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Space Command presented first-ever missile badge

by 1st Lt. Lori Dockendorf
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

10/17/2005 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- A unique ceremony took place here in which the family of a space pioneer presented Air Force Space Command a unique object -- the Air Force’s first missile badge.

The family of the late Col. William Erlenbusch presented the first missile badge -- known as the U.S. Air Force guided missile insignia -- to Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of Space Command Oct. 12.

“Many of you remember what happened in October of 1957 when Sputnik was launched and we automatically had to become pioneers in a new era -- the space age,” General Lord said. “Our nation woke up to a new reality that day. The challenge of competing with the Soviets and maintaining the security of our nation was entrusted to a new group of pioneers and explorers. Colonel William Erlenbusch was one of those pioneers.”

Colonel Erlenbusch received the badge from then Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Thomas White, during a ceremony in 1958. The colonel, the 864th Strategic Missile Squadron commander at Huntsville, Ala., was on the leading edge of the development of the Jupiter missile program.

General Lord thanked the colonel’s wife, Bea Erlenbusch, for presenting the badge to the command. He emphasized its importance in helping connect the command’s great pioneering heroes.

“Colonel and Bea Erlenbusch were pioneers,” he said. “We’re delighted to share that rich tradition and rich heritage with all the members of Air Force Space Command. Whoever comes into Air Force Space Command headquarters will be able to see that badge and be reminded again.”

General Lord said the badge will be on display alongside the first prototype space operations badge he presented Gen. Bernard Schriever June 20, 2005, just before his death. General Lord hopes the new badge will become official by the end of the year.

The colonel’s son, Col. Douglas Erlenbusch, commands the 609th Air Operations Group at Shaw AFB, S.C. He spoke of his father’s humility about the important role he played in the early years of the U.S. military in space.

“My father was humble about his accomplishments, but there is no doubt he was a leader,” he said. “In my mind he was the Chuck Yeager of missiliers, and my family and I are honored that the Air Force is recognizing him today.”

Colonel Erlenbusch said that if his father were here, he would be thankful for everyone taking time out of their busy schedules to recognize him and his accomplishments. But the colonel said his father would thank one person in particular -- is high school sweetheart and wife of 59 years.

“He knew, as we all do, that none of our accomplishments can be realized without the loving support of our families, so on behalf of my dad -- thanks mom.”

(Courtesy of AFSPC News Service)

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