The Space Force on Tuesday inducted the first seven recruits to the fledgling service.
In a ceremony at Military Entrance Processing Station-Baltimore in Maryland, which was broadcast online, Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson swore in the first four enlisted recruits. Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, the service’s top enlisted adviser, also attended the Baltimore ceremony.
And if you’re wondering, all on camera wore masks.
A second ceremony, for another three recruits, was scheduled to be held later Tuesday at MEPS-Denver in Colorado.
“Recruits, first of all thanks for volunteering to defend our nation, and congratulations on being the first Americans to enlist directly into the United States Space Force,” Thompson said. He then administered their oath of enlistment and congratulated them with elbow bumps instead of the traditional handshake.
The recruits will now head to the Air Force’s seven-and-a-half-week basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
In a Monday release previewing the ceremony, Thompson said it marked “an important milestone” in the process of standing up the Space Force.
“Until now, we’ve been focused on building our initial ranks with transfers from the Air Force," Thompson said in the release. "With these new recruits, we begin to look to the future of our force by bringing in the right people directly to realize our aspirations of building a tech-savvy service that’s reflective of the nation we serve.”
The Space Force boot camp will use Air Force BMT as its foundation, Monday’s release said, but will add a space-specific curriculum to tailor it to the new service’s needs.
The recruits are from Colorado, Maryland and Virginia, and their ages range from 18 to 31. The Space Force said it wants diversity to be one of its top priorities. Of the seven recruits, there are two women, and two Black recruits, including one Black woman.
The Space Force hopes to have 2,500 members by the end of December, and grow steadily until it reaches 6,500 active-duty members by the end of fiscal 2021.
Active-duty senior enlisted airmen in cyber, intelligence, acquisitions and engineering career fields will start transferring to the Space Force Dec. 1. Officer and other enlisted service members in those career fields will then begin transferring themselves on Feb. 1.
When a recruit asked Thompson how things have differed from the Air Force so far, he said the Space Force is trying to establish its own, unique culture. But he noted that many of the missions the Space Force now does had been going on in the Air Force for decades.
“The things that we’re doing every day, so far, we’ve been doing for a long time,” Thompson told the recruits. “So, we know how to do this. It’s establishing that vision for the future and pursuing that, that we’re working on. And that’s where you all are going to help us.”
“Pretty much the same, but cooler,” Towberman added to laughter.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.