Face of Defense: A Guardian With Serious Ground Game

Department of Defense | Jul. 1, 2022

By Press Operations

When people think Space Force, they think, well...space. Rocket launches. Satellites. Earth's exosphere.

For Space Force Capt. Daniel Reynolds, it's meant scaling mountains, navigating through forests and urban reconnaissance, too.  

A guardian stands for a photo with arms crossed.
Space Force Capt. Daniel Reynolds poses for a photo at Schriever Space Force Base, Colo., Feb. 15, 2022. On Feb. 13, 2022, Reynolds became the first guardian to graduate from the Sapper Leader Course.

The elite course is considered one of the Army's toughest, often compared to Ranger School for its rigors and the prestige that comes with earning its tab.   

It's also, according to Reynolds, a valuable grounding for any service member looking to build their character and military skills – even ones with their eyes fixed on the skies.  

I'm a test director during one of the final phases of the military acquisitions process: operational test, which seeks to determine whether a system performs as intended under the conditions in which it will be implemented operationally. 

A guardian sits at a computer.
Space Force Capt. Daniel C. Reynolds works at a desk at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., April 22, 2022.
A guardian stands and talks to another.
Space Force Capt. Daniel C. Reynolds, deputy test director, 4th Test and Evaluation Squadron, briefs 1st. Lt. Michael M. Efejuku, lead test engineer, during a meeting at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., April 22, 2022.

Operational test requires a special relationship between those who develop the system and those who implement it. The end-user of the systems that we test are the warfighters: the men and women on the ground and in the operations rooms implementing the system to accomplish the mission.  

I knew that connecting with this community of experts would afford me the opportunity to better integrate the Space Force and combat engineering communities; this was ultimately what drove me to the Sapper Leader Course.  

Fundamentally, the Sapper Leader Course teaches leadership, grit and resilience. Its focus is on "engagement area development," or shaping the battlefield to dominate the enemy. These descriptions run right in line with what guardians do daily.

A standing guardian talks to personnel seated at a table.
Space Force Capt. Daniel C. Reynolds briefs his team during a meeting at Peterson Space Force Base, Colo., April 22, 2022.

It teaches leadership in a powerful environment unlike any other; you learn so much about yourself as a leader and as a human being when you're pushed beyond what you thought were your physical and mental limits. Success at the Sapper Leader Course requires individuals to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and to dedicate these to the success of the team.  

An Air Force Academy cadet smiles in front a modern chapel
U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 3rd Class Daniel Reynolds poses in service dress in front of the Cadet Chapel at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the summer of 2014.

I graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in astronautical engineering. At graduation, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.  

For my first assignment, I was extremely fortunate to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I pursued my Master of Science degree in aeronautics and astronautics. While earning my master's, I served as a research fellow at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, where I worked on testing candidate flight control strategies for NASA's next-generation lunar space station, the Gateway.  

A man poses in front of a rocket on a launch pad in the distance.
1st Lt. Daniel Reynolds excitedly poses in front of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy ahead of the company’s first test flight in the summer of 2019. Reynolds was at Cape Canaveral representing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as its team leader during the 2019 NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkages competition finals, where he presented his team's concept of operations for a crewed lunar landing campaign.
A man stands in front of a large spacecraft outside.
2nd Lt. Daniel Reynolds poses in front of a NASA crawler at Cape Canaveral, Fla., January 2018. Reynolds served as a Massachusetts space consortium ambassador in a research effort to study spacecraft launch and operations.

Working with brilliant engineers who had worked on the Apollo lunar lander, the Space Shuttle and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle was deeply inspiring. We started with ideas on a whiteboard and, two years later, celebrated the conclusion of a full-spectrum developmental test. I graduated from MIT inspired by the possibilities that exist for advanced operations in the space domain.  

When the Space Force was founded a few months after my graduation from MIT, my experiences there were at the forefront of my mind. Having the opportunity to be a part of an incredible team working together to solve some of our nation's most complex problems spoke to my passion to serve. This is what ultimately led me to transfer from the Air Force to the Space Force in the spring of 2021. 

An airman displays a diploma while standing in a large building foyer.
Air Force 1st Lt. Daniel Reynolds proudly displays his diploma from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June 2019. Reynolds graduated with a Master of Science in aeronautics and astronautics with a perfect 5.0 GPA.

The modern way of life is entirely dependent on space. Every day, on countless occasions, billions of people are either directly interacting with or benefiting from a space asset. GPS, weather forecasts, fuel pumps, contactless credit cards, ATMs, satellite phone services, broadband internet services and countless more daily parts of our lives rely on information transmitted through the space domain via satellite.  

The success of our military operations also relies on the intricacies of space-based communication, navigation and timing. The necessity we, as a modern society, have for space-based assets makes it an imperative to protect and defend. This has been recognized by our competitors, who are also operating in the domain. The Space Force was created to protect this increasingly contested, congested and competitive domain by being prepared to defend our assets in space. 

The best engineers in the world can be drawn from those who understand how to use the system operationally. Attending Air Assault School was a rare opportunity for a tester to study the intricacies of how a warfighter implements a military system.  

Service members pose for a photo in front of a giant outdoor tower with "The Air Assault School" on it.
Class 21-21, Team 3 of the Sabalauski Air Assault School pose for a team photo following a graduation ceremony, April 22, 2021.

The second phase of Air Assault School (preparing various payloads for transport by helicopter) was one of the most intense exercises in attention to detail that I've ever taken part in. Having a three-minute window to completely inspect a Humvee, for example, requires an intricate understanding of the system.  

Music is a big part of my life. I'm very grateful to my parents for putting me in piano classes when I was young, despite me not appreciating the lessons as much at the time. As I have gotten older and dealt with life, I've realized how important music is for my own well-being, self-expression and mental health. 

I love composing and producing electronic, ambient and classical music using the piano and a digital audio workstation. One of the first things I want to do after a meaningful experience is to sit down and express it via sound, melody and chord.  

A man in sunglasses smiles while DJing an an outdoor celebration.
With his two brothers Benedikt and John looking over his shoulder, Daniel keeps the celebration going with a smooth musical transition at his older brother's wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, January 2019.

I even get to share my love of music as a DJ! I am a regular at the weddings of family and friends and reflect fondly on my time DJing university parties in Boston.  

Most weekends, when I'm not in my apartment making music, I can most likely be found on the trails, mountains or ski slopes in lovely Colorado. 

A person hikes with a backpack in the forest.
Space Force Capt. Daniel Reynolds enjoys a hike in the Colorado wilderness.