A unique ceremony was held here Wednesday in which the family of a military space pioneer presented an object of historical significance to the command
Mrs. Bea Erlenbusch, wife of the late Col. William Erlenbusch, presents the historic first missile badge Wednesday to General Lance W. Lord, Commander, Air Force Space Command . Colonel Erlenbusch earned the first U.S. Air Force guided missile insignia in 1958. (Photo by Joe Juarez)
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LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.---A unique ceremony was held here Wednesday in which the family of a military space pioneer presented an object of historical significance to the command.
The family of the late Col. William Erlenbusch presented the actual first “missile badge”—known as the U.S. Air Force guided missile insignia—to General Lance W. Lord, Commander, Air Force Space Command.
Colonel Erlenbusch received the very first badge from the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Thomas White, during a ceremony in 1958. Colonel Erlenbusch, the 864th Strategic Missile Squadron commander at Huntsville, Ala., was on the leading edge of the development of the Jupiter missile program.
“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,” said General Lord. “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.”
General Lord thanked the colonel’s wife, Mrs. Bea Erlenbusch, for presenting the badge to the command and emphasized its importance in helping connect the great pioneering heroes of AFSPC.
“Colonel and Bea Erlenbusch were pioneers…we’re delighted to share that rich tradition and rich heritage with all the members of Air Force Space Command,” said General Lord. “Whoever comes into Air Force Space Command headquarters will be able to see that badge and be reminded again.”
General Lord explained that the badge will be displayed alongside the first prototype space operations badge he presented to General Bernard Schriever June 20, 2005, just before his passing. General Lord said he hopes the new badge will become official by the end of the year.
The late colonel’s son, Col. Douglas Erlenbusch, Commander of the 609th Air Operations Group Shaw AFB, S.C., 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—his 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.”