U.S. Air Force Academy 2020 graduation ceremony. Credit: U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON — Of the 967 cadets who graduated April 18 from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, 86 were sworn into the U.S. Space Force.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commencement ceremony took place six weeks early, without an audience or any family members in attendance. The cadets stood eight feet apart.

At the ceremony, the 86 Space Force officers wore silver sashes instead of gold.

The commencement speaker was Vice President Mike Pence. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond also addressed the class.

Pence congratulated the class as the first to commission officers into the newly created Space Force.

“As our nation’s first Space Force lieutenants, these leaders will defend democracy and protect the ultimate high ground of space,” said Barrett.

Raymond administered the oath of office to the 86 space graduates. He pointed out that up until now, he and senior enlisted advisor Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman were the only formally sworn-in members of the Space Force.

“Although we have 16,000 active duty airmen and civilians assigned to the Space Force officially on the Space Force scrolls, you are numbers 3 through 88,” said Raymond.

“You are our future, and I need you to be bold as you will build this service from the ground up,” he said. “You will help define our warfighting culture, build the Space Force as the first digital service, and lay the foundation of a service that is innovative and can go fast in order to stay ahead of a significant and growing threat.”

Goldfein said that even though the Air Force and the Space Force are separate services, they are closely connected. “Just as the Navy and the Marine Corps are our nation’s naval services, we are our nation’s aerospace service,” he said.

Most of the new graduates have been assigned to the space operations career field and will be moving to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to begin undergraduate space training. Some will pursue training in cyberspace operations, intelligence, engineering and acquisition. Upon completion of training, all 86 will be assigned to a Space Force unit.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...