In an address Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space, Cyber conference, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, the Space Force’s top enlisted adviser, outlined where the new service is going on elements such as promotions, uniforms and first sergeants.
The Space Force is trying to involve as many of its members in these decisions — not only to get a variety of perspectives, but also so space professionals feel they’re involved in building the new service from the ground up, Towberman stressed.
“Ideally, 10 years down the road, everybody looks at something we’ve done and says, ‘I was a part of that,’” Towberman said. For example, he said, when the Space Force earlier this year asked members for suggestions on ranks and insignia, it collected about 1,350 responses.
The Space Force has so far brought together 133 of its members — from a variety of ranks, backgrounds and specialties — to discuss issues like promotions and human capital management, he said.
But there’s one element of the promotion process Towberman isn’t interested in: tests. The Space Force is planning to scrap promotion testing and move to a board system, he said. The specifics on this will be announced soon.
“I don’t want tests,” Towberman said. “I certainly don’t want knowledge tests that teach someone that rote memorizing facts is somehow relevant in the world today. … What’s the point? I want people that can think critically. I want people who can reason."
The service is also about to start wear tests of new uniforms, including PT uniforms and service dress, Towberman said. It will use different groups of people for each test to get a variety of perspectives.
The Space Force will also keep using Air Force-like first sergeants in its squadrons, at least for now.
“What we know is that the first sergeant model that we use in the United States Air Force works,” Towberman said. “It also is something that’s taught to everyone. It’s the way our commanders think, it’s the way our superintendents think. So for right now, we’re going to continue using Air Force first sergeants in our squadrons.”
But over the longer term, Towberman said, that could change. Space Force officials think they can convert billets for first sergeants and use their own senior noncommissioned officers to fill those roles in operational squadrons, he said. It’s just a matter of figuring out if they want to and how.
An alternative option, he said, could be to follow the Navy’s lead and have all SNCOs in a unit carry out the liaison, mentoring and morale responsibilities that first shirts do in the Air Force.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.