We need horses in space. Specifically, the newly-created US Space Force needs horses in one particular space along the California coast. No, really!
Vandenberg Air Force Base (likely to be renamed Vandenberg Space Force Base), situated on the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco, resides on 99,578 acres. That’s 155 square miles of mostly untouched California wilderness: mountains, hills, forests, wetlands, beaches, dunes, and 42 miles of coastline.
With a wealth of valuable cultural and ecological treasures, the base is recognized for leading the way in protecting and preserving its 42 miles of pristine coastline, 9,000 acres of sand dunes, 5,000 acres of wetlands, more than 1,600 irreplaceable prehistoric archeological resources, 14 rock art sites, a National Historic Landmark, five Native American villages, a National Historic Trail, 26 Cold War-era complexes, and protecting and monitoring more than 15 different endangered or threatened species.Vandenberg Air Force Base fact sheet
Law enforcement on the base is the job of the 30th Security Forces Squadron (30 SFS), part of the 30th Space Wing of the United States Space Force. In addition to the ordinary security and law enforcement responsibilities required at all military bases, the 30 SFS is also responsible for enforcing California fish and game laws as well as federal laws protecting the fifteen endangered or threatened species that call Vandenberg home.
So how does a small law enforcement unit cover 155 square miles, much of which has no access roads? Patrol cars and trucks, even four-wheel drive, can’t access most of those 99,578 acres. While they do have all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) there are some places even ATVs can’t go, either because of impassable terrain or because such vehicles tear up the land, negatively impacting the natural habitats of threatened and endangered species. In order to conserve nature and leave a minimal footprint in sensitive natural areas, 30 SFS uses horses.
They call it the Conservation Military Working Horse program, and they currently have five equines. Four of the five are experienced horses from either thoroughbred or quarter horse lines with an average age of fifteen years.
Currently only about seven airmen of the 30 SFS are assigned to the Conservation Military Working Horse program. Several months of additional training in state and federal wildlife laws are required to qualify for assignment to the horse patrol unit. Of course, they also need to learn alot about horses – maybe even how to ride, if they’ve never been on a horse before.
Vandenberg’s Conservation Military Working Horse program is the only one in the Department of Defense that still uses working horses in an operational role. There are a handful of other programs under DoD that use horses in a ceremonial capacity.
The newest member of the 30 SFS Conservation Military Working Horse program is Ghost, a five-year-old formerly wild mustang acquired from the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro adoption program.
“The only Working Horse Program in the U.S. Air Force” (3:20):
Question of the Night: How do you feel about horses? Would you ride regularly if you could?