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Military & Veterans' Issues

U.S. Space Force Graduates Its First Enlistees At Lackland In San Antonio

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Tech Sgt. Robert Barnett / Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
From left to right: Amy Biggers, Virginia Beach, VA; Nathan Ramage ofFalcon, CO; Delvano Brown of Gaithersburg, MD; Shane Brown of Colorado Springs, CO; Giahna Brown of Woodbridge, VA; Elijah Engelby, Colorado Springs, CO; Benjamin Nevoraski of Virginia Beach, VA

The U.S. Space Force is mandated to act as the world’s space traffic controller, allowing free and open access to that domain.

The nearly one-year-old Space Force graduated its first seven enlistees on Thursday at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. They graduated alongside more than 700 regular Airmen, reciting the Airman's creed and accepting their coins.

The Space Force boot camp was just shy of two months long, and used Air Force Military Training as its foundation. It also included an additional two dozen hours of space-specific curriculum to make it more relevant to the fledgling service’s needs.

The new graduates are from Colorado, Maryland and Virginia, and range in age from 18 to 31.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett offered her congratulations in a speech at Lackland’s Pfingston Reception Center, as family members and friends watched virtually.

In an homage to the Air Force’s long history, she praised icons like General Benjamin O. Davis, founder and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, and Susan Helms, one of the Air Force Academy's first female graduates and the first U.S. military woman in space. Helms holds the world record for the longest spacewalk of 8 hours and 56 minutes.

“These leaders lead lives imbued with integrity, service and excellence,” Barrett said. “Susan Helms, in particular, represents the caliber of talent the Air Force and Space Force are recruiting.”

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, the first Chief of Space Operations, administered the oath of enlistment.

“You will help us build this service from the ground up,” Raymond said of the seven USSF graduates. “You will help us define our warfighting culture. You will build the Space Force as the first digital service. You will lay the foundation of a service that is innovative and can go fast in order to stay ahead of a significant and growing threat. And if deterrence fails, we'll fight and win the battle for space superiority, which is so vital to our nation, our allies and our joint coalition forces.”

Crafting a Culture

The U.S. Space Force is mandated to act as the world’s space traffic controller, allowing free and open access to that domain. Its goal is to deter conflict from beginning in, or extending into, space. Space Force members will monitor some 30,000 space objects, operate and/or surveil satellites and man radar systems stationed around the globe.

The branch was established in December 2019. The Military Times reported in October that the Space Force hopes to have 2,500 members by the end of December and grow until it reaches 6,500 active-duty members by the end of fiscal year 2021.

As with any new enterprise, there is much to figure out. The Space Force is still deliberating over its uniforms, for example. Its rank structure is another unknown, as is the proper name for its members. They are being temporarily referred to as airmen, pending legislation.

The first seven Space Force enlistees — and their military training instructors — appeared to grapple with the newness of it all.

“We're kind of building this plane as we fly it,” said Tech Sgt. Eric Mistrot, a military training instructor, at a post-graduation press conference. “So as we get feedback, we're going to slowly change and redesign what that (training) is going to look like.”

When pressed for specifics about how Space Force boot camp differed from Air Force Basic Military Training, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, the service’s top enlisted adviser, gave broad examples.

“They got an update on the domain,” he said. “Because, in general terms, most young people in America aren't really aware of, ‘Hey, this is what's happening with China. This is what's happening with Russia,’ et cetera. So we educated them on the adversary.”

Towberman also said emotional intelligence had been a substantial part of the enlistees’ training, given their future team-building role in the new Space Force. Second Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos pointed out that the trainees had been educated about the history and heritage of the Air Force in space.

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Tech Sgt. Robert Barnett / Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force displays the service’s uniform nametapes in the Pentagon Jan. 17 in Arlington, Virginia.

“The Sky’s Not The Limit”

Newly-minted Space Force professional Ben Nevoraski, 22, said the branch is still building its identity which was obvious from the training material.

“Space Force is so young, you know?” he said. “It's weird to me that it's so in depth. Yet at the same time, it's so fluid. Everything changes like every other week when we go to a Space Force class.”

Nevaroski would like to specialize in space systems operations, though he said he could not yet offer many details about the career field.

19-year-old graduate Amy Biggers tried to offer some clarity.

“A lot of things right now use GPS. Not just our phones. Airplanes, missiles, cameras, satellites... Everything is connected to those GPS satellites in space, which need to be protected. That is what the Space Force does. We make sure that everyone's devices that involve the internet and GPS work, basically.”

Despite their rapidly changing futures, many of the new Space Force enlistees expressed optimism about the new military branch they would help shape.

“This whole experience has been really surreal. I'm just really extremely grateful for everyone that's gotten me here,” said Giahna Brown, 20. “I'm excited to keep finding out new things and roll with the punches as they come.”

In the short-term, the cohort will make its way to California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, where they’ll spend time learning basic space skills. After they graduate, they move on to courses in specific systems.

A listing of the graduates is below:

  • Amy Biggers, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Giahna Brown, Woodbridge, VA
  • Delvano Brown, Gaithersburg, MD
  • Benjamin Nevoraski, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Shane Brown, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Elijah Engelby, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Nathan Ramage, Falcon, CO

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