EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Lt. Gen. Michael A. Guetlein, Space Systems Command, commander presided over a promotion ceremony for retired United States Air Force Col. Buzz Aldrin, to the honorary rank of brigadier general at Los Angeles Air Force Base, May 5.
Aldrin, a notable recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and three Air Medals, proudly served in the ranks for more than 21 years, while breaking barriers in our nation’s exploration in space.
“I will argue that Aldrin was truly one of our first Guardian’s willing to protect and defend this nation with all that we hold dear,” Guetlein said. “He is one of the first Guardians because he has lived a life which epitomizes the very values we strive to live by today.”
During his relentless dedication to his country, Aldrin flew the F-86 Sabre in 66 combat missions, where he shot down two MIG-15s, while assigned to Suwon Air Base South Korea’s 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and served as a flight commander within the 22nd Fighter Squadron at Bitburg Air Base Germany.
“Without the courage and dedication of Aldrin, we may never have been afforded the luxury of leading the lifestyle we enjoy today,” said Guetlein while addressing the audience. “Over the past 54 years since stepping foot on the moon’s surface, he has been an inspiration to a nation, and tireless advocate for space exploration.”
As a part of the ceremony, Aldrin was presented with a general officer’s personal flag, which historically symbolized leadership on the battlefield; however, today it signifies the presence and rank of a general officer. While many before Aldrin have received a similar flag, very few are fortunate to receive an additional salute to becoming an Honorary Guardian within the United States Space Force.
“In addition to being promoted to a one-star in the Air Force, Brig. Gen. Aldrin is being made an Honorary Space Force Guardian,” stated Guetlein. “He has lived a life epitomizing the Space Force Guardian values of character, connection, commitment, and courage.”
Aldrin’s dedication to science, space exploration, and education, began following his time in Germany, when he enrolled as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a Doctorate of Science in Astronautics with his thesis, “Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous” and was then assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division (forerunner of today’s Space Systems Command) at LA AFB.
In 1963, the New Jersey native and graduate from West Point was selected as one of 14 members of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Astronaut Group 3, which opened the door for him to become the first astronaut with a doctoral degree. After completing various trainings and pioneering underwater training techniques, Aldrin, together with Neil Armstrong, made the world’s historic Apollo 11 moonwalk as the first two humans to set foot on another planet.
“Few endeavors have unified the globe like the Apollo 11,” said Congressman Ken Calvert. “The impact of the mission on the course of human history is impossible to calculate, as are the invaluable contributions Buzz made to ensure its success.”
Aldrin’s efforts to advance our nation and its allies’ posture in space, while beginning more than sixty years ago, continue to influence not only the leaders of today, but those for generations to come.
“This is a story that crosses many generations,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall when sharing a personal story on how Aldrin influenced his life. “In my home hung on the wall is the New York Times front page when you landed on the moon. I’m going to look at it a little bit differently after today, it’s going to mean a little bit more to me.”
Yet, while what was once a giant leap for mankind, has now become the stepping stone for traversing the infinitus bounds of space.
“Sometimes it takes a long time to get where you’d like to go,” said Aldrin. “It is thrilling that I am still here to see NASA sending brave astronauts to circumnavigate the moon next year, and land astronauts soon thereafter. Now… that’s space exploration!”
To further celebrate Aldrin’s accomplishments, hundreds bonded together alongside leaders within the Department of the Air Force, Congress, local community, U.S. and international military services, and family to celebrate the man who will leave a forever imprint in global history.
Under Title 10, Section 1563 of the U.S. Code, the Secretary of Defense can authorize an honorary promotion of a former member or retired member of the Armed Forces to any grade not exceeding O-8 when the honorary promotion is proposed by a Member of Congress and the Secretary concerned determines that such a promotion is merited.