PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. Even with just one quarter under his belt, Gen. Lance Lord has seen where the command is heading.

And his assessment is short and simple – get ready.

“We need to prepare ourselves for an exciting future,” the general said in a recent interview. “It sounds self-serving, but I canít think of any place I’d rather be than in this business right now. The horizons are totally unlimited and we can help shape the future. But what we need to do is construct ourselves in a way that we fit within the overall framework of the U.S. Air Force as we explore space and shape space in the future. That’s why we exist ñ to build effective missile and space teams to create combat capability.”

To fit within that framework, the general had to first see how the command interacts. And that meant a full calendar of traveling.

“I’ve been trying to visit all the bases,” he said. “I haven’t made it to them all yet, but I’ll get there soon. I want to get a picture of what our people do from day-to-day.”

The general has visited F.E. Warren AFB and recently returned from Malmstrom AFB. There, he said, he was rejuvenated by the caliber of the young troops.

At Malmstrom, he was given a tour of the hospital by Airman 1st Class Brandy Moore, a public health apprentice with the 341st Medical Operations Squadron. Just in the Air Force a little over eight months, Moore briefed him like a veteran.

“Here’s someone brand new to our force and the command,” said Lord, “who knew that organization like she’d built it herself.”

That may not be an unrealistic task for her in the future, said Lord of the 24-year old from Toledo, Ohio.

“She already has her bachelor’s degree and is looking toward a master’s,” said Lord. “Trust me, we’ll all be working for her one day.”

Another destination he can mark off his “to-do” list is the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif.

“The road to space comes through Colorado Springs from the Space and Missile System Center,” the general said after his visit. “I want to make sure that the management in the headquarters complements the processes in the acquisition business. There is no command like ours. We’ve got it all the way from idea and conception to development to operation and sustainment, all in one command.”

As the new commander of an Air Force major command that’s recently separated from U.S. Space Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Lord has made no secret of his long-range aims ñ growing as a major command within the Air Force; componency (the process of getting the wartime commander exactly the space capabilities they need any time and any place); and supporting Peter Teets, the undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

“These are the things we need to do make sure we can train, organize, equip and acquire what we need to upgrade [in the command] as well as work the componency [issue] at the same time,” he said. “As U.S. Space Command merges with Strategic Command in Omaha and Northern Command becomes established here, it gives us an opportunity to regroup and rethink some things.”

The challenge, he added, was not to just overcome any organizational separations, but to bring everyone closer together.

“My challenge is to draw our arms around everyone and include them. To make sure that we can set up a structure that [lets us] grow as space and missile professionals and that they understand the totality of the missions we have to accomplish,” he said. “We’re going to do that with a series of interchanges, educational processes, development and mentorship through our Space Career Management Plan.”

The plan, recommended by the Space Commission two years ago, will soon be perused by the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, the former chairman of that commission, as well as the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force.

“You can’t change the way you’re doing business without creating the need to do things a little bit differently,” the general added. “I want to make sure we take care of the process ñ we’ve got to get it right. It’s not going to be a 100 percent right when we step out the door, but we’ll get close. Right now, we want to establish early on a sense of awareness and understanding in space as a mission area, an area to operate, with skills and abilities you need to do that. We’ve got to understand air operations, sea operations and land operations, but we need to be skilled in space operations.”

The aim of the space component of the Air Force is to add to that “whole business,” the general said. And the business is to protect America at any cost.

“Space is important to the military and economic success of America,” he said. “We’ve got to protect that and deny others the ability to use that against us. That’s what we’re committed to do.”