SVHS grad honored for role in U.S. space system

Sonoma Valley High School graduate Nathanial Lee, ’08, was named the 2018 Air Force “Space Operator of the Year” at a ceremony on Aug. 15. Lee, an Air Force captain, received his award from Col. John Gallemore, 57th Adversary Tactics Group commander, at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

Gallemore said Lee’s selection for the award was a testament to his professionalism as a junior officer. Lee described the award as the greatest honor of his professional career.

Lee’s role is known as an “aggressor.” He coordinates his unit’s “threat replication” program, which mimics threats to the United States, allied space systems and their critical nodes.

“The space aggressors have a critical mission to perform electronic attack against warfighting assets in domains such as sea surface and air. The team I work with focuses more on the space domain,” Lee said in an announcement of the award.

For Lee, his award also has a more personal meaning.

“My late father, Capt. Donald Lee was named the Army Aviator of the Year in 1996, the year before he was killed in an aviation accident,” Lee said in a Schriever Air Force Base news report. “While I have never tried to compare careers or make mine match his, I think he would be proud to know that I earned this parallel accomplishment.”

Lee has been assigned to Schriever AFB since graduating from technical training school in 2013. In that time, he has worked seven different jobs across several teams, all on the same Air Force base.

Lt. Col. Jason Adams, 527th SAS commander, said the award speaks highly of Lee, the space aggressors, the 57th Adversary Tactics Group and the great work Lee does with the squadron.

“Competition was very tight for this award and it’s great to see one of our own take it home,” he said.

One piece of advice Lee had for his fellow space operators in the base newsletter interview is that the space community is changing rapidly and they should strive to understand what it means to be a warfighter.

“Five years from now our work today will be unrecognizable in many areas,” Lee said. “We are only going to be successful in defending our national security interests and protecting our access to space into the future, if our operators at the lowest level are thinking innovatively; pushing boundaries and breaking down old assumptions about what is possible; and focusing on the toughest tactical problems in the community. I hope that every space operator feels empowered to make changes and drive forward every day.”

After his family moved to Sonoma in 1998, Lee started at Sassarini Elementary in third grade, went to middle school at Adele Harrison, and then moved on to Sonoma Valley High School. After graduating, Lee went to the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in political science and minored in European studies. After graduating, he applied to the Air Force and was accepted to “officer school.”

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