Capt. Nathaniel Lee, 527th Aggressor Squadron chief of future operations, was named the 2018 Air Force Space Operator of the Year in the Company Grade Officer category and received his award during a visit from Col. John Gallemore, 57th Adversary Tactics Group commander, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., Aug. 15.
Gallemore, from Nellis Air Force Base, said Lee’s selection for the award is a testament to his professionalism as an aggressor and CGO.
“This award highlights his amazing talents and the talents of the men and women who work around him in the 527th SAS every day,” he said.
In his role within the squadron, Lee oversees and coordinates the unit’s threat replication program, which mimics threats to United States, allied space systems and their critical nodes.
“The space aggressors have a critical mission to perform electronic attack against warfighting assets in domains such as sea surface and air, the team I work with focuses more on the space domain,” Lee said.
Lee said the award is the greatest honor of his professional career.
“I feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to tackle new and exciting projects for the space community by my leadership, and to have been surrounded by incredible total-force teams across events such as Space Flag and the Air Force Space Command Weapons and Tactics Conference that made the work that contributed to this award possible,” he said.
For Lee, his award also has a more personal meaning.
“My late father, Capt. Donald Lee was named the Army Aviator of the Year in 1996, the year before he was killed in an aviation accident,” Lee said. “While I have never tried to compare careers or make mine match his, I think he would be proud to know that I earned this parallel accomplishment.”
Although the 527th SAS is located on an AFSPC installation, it is actually a part of Air Combat Command, which is where Lee competed first.
“While most people think of AFSPC as being the core of military space professionals, which is certainly true, ACC also has a tremendous amount of very talented space operators, including my fellow aggressors, members of the test community, and the U.S. Air Force Weapons School,” Lee said. “Winning at ACC and then at the Air Force level, I think emphasizes how the entire Air Force enterprise works together to drive space operations forward.”
Lee has been assigned to Schriever AFB since he graduated from technical training school.
“It has been almost six years now,” Lee said. “I have worked seven different jobs across several organizations in that time but all on this base.”
Lee said he did not know he was nominated until he won and he is grateful for the award being pushed forward.
“My leadership at all levels has given me the power to go out and innovate for this community and tackle the kinds of projects that helped make me competitive in the process, so to them I say thank you,” he said.
Lt. Col. Jason Adams, 527th SAS commander, said the award speaks highly of Lee, the space aggressors, the 57th Wing and the great work Lee does with the squadron.
“Competition was very tight for this award and it’s great to see one of our own take it home,” he said.
One piece of advice Lee had for his fellow space operators is the space community is changing rapidly and they should strive to understand what it means to be a warfighter.
“Five years from now our work today will be unrecognizable in many areas,” Lee said. “We are only going to be successful in defending our national security interests and protecting our access to space into the future, if our operators at the lowest level are thinking innovatively; pushing boundaries and breaking down old assumptions about what is possible; and focusing on the toughest tactical problems in the community. I hope that every space operator feels empowered to make changes and drive forward every day.”