VP Mike Pence touts Vandenberg’s role in ‘American dominance in space’ during visit

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence carried the message of President Donald Trump in encouraging the passing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement during a stop at a Lemoore farm.
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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence carried the message of President Donald Trump in encouraging the passing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement during a stop at a Lemoore farm.

Vandenberg Air Force Base will continue to play a vital role for the nation as evidenced by recently added space traffic management duties, Vice President Mike Pence told a crowd of about 400 military members and others during a quick visit to the base Wednesday.

Pence and his wife, Karen, landed at the base shortly after 5 p.m. for a whirlwind visit that included offering appreciation to military members for their service.

“Rest assured, just as Vandenberg has been at the center of American leadership in space in years past, so too, I promise you, Vandenberg is going to be crucial to ensuring American dominance in space for decades to come,” Pence said as the crowd applauded. “This base is proof that in today’s space age, the public and private sectors can achieve far more together than they ever did apart. Really wonderful.

“The American companies that you are working with here are on the cutting edge of the space industry — developing new rockets, spaceships, satellites and technologies that will take us higher, further and faster into space than ever before.”

The Trump administration wants to see the private space market grow “because, as he said, ‘Rich guys love rockets,’” Pence said, quoting President Trump.

“And we’re going to let them build them. And we’re going to let them fly them,” Pence said. “They’re going to fly right out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to a crowd of about 400 military members and others on Wednesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Janene Scully Noozhawk.com

Recently, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Rossvisited the base to talk about steps toward combining the awareness capabilities of the military with his agency, according to Pence.

“We developed our nation’s first comprehensive space traffic management policy, and Vandenberg is going to play a critical role in this effort,” Pence said. “Frankly, you already are.”

That policy comes as satellite operators have expressed concern about the crowded space domain, especially as some commercial firms have proposed systems employing hundreds of spacecraft.

Pence noted that the base’s first polar-orbiting satellite launch, Discoverer 1, occurred in 1959, the year he was born. More recently, the base made history again when it launched two missile-defense interceptors in March, achieving success.

“It was like a bullet hitting a bullet, and Vandenberg, you did it,” Pence said. “Well done.”

Upon arriving on the Central Coast, the Pences were greeted by Vandenberg’s leaders, including Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, 14th Force commander; Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Daryl Hogan Jr., command chief, along with their spouses.

Nearby, dozens of family members waved small flags and held up smartphones to get pictures of the vice president and his wife.

After leaving the airfield, Pence received a quick briefing about Vandenberg’s role as the nation’s western spaceport. He also toured the Combined Space Operations Center and heard a quick update about the mission.

“Right effect, right place, right time — where superiority starts for Americans in space,” Pence said. The year-old center “is invaluable in our efforts to identify threats in and from space.”

During the tour, the vice president heard from crew members about traffic congestion in space and noted the Air Force’s role in ensuring that satellites remain safe. He also praised the military members from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom who work alongside Americans in the Combined Space Operations Center.

“Thank you all for your service,” he told the crew. “We appreciate our international partners.”

Vice President Mike Pence greets military families shortly after arriving at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday. Janene Scully Noozhawk.com

For his speech, Pence’s audience included several local dignitaries, including at least three mayors of northern Santa Barbara County cities along with World War II veteran Steve Yuhas, who was surprised to receive a challenge coin from Pence.

During Pence’s speech, he singled out a couple of military members and praised them as representative of the larger force.

“All of you here are making it possible for the American space industry to succeed like never before and make it possible for our warfighters to have better information than ever before,” he said.

In her speech introducing her husband, Second Lady Karen Pence noted the key role that military spouses, children and families play in supporting military members.

“I can say without a doubt that the strength of our nation does not just come from the people in uniform who fight to protect our freedom,” she said. “The spouses and the families who serve right alongside them also make tremendous sacrifices to the betterment of our nation.”

She added that she has worked to spread the word about their importance as the backbone of military families.

“I like to say they’re the homefront heroes,” said Karen Pence, a mother of three, including a U.S. Marine Corps officer.

The Pences spent the earlier part of the day in the San Joaquin Valley and ended in San Diego after leaving Vandenberg.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNewsand @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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