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New vice commander is ready to go

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Col. Stephen Butler entered the Air Force in 1985 as a second lieutenant launching global positioning system satellites and has spent most of his career in the space and missile career field at multiple locations. 

Since June 11, he has been vice commander of the 45th Space Wing. 

"It been a fast couple of weeks, filled with plenty of activity," said Colonel Butler, who had until recently served as Chief of Space Control Division at Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. 

Having served at Vandenberg AFB in California, Colonel Butler saw a few launches, including a Titan rocket and a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. It was enough that "we hoped one day to be blessed with a space launch assignment," said Colonel Butler. However, that assignment came sooner than expected. "The way the command process works is most of those assignments were already given out at the end of 2006. In fact, my boss had told me I'd be staying on another year at the Pentagon and leaving in summer of 2008," said Colonel Butler. 

"So in January 2007 it came as quite a surprise to learn we were coming down here." Colonel Butler arrived in Florida with his family in time for them to see their first Space Shuttle launch on June 8. "I was driving back from Orlando and I found it very interesting to see how many in the central Florida area drove out from Orlando to the outskirts, pulled off on the edge and watched the launch. It was a lot of fun to see that from a community perspective," said Colonel Butler. 

On June 15, he shadowed 45th SW Commander Brig. Gen. Susan Helms at the Range Operations Control Center during the launch of an Atlas V rocket. 

Despite his years as a space operator, the colonel admits he has a lot to learn about spacelift operations. "Space is a very diverse field, from missile warning, satellite command and control to space control, ICBM operation to space launch, and each one of those carries with it different mission certification criteria," said Colonel Butler, who plans to be mission ready by the end of the month. 

"As I get ready to go into training next week, it will make a lot more sense now to see how the team works together and how everyone plays a part to make the mission a success. 

He also looks forward to helping General Helms in making sure the wing operates at peak efficiency. "She's looking at procedures, she's looking at the way we approach problems, stepping away from some of the 'old think' mentalities, and looking a new ways to do things, with safety paramount in the backdrop." 

One of those new ways is bringing fresh customers and people to the Eastern Range, specifically the commercial launch provider SpaceX. 

"SpaceX has a lot opportunity, both for the wing and for our country as a new way to put assets in orbit," said Colonel Butler. 

As for himself as a husband and father, Colonel Butler likes living in Florida. "We love it!" he said. 

"My kids already have me signed up for the boaters' safety course, surf fishing and have an eye toward kite surfing-it all sounds great, except the kite surfing thing."