National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson welcomes new commander
Dayton Daily News June 2, 2022
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — The National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base welcomed Col. Ariel Batungbacal as its commander Thursday.
"I am an optimist," Batungbacal told airmen assembled at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for the change-of-command ceremony. "I am also a warfighter. I call on all of you at NASIC to ignite that warrior spirit."
The last change-of-command ceremony for NASIC, in June 2020, was virtual, with Col. Maurizio Calabrese at that time taking command in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Calabrese was recently confirmed for promotion to brigadier general.
With an annual budget of more than $507 million and nearly 4,100 personnel, NASIC is the Air Force's analysis center for foreign air, space and specialized intelligence. In recent years, the center has been tasked with staying abreast of threats posed by China and Russia, countering cyber threats and building the National Space Intelligence Center for the military's newest branch, the Space Force.
That work continued even during a pandemic and as a $182 million home for NASIC was being constructed at Wright-Patterson. The new building may welcome workers by mid-2024.
Batungbacal is already a group commander at NASIC, leading the Air and Cyberspace Intelligence Group at NASIC.
Lt. Gen. Mary O'Brien, Air Force deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations, presided over Thursday's ceremony with high praise for both Calabrese and Batungbacal.
O'Brien praised Calabrese in particular for "groundbreaking insights" into threats from China, ensuring the safety of the NASIC workforce during the COVID pandemic and creating a "road map" for creation of the National Space Intelligence Center, which will begin operations at Wright-Patterson in coming weeks.
She also mentioned NASIC's work to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. "You continue to be the Air Force's go-to unit for vital intelligence," O'Brien said.
O'Brien introduced Batungbacal as "absolutely ready for any future challenges," adding: "She has been on my radar for quite some time."
Calabrese had a long list of people to thank in his departing remarks.
"There is no playbook for COVID, but I tell you, COVID does not define this command for me," he said.
Instead, he focused on efforts to strengthen diversity and inclusion at NASIC, building NASIC's new home, the Air Force's continuing digital transformation and other endeavors.
"I leave you in much better hands," he said, telling those assembled: "You are the smartest people in the Air Force."
The new National Space Intelligence Center (NSIC) will borrow two squadrons from NASIC.
"The NSIC development is being worked through the Space Force," Batungbacal said after the change of command. "So we're really at NASIC focused on ensuring that relationships remain intact because ultimately all of the analysts, their focus is just to get the job done."
Batungbacal was commissioned in May 2001 and worked in intelligence from the start of her career, leaving the University of Maryland with dual bachelor's degrees in Chinese and government/politics. She also received an advanced certificate in multi-track diplomacy from the University of Maryland.
Based at Wright-Patterson, NASIC is the Department of Defense's primary source for foreign air and space threat analysis. NASIC is the Air Force's service intelligence center, the nation's air and space intelligence center and an operational wing in the Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.
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