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News | Oct. 28, 2022

JTF-SD Naval aviator becomes Guardian, immediately selected for command

By Ms. Bridget Bonnette Joint Task Force-Space Defense Public Affairs

After more than 17 years of Naval service, Colorado native Galen Thorp transferred into the U.S. Space Force.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Born in Boulder, Colorado, Thorp, and his family moved to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, when he was five years old but answered the call of the mountains to return just five years later. Thorp spent the rest of his youth and graduated from Cherry Creek High School in Centennial, Colorado.

Thorp pursued undergraduate studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. However, the college only offers Bachelor of Arts, so Thorp earned his Bachelor of Arts… in astrophysics.

After college, Thorp considered both the Air Force and Navy as viable career paths. “I knew I wanted to fly and like anybody of my generation, growing up with Top Gun, I knew that the Navy had the kind of airplanes I’d like to fly,” said Thorp.

Ultimately, his decision came down to his Navy Recruiter, U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Coleman, who encouraged Thorp to consider every branch before deciding which one was best suited for him.

“[Coleman] told me that I will eventually, a few years down the road, find out which service I should have been in,” said Thorp. “And if the Air Force would have been a better fit, then I would be a lousy Naval officer, and he did not want me in his Navy if I was going to be a lousy Naval officer.”

Thorp selected the Navy as his service of choice, completed Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, and commissioned as an Ensign in April 2005.

After earning his wings, Thorp was assigned to fly the F-18C Hornet, the nation’s first all-weather and attack aircraft, and was later dual-qualified on the F-18E/F Super Hornet, an aircraft highly capable across the full mission spectrum air superiority, fighter escort, reconnaissance, aerial refueling, close air support, air defense suppression and day and night precision strike.

Aside from initial flight school training in Corpus Christi, Texas and one instructor tour in San Diego, California, Thorp spent most of his time based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, home of the Navy’s largest Master Jet Base. By following the standard F-18 pilot progression, Thorp served onboard four different aircraft carriers and supported many significant combat operations in OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE.

Although Thorp enjoyed his experiences at NAS Lemoore, he and his wife, Christy, were ready to try something new and his assignment here, allowed them to do just that.

However, it required Thorp to begin learning a whole new warfighting domain: space.

“What has so far made me successful in space operations was essentially breaking it down in a similar way to how flight school is structured. Flight school starts with the academics,” said Thorp. “Even though when you’re flying combat operations in Syria, you’re not consciously thinking of Bernoulli’s principles, you start with Bernoulli’s principles so that it becomes so engrained in you that you don’t have to consciously think about which direction your flight controls have to deflect to produce a certain effect on your aircraft. So, when I first arrived in space, instead of Bernoulli’s principles, it’s Kepler’s.”  

Confident with numbers and physical principles, Thorp fully immersed himself in orbital mechanics so that everything else, to include understanding high-end space systems and capabilities, fell into place.

Having been a warfighter himself, Thorp is cognizant of the ways in which space capabilities directly support multidomain operations.  

“Any success I’ve enjoyed so far is certainly the foundation of orbital mechanics and a visceral memory of our ultimate customer,” said Thorp. “Having been the supported warfighter previously, and certainly leveraging the effects of GPS, satellite communications, and national intelligence capabilities, it was always on the front of my mind that what we’re doing in space is not for space’s sake. There’s a customer on the other end, who may be in an F-18 or may be waking up in the dirt, in the middle of Syria or Iraq, counting on the F-18 to have all its combat systems enabled by space.”

Thorp arrived here in 2018, predating the stand up of what is now, the JTF-SD. He began as a mission director, worked on crew for six months, then initiated, ‘Echo Crew,’ which has morphed into what is now the JTF-SD’s operations and integration division, responsible for developing the crew procedures and requirements for the onboarding of new systems coming to the organization.

Thorp currently serves as the deputy director of operations for the JTF-SD.

“Thorp is an incredible asset to the JTF-SD,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tom James, commander of the JTF-SD. “By transferring and bringing his many years of Naval service with him, the Space Force will greatly benefit from his knowledge and experience as a warfighter in the sea, air and space domains."

With a newfound passion for space, Thorp made the decision to transfer into the Space Force, a decision that in his own words, was a difficult one. However, the Space Force offered him two things that the Navy, did not.

“The Space Force opened up two really significant things for me, the first is by far the most important to me, I felt like the long-term difference and impact I could make was in the Space Force,” said Thorp. “The second reason was, there was a potential to serve longer in the Space Force and keep more doors open for me professionally in the long run.”

Now, Thorp is eager to bring his favorite Navy culture, customs, and traditions directly into the Space Force.

“One example of Navy culture that I’d like to bring in would be a closer squadron unit. My experience in the past has been very much familial, where a squadron is like a very large, 220-person family where you get to know everybody, and off-duty time is time that you choose to spend with each other.”

Thorp also wishes to serve as a reminder of the true reason why the Space Force exists.

“Having directly experienced the combat operational side of warfare, I think being a reminder that, other than the handful of Astronauts that we have up on the ISS at any time, the purpose for space operations is not the vehicles themselves, it is the people on the ground,” said Thorp. “My existence in the Space Force, I hope, is a reminder of the notion that we are a very important supportive role, but a supportive role to the people whose lives are counting on us.”

On Sept. 13, 2022, Thorp officially became a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Space Force.

In a whirlwind of events, U.S. Space Force Col. Stephen Lyon, director of the National Space Defense Center, administered the oath of office to Thorp virtually over the phone, during a small interservice transfer ceremony in his backyard, with his wife, children, and neighbors as witnesses.

“The next day when I put the Space Force OCPs on, I was pleasantly surprised with their comfort. I do still miss the flight suit, but I’m excited for whatever it is next, whether that’s command or another place that the Space Force thinks that I can have an impact,” said Thorp.

Just a few weeks after his transfer, Thorp was selected to command the 1st Space Operations Squadron, here, beginning in the summer of 2023.

Thorp has few messages for those considering transferring to the U.S. Space Force themselves:

“I would encourage anyone to transfer, especially if you weren’t wearing an Air Force uniform previously,” said Thorp. “You already have a different culture to offer, and I think that’s certainly Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond’s, Chief of Space Operations, intent with these interservice transfers.”

Thorp added, “Don’t be intimidated by the physics or orbital mechanics, that’s the easy stuff, even if you don’t have a math or science background, we’ll get you there if you are willing to devote some time and attention to learning it. The hard stuff is what they will have already experienced by being interservice transfers, the direct experience with the people and units that space is here to support.”

For more information about the U.S. Space Force Interservice Transfer program, visit