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A Mission of Service

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After receiving the Glenn College Excellence in Public Service Award, retired Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond discusses the challenges of the U.S. Space Force. (Credit: Majesti Brown)

By Joan Slattery Wall

Just 70 days before the birth of retired Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the first commander of the U.S. Space Force, Sen. John Glenn launched into space aboard the Atlas rocket and Friendship 7 in 1962.

“When he climbed into that rocket and as (fellow astronaut) Scott Carpenter said, ‘Godspeed, John Glenn,’ he launched into orbit as the first American to orbit the Earth, but he did so as part of a great power competition with the United States and Soviet Union,” Raymond said. “That led to America’s leadership in space; it led to America’s walking on the moon in 1969; it led to, I think, the expansion of our great power status as a nation.”

Until his retirement in 2022, Raymond led the U.S. Space Force to continue that great power status, addressing civilian, commercial and military challenges and opportunities.

For his leadership and a preceding 35-year decorated military career in the U.S. Air Force, the John Glenn College of Public Affairs presented Raymond with its Excellence in Public Service Award, which annually honors individuals who share Glenn’s broad and deep commitment to public service over the course of their careers, at a June 13 ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“I looked up to John Glenn my whole life as a hero,” Raymond said. “This is a really significant award I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Mirroring Glenn’s Commitment to Military, Space

Raymond was commissioned through the ROTC program at Clemson University in 1984. He commanded at squadron, group, wing, numbered air force, major command and combatant command levels. Notable staff assignments included serving in the Office of Force Transformation, Office of the Secretary of Defense and as the director of plans, programs and analyses at Air Force Space Command; director of plans and policy, U.S. Strategic Command; and deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.

Raymond deployed to Southwest Asia as director of space forces in support of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Prior to leading establishment of the U.S. Space Force and serving as the first chief of space operations, Raymond led the re-establishment of U.S. Space Command as the eleventh U.S. combatant command.

Commerce in the Cosmos

As commercial space projects continue to take flight, one has to wonder what Sen. John Glenn might say about challenges that surround extraterrestrial policymaking. Professor John Horack has a mission to find some answers to those questions. He leads The Ohio State University’s research and innovation supporting Starlab, a multimillion-dollar, NASA-funded effort to develop a new generation of commercially based, human-occupied space stations in low-Earth orbit.

Named head of the U.S. Space Force when it was established in 2019, Raymond served as the first Guardian and senior uniformed Space Force officer responsible for the organization, training and equipping of all organic and assigned space forces serving in the United States and overseas and functioned as a military adviser to the secretary of defense, National Security Council and the president.

“Rather than advance a posture of aggressiveness and U.S. supremacy, Gen. Raymond has worked peaceably and collaboratively with partners around the globe to build a coalition of countries oriented towards keeping the domain of space free, open and safe,” said Glenn College Dean Trevor Brown. 

“Similarly,” Brown said, “rather than build an organization that is opaque and clandestine, his strategic approach has been to be transparent, in many ways challenging the conventional approach to warcraft and intelligence — he has been a forceful proponent of declassifying space capabilities and intelligence to deter adversaries from undertaking combative actions in space or on the ground.”

The Ohio State University President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., a retired vice admiral and former leader of the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Naval War College, had previously met Raymond as the latter was standing up the U.S. Space Force.

“Gen. Raymond is a forward-thinking dedicated public servant, and a first-rate military strategist,” said President Carter. “His leadership of this new command increased our country’s capacity to advance science and inspired a whole new generation to continue innovating and exploring — all while improving our national defense. That embodies the lifelong passion for service Sen. Glenn demonstrated and the commitment to the greater good that guides Ohio State’s work as a land-grant institution.”

‘We Need Your Minds’

Raymond visited with Ohio State and Glenn College students, alumni, staff and friends during the award ceremony, where he explained the significant changes in the space domain since Glenn’s 1962 flight: our reliance on space for our way of life, a move from government-led to commercially led space science and exploration, humans living continuously in space on the International Space Station since 2000, the marked increase in space debris and a move from a peaceful domain of competition to the possibility of a warfighting domain with a spectrum of threats.

“Space is a global domain that allows us to unite global partnerships,” he said of the opportunities to address those challenges, noting that we cooperate in space with the Russians through the International Space Station, and space is foundational to nuclear deterrence.

He encouraged Ohio State students in attendance from the Glenn College Washington Academic Internship Program and other D.C. internships to consider careers serving their country, state, city, town or even neighborhood.

“We have never lived in a more complex strategic environment than we face today. What makes us the best nation in the world are our people, and I would encourage you to think through a way that you can give back in service. I will tell you, you will get a lot more in return than you give,” he said.

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, center, answered questions from Washington Academic Internship Program students including (from left) Asha Haddox-Rossiter, Kylie Hayes, William Cron and Peter Zhang. (Credit: Majesti Brown)

“For those interested in space, this is an extremely exciting time to be in in the space business. We need your minds to help us get this right,” he said, noting that the industry has accelerated faster than policy, organization, partnerships and law can keep up and calling space “our best chance for global peace.”

“You can help us think through this,” he said, “and we need you to help us think through this for the good of the world.”

Annalise Johnson, a Glenn College public policy analysis major who is minoring in science and engineering in the public interest, was eager to hear Raymond speak about space challenges and opportunities. She’d like to pursue a career similar to his but on the civilian side of space policy and strategy for national security. 

A former Washington Academic Internship Program student, she is spending this summer in Washington, D.C., conducting space policy research for the Center for Strategic and International Studies as a Brooke Owens Fellow.

She said she appreciated Raymond’s comments about Glenn and encouragement to pursue public service.

“For a lot of people, John Glenn was really about his character and his optimism. Gen. Raymond having that lens was special,” she said. “John Glenn creating the college showed his passion for service. Gen. Raymond is someone who really reflects this.”