History being made: AFW2's connection

  • Published
  • By Shawn Sprayberry
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

The United States Space Force celebrated a milestone recently; they are now two years old. On Dec. 20, 2019, then-President Donald J. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, establishing the first new military force since 1947.

“Space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said in a 2019 article from Defense.gov. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital.”

Space has always been a concern for the U.S. government, dating back to the creation of the U.S. Air Force. Concerns over ballistic missile capability and the development of the Sputnik satellite pushed the U.S. towards the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. In 1982, the Air Force activated the U.S. Space Command under the leadership of Gen. James Hartinger centralizing all service space elements under one command.

According to a January 2021 article in The Atlantic, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even considered the idea of a separate space force in 2001 following a suggestion from a commission looking at the critical use of satellites during the first Gulf War. So, in essence, Space Force is not really a new idea, just a new service, marking the first time in over 70 years this country has stood up a new military force.

“Space has always been vital to our way of life,” said Specialist 4 Rio Lie Candy Bais, serving as a communications specialist at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “Space Force exists to defend the ultimate high ground and to protect our assets and capabilities from those who may threaten our way of life.”

Bais started out her career in the “traditional” Air Force, serving in space systems operations. She was one of the first members to transfer and swear into the Space Force in September 2020.

“Nothing is quite as momentous as being of the first members of a new branch. I am truly honored,” she said.

Shortly after swearing into the Space Force, Bais received a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the lymph system of the body.

“I had no idea how to be navigating my next steps,” she said.

And that is where AFW2 comes into the story.

The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas is the official program providing services to wounded, ill and injured Airmen and Guardians. Following the standup of the Space Force, AFW2 began accepting enrollments of Guardians like Bais, providing them the same level of care provided to Airmen.

“The historical perspective of advocating for Guardians in Space Force is definitely unique,” said James Dickson, AFW2 Recovery Care Coordinator for Buckley Space Force Base, Colorado. “The future of how AFW2 supports Space Force will be determined by how well we support Guardians now. The historical impact of what we are doing now is not lost on the AFW2 team.”

“I’m excited to inform Space Force leadership about AFW2,” said Rod Schwald, AFW2 RCC at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado. “I’m especially happy to brief Guardians that AFW2 is there for them too.”

One of the first calls Bais received following her diagnosis and surgery was Schwald.

“I had so many questions that I didn’t know where to start,” Bais said. “Rod and AFW2 provided me with answers to all my questions and even answered questions I never thought to ask. He is a Godsend and one of the most amazing people I have ever gotten to know.”

Every time Rod mentions Bais he refers to her as a “rock star.”

“She was so low maintenance,” Schwald said. “Candy is one of those ‘glass half full’ people, making it really easy to help her. She is doing really well in her recovery and has even been promoted to E-5/sergeant her first time testing.”

As Bais continues to navigate her recovery, Schwald and AFW2 will always be there to assist her, providing that “Care Beyond Duty” we are known for so those Guardians can continue to be “Always Above.”