WASHINGTON — Thousands of U.S. Air Force members on May 1 will receive an email from the Air Force Personnel Center announcing the opening of the application window to transfer to the U.S. Space Force, the service announced April 22.

The application period will end on May 31.

In a news release April 22, the Space Force provided more specific information on who will be eligible to volunteer to join the new military branch. Officials during an April 16 town hall meeting suggested any service member on active duty could volunteer to transfer during the May application window, but the new update makes it clear that only airmen in certain occupations will be eligible to move over at this time.

“Active duty Air Force officers and enlisted personnel in existing space career fields and select other career fields are eligible to apply for transfer,” the Space Force said.

Approximately 16,000 military and civilians from the former U.S. Air Force Space Command are now assigned to the new service. The transfer process will officially commission or enlist military members into the service.

“The choice to transfer into the Space Force will be a personal decision for each individual, just as it was for me,” said Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, U.S. Space Force senior enlisted advisor.

Those eligible to apply to transfer into the Space Force include officers and enlisted members in space career fields such as space operations (known as 13S) and space systems operations (known as 1C6).

Also eligible are officers and enlisted members in other career fields that are common to both the Air Force and Space Force such as intelligence (14N), cyberspace operations (17X), developmental engineer (62E), acquisition manager (63A), operations intelligence (1N0), geospatial intelligence (1N1), signals intelligence (1N2), fusion analyst (1N4), targeting analyst (1N8), cyberspace support (3D0) and client systems (3D1).

Those in the 13S and 1C6 space career fields would start transferring to the Space Force in September.

Although transferring is entirely voluntary, current Air Force space operators who choose to not go to the Space Force will have to move into other career fields or pursue other alternatives.

Those in organic space career fields who decline transfer into the Space Force “will receive assistance in examining other options to include applying for retraining into another Air Force specialty, applying to crossflow into the Guard or Reserve, or applying for separation or retirement, if eligible,” said the Space Force. “In the meantime, those service members will remain in the Air Force and may be assigned duties in the Space Force.”

At the end of a transition period between now and 2022, assignments in space mission areas will no longer be an option for Air Force members. For the common career fields, only a limited number of billets will be available. Air Force and Space Force leaders are developing a board process to select volunteers for transfer based on mission needs and career sustainment, said the announcement. Transfers for personnel with common career fields are expected to begin in February 2021.

Airmen who believe they are eligible but do not receive a notification should contact the Total Force Service Center, the Space Force said.

Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units executing space missions are currently aligned to the Space Force, and will continue supporting the Space Force for the time being. The status of Department of the Air Force civilians, whether assigned to Air Force or Space Force organizations, is unchanged.

According to a DoD source, transfers of members of other services to the Space Force will be reviewed on a “case by case basis.” The administrative processes for doing that still have to be ironed out.

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...