Chief Master Sgt. John Bentivegna is set to take over as the Space Force’s next top enlisted leader, the service announced Monday.

Bentivegna will become the second person to hold the title of Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force since the newest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces was created in December 2019.

His selection brings to the Pentagon a career space operator with a wealth of experience as a command chief across the military space enterprise, as the Space Force looks to grow to nearly 15,000 employees and a $30 billion budget in fiscal 2024.

“We have run really fast to develop the service and shape what it’s going to be,” he said in a press release Monday. “We have charted a vision for the future, and I want to deliver that vision to our guardians and the joint force. … I am humbled that I get to be the one to champion these efforts for them in the future.”

Bentivegna currently serves as the senior enlisted adviser to Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, the service’s chief operations officer. He also manages the corps of enlisted space systems operators, or those who help fly military satellites, operate offensive and defensive weapons in orbit and track missile launches around the globe.

In his new job, he will oversee the health and well-being of Space Force guardians and further shape the enlisted force’s burgeoning role in military space operations. He’ll also advise Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the service’s top officer, on matters from pay to deployments.

Saltzman chose his new enlisted counterpart over four other candidates on May 5, after a four-day series of evaluations and interviews. Any Space Force chief master sergeant who had spent at least 22 years in the military and three years as a chief could apply, the service said.

“I needed someone that would bring a perspective on our future that was articulated differently from mine … someone who could (and would) challenge my assumptions, and ensure that important issues were evaluated from multiple angles,” Saltzman said in the release.

Bentivegna joined the Air Force in 1994 and transferred into the Space Force in 2020, according to his official biography.

Before coming to work at the Pentagon last June, he served as the senior enlisted leader at the Colorado-based Space Operations Command, a branch of the Space Force that prepares guardians to perform their missions at units around the world.

It is separate from the Pentagon’s U.S. Space Command, which handles the day-to-day work of wielding and protecting those military space assets in combat.

Bentivegna recently held other roles at Space Operations Command, the National Reconnaissance Office and the 50th Space Wing — which handles a range of navigation, communications and surveillance satellites. He has earned some of the military’s most prestigious awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

He is set to replace Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger Towberman, who spearheaded the Space Force’s push to craft a unique service culture separate of the Air Force, from which it sprang. Those efforts entailed rolling out a new rank system, uniforms and insignia, a workforce management plan and more.

It’s unclear when Towberman is set to leave his post after more than 30 years in the military.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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