By Ms. Bridget Bonnette | Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. — After 30 years of unique space experience, U.S. Space Force Col. Stephen Lyon took the reins as the new director of the National Space Defense Center and the director of operations for the Joint Task Force-Space Defense here, July 11, 2022.
Lyon is affectionately known by his call sign, ‘C-Lyon,’ which he earned during his time at U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. “They made me sing! It sounded so bad they said I sounded like a sea lion, and just gave me the letter C.”
Lyon enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Jan. 31, 1992, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He remained an enlisted space operator for nine years with assignments in satellite command and control, space and ground-based missile warning, and passive space surveillance.
“Starting out as a 19-year-old Airman Basic, I never in my wildest dreams though I would end up here,” said Lyon. “I’m very blessed to have been afforded the opportunities that I have, and I am where I am now because of the incredible mentors and teammates and who have helped me along the way.”
In 2000, Lyon worked for now, U.S. Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the Chief of Space Operations.
“I was lucky enough to be assigned to Royal Air Force Feltwell as a staff sergeant, working for none other than the then, Lt. Col. Jay Raymond, as my squadron commander,” said Lyon, “At that time, space operations were really starting to come into their own.”
In 2002, Lyon earned his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Program as a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but his path remained nonlinear.
In lieu of Air Command and Staff College, Lyon was one of only four American students selected to attend the Canadian Forces College as part of the Joint Command and Staff Programme at the Royal Military College of Canada.
Then, following his time as a student, he was invited to become the director of operations for Canadian Space Operations Centre (CANSpOC) as an exchange officer. During his time at CANSpOC, Lyon was able to view space directly through the lens of our allies.
“Spending time with an allies helped me understand that there are many ways to look a problem set,” said Lyon. “Now, I see how our allies look at space, and it gives us insight on how to bring all of our organizations together to collectively protect and defend our nation’s assets.”
Additionally, Lyon had the unique opportunity to serve as the acting director for the CANSpOC. “In order to become a colonel in the Canadian military, you must be fluent in both English and French,” said Lyon. “So, I became the acting director of the CANSpOC while my Canadian counterpart, LCol James Peck, attended French Language School for eight months.”
Lyon has also served as a combat crew commander, senior crew instructor, and flight commander on the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, deputy chief, combat operations division at the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), and squadron command at the National Reconnaissance Office’s Aerospace Data Facility – Southwest.
Having had a multitude of experience working with the U.S., Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, Lyon now brings his multinational experience to the JTF-SD and its NSDC.
Throughout his years of space experience, Lyon has witnessed the metamorphosis of space to include, in his own words, the death and rebirth of U.S. Space Command, the demise of Air Force Space Command, and the establishment of the U.S. Space Force.
“Change has been constant throughout my career, but nothing like the last two years,” said Lyon. “We now talk about space as a warfighting domain, where we once talked about it as a sanctuary. We discuss topics such as service culture and equities, readiness and training, and operational command and control in ways we never did before.”
In his new role as director of the NSDC, Lyon, with mission partners across the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community, ensures synchronization and unified action in the space warfighting domain to conduct space superiority operations in order to deter aggression against the U.S. and its allies, protect and defend space capabilities and if necessary, defeat adversaries.
“Col. Lyon is a tremendous addition to our team and is absolutely the right person to be leading our operations center at this critical juncture in our growth and advancement,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tom James, commander of the JTF-SD.
Unquestionably, the NSDC ensures the protection and defense of the joint force.
“I have learned so many lessons over the last 30 years that I am trying to bring to the NSDC, but the one I hope to instill is, trust in our personnel,” said Lyon. “We are going through a period of explosive responsibility growth. Our people need to be empowered to make decisions and to know that it’s okay to fail when trying something new. We’ll learn from our mistakes and move on.”
Lyon is eager to directly support unity of effort within space defense and expand information sharing within space defense operations among the DoD, NRO, and other interagency partners.
“I’m so excited to be here and work with the other services, the NRO, the IC community and our amazing partners across the Joint Staff. What an opportunity we have!” said Lyon. “If we get this right, we can transform the way we conduct space operations. Everything we do here on the floor is foundational to the future of space.”
Lyon expressed a personal goal during his time as director for the NSDC:
“My goal is to leave the center better than it was when I showed up,” said Lyon. “Our tagline is Watch…Warn…Win. I want us to focus on winning so that we are ready to fight tonight with whatever capability is presented to us.”
The JTF-SD, and its NSDC, provide unprecedented unity of effort with the DoD, Intelligence Community and NRO to protect and defend against threats in the space domain. Through this partnering, the JTF-SD brings to bear the full force of the U.S. Government and synchronizes space superiority planning and operations.