By Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad
1st Space Brigade
Being a company commander and starting a new unit from scratch can be exciting and a bit daunting. It’s a unique opportunity; one that brings a sense of autonomy and great pride in what one makes of it. For Maj. David Rossheim, an Army Reserve Soldier with 2nd Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, the chance was given to him, and he took command of 6th Space Company last fall.
In a conversation with him recently, I asked Rossheim about 6th Space Company’s mission, his new role as commander, and touched on his background as well.
Q: Why stand up a new space company?
A: I feel like space right now is where cyber was 10 years ago. The community, and Army as a whole, has realized the new warfighting domain. There has been a lot of attention and money placed on growing our space capabilities. We are beginning to transition from our anti-terrorism wars to being more focused on our near-peer competitors like Russia and China, and our adversaries have realized that we have a real advantage in space, and they are working very hard to catch up. Realizing that, I think the Army wants to grow its space capabilities to make sure we are treating those near-peers appropriately in the space domain, and as part of that effort, they are standing up 6th Space Company and adding ARSSTS (Army Space Support Teams) to support the rest of the big Army.
Q: How did this company come together?
A: We started with one person – me. Then I got my first sergeant, and it was on us to recruit Soldiers into the unit. We reached out to more than 1,200 Reservists throughout the country. We went from zero personnel to over company strength in six months. On top of that, we are getting our first ARSST certified to accomplish the space mission. It’s pretty exciting, and we’ll have another team certify in September when we get officially activated.
Q: What does a typical drill weekend consist of in a space company?
A: As far as space-related training goes, it’s divided up into different tables. Table one through four is individual training consisting of background space knowledge to understand the space environment. Then there’s table five and six, which is computer-based training where you familiarize yourself with the systems we use. Now you are taking that background knowledge and seeing what you can do with it. This is where you get exposure to the programs. Table seven and eight is the certification process where Soldiers are given a scenario, and they have to use the tools and knowledge learned in the tables one through six to come up with a solution and advise a commander on how they should be using space in their operations.
Q: How does your job support U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s mission?
A: This is a brand new ARSST company that provides support, advisement and integration of space operations at the division-level to assist with their mission. So, in short - bringing space to Army units.
Q: What do like about your job in the military?
A: Helping Soldiers. The Army is a people-first organization and I love getting to interact with Soldiers by helping them with their careers and helping them accomplish the mission. People join space because they love space. Everyone who joins has a passion for it and I love being able to help them pursue that passion and serve their country in doing it.
Q: What challenges do you face working at SMDC?
A: Finding and retaining enlisted personnel. There is no career path for space right now. Soldiers will come in, get trained up – the training pipeline for space; there is a lot of technical knowledge they need to gain and a lot of selective training they need to do – but a lot of the slots are E-4 slots, so once they get promoted, they are snatched up by big Army. So figuring out a way to retain that enlisted talent once they’re trained here is going to have to be solved by giving them a career path in space.
Q: What is your background? How did you fall into space?
A: It’s actually non-technical. I have an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s in economics. I started out in the Army Reserve as an intelligence officer, and when I made major, I found out about FA40s (space operations officer) and inquired about slots, then got slotted into the brigade. I really wanted to get back to leading Soldiers, so I requested to move down to one of the companies where I served as an ARSST leader for a couple years, then as soon as the opportunity for 6th Space Company opened up, I volunteered and got selected to be the commander of it. So, the point here is, you don’t have to have a technical background to serve in a space capacity, SMDC does a fantastic job in training you up to get the background knowledge to become a subject matter expert.
Q: What do you do in your civilian job?
A: I work for Raytheon Technologies as a sub-contract program manager. It’s a space-related program managing the construction of antennas and radomes. I always wanted to be in space since I was a kid. I grew up in Florida and we would all drive over to Cape Canaveral to watch shuttle launches. I wanted to be an astronaut so bad growing up, so when I found out about the FA40 course I knew I had to go that route.
Q: Here’s your chance to give a shout out to SMDC. What would you like to say in closing this interview?
A: It’s an honor to get to serve in this capacity. The Soldiers are in SMDC are some of the brightest and most-driven Soldiers that I have ever had the pleasure of working with in my career. To get to work alongside them is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of in the military. It’s been a humbling experience and I am very thankful to have this opportunity.