud of our Air Force heritage, very proud of our Air Force life. We moved 16 times, two times overseas — one to Japan and one time in England — so great experiences, great opportunities for our family. We have three children.
You mentioned a season. I just think I’ve grown over all of these years and developed skills that are really helping me today. You know, moving three kids, worrying about them, worrying about where they’re going to go to school, when are we going to move, where are we going to move to, you just have to adapt to be flexible and embrace change, and I think that’s what we’re doing right now with the Space Force. I hope to share my experiences as a military spouse and share my story, share my challenges moving a family. I know what it’s like to have a spouse deployed over the holidays with young children. I worked at the beginning of our career, but I subsequently stopped after having three kids in four years and moving so much. I know that today there’s a lot more opportunities for military spouses in employment and I’m so happy for those advances and opportunities. We still have ways to go, but I have loved this lifestyle, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I have a text here from my daughter, if I can brag on her. She just out of the blue sent this to me about a month ago, to me and my husband. She wrote, “Mom and Dad, I just want to thank you both for the life you have given me. Without the military and our family experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today with the opportunities I have been given. I know that the experiences I have had growing up are the reasons why I’m confident, personable and adaptable today.”
So, I think that these years of change and raising a family have given me the tools to move forward and hopefully be a mentor and a role model for our spouses in the Space Force.
Military Times: And you’re not done with that change. Not only are you in the Space Force, you have another PCS coming up to D.C.
Raymond. Yes, we do. The new headquarters for the Space Force is going to be at the Pentagon in D.C., so we are headed back to Washington, and we’re very excited.
Military Times: What’s been your best memory of military life?
Raymond: I would have to say my best memories are always around people. The people we’ve met along the journey, the friendships we’ve made. It’s just building relationships, and I can’t feel more blessed than I am now knowing so many awesome people in our military. Our kids have developed wonderful friendships. It’s just been a great way of life, a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Military Times: As a more seasoned spouse, what would be your best advice for the younger generation of military spouses who are just now getting into this lifestyle and having some difficulties through deployments and all the changes that you talked about that military life brings?
Raymond: I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give for all spouses is find ways to be connected in your community. Be connected through your neighborhood, through work, through your spouse’s military unit. Look to like-minded friends, family — look to them for support. Take care of yourself. I always think a positive outlook on anything. Look for the good and reach out when you need some help. There’s key spouses, there’s so many resources our military provides. Our Air Force has Airman and Family Readiness Center. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance, help anytime for any reason.
Military Times: What do you view as your role of the spouse of the commander helping to shape this brand new military branch?
Raymond: Well, first of all, I have had some wonderful mentors that I hope to emulate — Mrs. Dawn Goldfein, the [wife] of Gen. Dave Goldfein, the chief of staff of the Air Force. She’s been a great source of support to me and a role model. She’s so gracious and kind, and I hope that I can be like her. I guess also when considering my role, I certainly am humbled by the opportunity.
As I mentioned, I think one of my roles is to push out information. I’m also an advocate of our [Air Force] Key Spouse Program. You know, our key spouses are wonderful resources for commanders to help and support families. They are service-minded volunteers, and I just want to be an advocate for that program. And, I also see my role as one of being a listener to families — Space families — sharing my stories, hearing their stories and what issues are important to them, how can I help. I just want our space families and all those assigned to the Space Force to feel supported, connected, appreciated and excited as we build our culture and identity. It’s an exciting time for all of us.
Military Times: Well, that leads me into my last question here. I know the Pentagon is crowdsourcing names for what members of the Space Force will be called. There have been some ideas like Spacers, Sentinels, Vanguards. So, if you, Mollie, had to decide right now - What would you want to be called?
Raymond: You know, I am going to kind of turn that back and say to all of the [readers], we could use your help in coming up with a name. Please submit names, ideas. We’ve got to get this right. It’s an important thing for our culture. So, yes, we are crowdsourcing, and we are hoping that this perfect name will come up through anyone’s ideas, so I welcome suggestions.
Military Times: Where can people submit their [name] suggestions?
Raymond: You could probably go to spaceforce.mil and submit them under the contact tab, and our public affairs folks will be happy to receive them.
Military Times: Is there anything else you want to add about the Space Force or your military experience?
Raymond: I would just want to reiterate that this is a historic time, an exciting time. Be proud of our Air Force heritage, but we do need our new branch of the military. Ask all of the listeners and all of our military members to just be an advocate for the Space Force and the mission because it’s vital to our nation and our way of life. Stay informed and, finally, just be patient and trust because a lot of decisions are going to be made, and it’s just so fun to be on this journey with our Space families, our Space professionals and see how this unfolds in the future. It’s a very exciting time.
Editor’s Note: This interview first appeared on The Spouse Angle podcast. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.