“We’re going to commission  Air Force Academy cadets directly into the Space Force” from the graduating class of about 1,000, Gen. Jay Raymond, who serves as the first chief of space operations, said Thursday.
“They will take the oath of office and they will be commissioned into the Space Force, so we are really excited to get those cadets onto the team,” Raymond said.
Saturday’s graduation ceremony has been drastically scaled back because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the graduating class in person at the academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but no family members, spectators or visitors will be allowed to attend. The ceremony has been shortened to 30 minutes, according to academy officials.
To comply with the official guidelines on social distancing, the cadets will march into the stadium eight feet apart and sit six feet apart, but the ceremony will end with a traditional flyover by the Air Force Thunderbirds.
Space Force, which was formally created only four months ago, is facing enormous personnel challenges ahead with decisions to be made during the pandemic.
However, “this is a historic opportunity” and “we get to start from scratch,” Raymond said Thursday in a Facebook town hall with Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, his senior enlisted adviser.
“There is no checklist on how to set up an independent service,” Raymond said, adding he wants to make sure “we don’t have a huge bureaucracy” that would stifle innovation.
Raymond and Towberman said they are sticking with the timetable of a 30-day window, to start May 1, for current Air Force personnel to decide whether they want to switch to Space Force.
“I understand it’s a life-changing decision” and some may need more time, Towberman said. “If you just aren’t sure, I want you to understand we’ve got a service we’ve got to plan for.”
Those from other services can also apply to join the Space Force.
“If you’re interested, we’d love to have you,” Raymond said.
But Towberman cautioned that service members from other branches should check first with their leadership before volunteering.
In the rush to set up the new force, Raymond and Towberman said some of the fundamentals expected by the traditions of service and the culture of the U.S. military have yet to be decided for the Space Force.
Raymond said it’s yet to be decided what a Space Force honor guard would look like, and Towberman said no decisions have been made on what the rank insignia will look like for enlisted personnel, or even what the ranks will be called.