Late night host Stephen Colbert dedicated most of his Monday, December 6 show to recounting a trip to Thule Air Base, Greenland, to meet Space Force troops stationed there.
Somebody bring a box full of medals. We need to decorate Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman for valor under fire.
The senior enlisted member of the military’s newest branch, Towberman bravely held his ground last night on the remote, craggy landscape of Thule, Greenland, withstanding a merciless barrage of jokes, barbs, and one-liners from late night comedian Stephen Colbert.
And came out smiling.
The jokes came fast and furious during an extended interview with Towberman as the chief and the comedian visited Space Force Guardians assigned to Thule Air Base, one of the most remote posts in the US military, 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger Towberman shakes hands with Stephen Colbert at Thule Air Base, Greenland. The comedian dedicated most of his Dec. 6 late night show to Space Force units at Thule. Screen capture from CBS via YouTube.
Colbert dedicated nearly the entire Tuesday episode of CBS’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to recapping the visit to Thule in four segments, with the first titled “Red, White & Greenland: Stephen Cold-Bear Is Lost in Space Force.”
The videos begin with a joke-filled interview with Towberman.
"I love space. I'm a huge fan of force," Colbert begins, drawing one of many laughs from Towberman. "I know your full title is Chief Master Sgt. of the United States Space Force Roger A. Towberman, but in the interest of time would it be okay if I just called you Chief Master Sgt. of the United States Space Force Roger Towberman?" (The "A" that Colbert omits, by the way, stands for Alan, a Space Force spokesperson told Coffee or Die Magazine.)
Space Force Sgt. Maxwell Schute, 23rd Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, at Thule Tracking Station on Thule Air Base, Greenland, Aug. 11, 2022. Schute and the tracking system were featured on a Stephen Colbert USO segement on Dec. 6. The station's primary duty is to provide telemetry, tracking and commanding operations to the United States and allied government satellite programs. Space Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared Bunn.
As the questions grow more and more absurd, Towberman stands his ground, giving by-the-book answers when possible, laughing along when things go off the rails.
“What do you guys do? What does Space Force do?” Colbert asks early on.
“We ensure unfettered access to and freedom to maneuver in space,” Towberman replies.
“Is there some fettering going on presently that we don’t know about?” Colbert fires back. "Is there a space war that we don't know about?"
Towberman says no — just what you’d expect him to say — though space has become increasingly competitive between the US and other militaries in recent years.
Thule Air Base, Greenland, the Department of Defense’s northernmost installation, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Space Force photo by Paul Honnick.
Colbert also put the Navy in his crosshairs.
"You also monitor submarine based missiles,” the comedian notes. “Why do you have to monitor all of space and some of the ocean? Is the Navy just that lazy?”
Towberman insists that’s not the case. Colbert remains unconvinced.
“Seems like the Navy is trying to give you some of the stuff it doesn't want to do," he concludes.
It goes on from there, as Colbert peppers Towberman with questions about "doing 'it' in space," what sci-fi captain he might most resemble in his leadership style ("Han Solo," the chief says. "He shot first"), and a joke about Thule's mission to detect launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, that Coffee or Die simply will not print, but that you can check at the 9:00 mark of the video below.
The Thule trip grew out of a USO trip with Colbert joining country music star and Navy vet Sturgill Simpson. The trip was filmed in August, with Colbert making jokes about the 24 hours of sunlight at that time of year.
“I know most of you will be here for a year,” he says. “Or to put that in Thule terms, about two sunsets.”
Colbert and Simpson eventually take to the Thule karaoke stage and lead a room of Guardians in a comic version of a potential Space Force song (the service’s now-official song, "Semper Supra," had not been announced when the segment was filmed). Its lyrics include:
Hail the Guardians’ vigil keeping
On the earth both night and day
Watching o’er you when you’re sleeping
But not in a creepy way
Colbert also tours an early warning command center run by the 12th Space Warning Squadron and a satellite tracking station operated by the 23rd Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 1.
In the command center — where crews stand ready to alert US forces of possible nuclear strikes via an intimidatingly red phone — the comedian appears genuinely startled when an unfamiliar alarm goes off.
It is a battery warning on equipment carried by his own camera operator.
Visibly shaken, Colbert yells at the operator: “You’re f*ing fired!”
The four segments are all available on YouTube.
Segment 1: Interview With CMSSF Towberman
Segment 2: A Tour of Thule Air Base
Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. Know a story about any aspect of the US military that Coffee or Die readers need to know? Email him.
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