Exclusive: Inside Space Force boot camp with recruits from the new branch of the US military
As dawn breaks on day 38 of basic training at Joint Base San Antonio, a bugler playing the alarm clock sounds over the loudspeakers as a sergeant can be heard shouting, “Are you ready to join the greatest space force in the world? So hurry up! let’s go.”
So far, the new guards have trained alongside Airmen as part of the Air Force’s basic military training program. What makes this boot camp unique is that it is the first-ever basic tutor-only training run entirely by Space Force instructors who teach a space-centric curriculum.
Master Sergeant Eric Mistrot, the Space Force’s first military training instructor, is quick to point out that “It’s still the craft of arms. It’s still the U.S. military. It’s not a camp spatial.”
Mistrot oversees all training for new tutors during the 7.5 week process.
“I come from an Air Force family. So when Space Force came along, most people were like, what is this? Is this real?” 21-year-old goalkeeper Syriah Harris told CNN.
The biggest change between this basic training and the other boot camps is in the classroom, where Guardians learn a new Space Force-specific curriculum — everything from space history to the vocabulary of space.
“So if I say the word LEO – L, E, O – which means low earth orbit, right?” Mistro said. “You have to start thinking along those lines. That the world is bigger than what you see. That we’re going 22,500 miles into orbit.”
None of the goalies at this training camp are training to go into space. Instead, they will operate US military satellites from the ground or analyze satellites from countries like China and Russia.
“You’re not dealing with tanks or ballistics or anything like that. You’re dealing with little blips on a, on a little computer screen,” said 22-year-old goalkeeper Abubakkar Siddique.
He’s a different kind of fighter – one who has to strain his eyes and work his mind more than his muscles – and that leads to the other big difference about this basic training: his core values.
“We want to build goalkeepers here and what a goalkeeper is is our core values: character, commitment, connection and courage,” Mistrot said.
During a Space Force Core Values course, a sergeant asked a guard, “What does courage mean to you?” The keeper replied: “I think courage means being able to ask for help when you need it.”
It’s a state of mind made for a modern military force.
“Maybe you believe in a God, maybe you don’t. Maybe you need to get away and have some time to meditate. Either way, we want our guardians to be strong and healthy,” Space Force Lt. Col. Tara Shea said. “From a diversity and inclusiveness perspective, we want them to feel like you can express that in our service, you can express who you really are.”
“Coming here, I had a lot of people saying, ‘You’re going to be the only black girl there. But I even have two other teammates who look just like me,” said Harris, who describes himself as the kind of space nerd who likes to watch “live streams of the moon’s rotation.”
He’s exactly the kind of space nerd the Space Force is looking for to protect and shape a new realm of warfare.
“We need our own basic Space Force training because we’re our own branch now. We’ve separated, so we need to stop being in the shadow of the Air Force,” Harris said.
Harris and 70 other Guardians are scheduled to graduate from Space Force’s first basic military training on June 22-23.