The Space Force achieved its goal last year of recruiting nearly 400 guards. Next year the target was raised to 500.
WASHINGTON – Military recruiters today are facing demographic trends showing a shrinking population of young eligible and ready to serve.
As a new military service, the US Space Force is still working on a recruiting strategy to attract the best and the brightest. The results so far have been promising, said Major General Ed Thomas, commander of the Air Force recruiting service.
In an interview with NewsThomas described the Space Force as a “small elite force” that requires a non-traditional approach to recruiting.
The Air Force Recruiting Service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, supports both the Air Force and the Space Force. It achieved its goal last year of recruiting nearly 400 Guardians, as members of the Space Force are known. This year the target has been raised to 500.
“There is a lot of uniqueness about the Space Force,” Thomas said.
A key feature is its reduced size compared to other military branches. The Space Force is expected to have 16,000 uniformed and civilian guards, compared to nearly 680,000 who serve in the US Air Force.
The Space Force relies on the Air Force for most of its administrative and air support, so it only recruits people for specialized positions in satellite operations, intelligence and cybersecurity.
The Air Force Department has approximately 1,200 recruiters assigned to 24 squadrons. Each squadron has a dedicated Space Force recruiter.
While recruiters face unfavorable demographics, the advantage for the Space Force is that there is more enthusiasm for space than the United States has seen since the Apollo era, a Thomas said.
Space Force recruiters present the traditional advantages of military careers, but they also sell a broader view, Thomas said. This is reflected in recent advertisements that highlight the importance of the space realm as the next frontier for national security and the role of space technology in everyday human life.
The latest recruitment ad titled “Protect” features Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond. One of his lines: “We are here to defend the freedom to operate in space, to be the guardians of our way of life.
Thomas said marketing research shows the message is resonating with some Gen Z, the Space Force’s target demographic in their early to mid-20s.
“We’ve had lots of focus groups on how we connect and inspire Gen Z,” he said. “The idea that the Space Force protects space for all is very appealing to them.”
New way to assess candidates
According to the model used by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, candidates who volunteer to enlist are assessed by regional recruiting offices, and each region of the country must respect specific quotas for different job categories.
Because the Space Force is much smaller, the recruitment and selection process is centralized and managed at the national level, Thomas said.
Each candidate must pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Standard Entrance Exam. Candidates for the Space Force also take a personality test called the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System, and are asked to answer writing test questions such as why they are interested in joining the Space Force. .
A team of officials from Space Force Headquarters and the Air Force Recruiting Service – known as the “Guardian Council” – assess candidates and select those who will be sent for basic military training at the base. municipality of San Antonio-Lackland. After basic military training, Guards move on to Space Systems Operations Technical Training at Space Force Base Vandenberg, Calif.
Patricia Mulcahy, head of human capital for the Space Force, said the advice “goes beyond the entrance exams of candidates to determine whether they are not only qualified, but that they will also be suitable for the culture and the team-centric environment we build.
Space Force in fiscal 2021 recruited 395 guards and nine officers.
Thomas noted that Space Force recruits – with an average age of 22 and a half and a college education – are slightly older and more educated than Air Force recruits.
Of the 395 enrolled, 100% are U.S. citizens and 36% have almost a semester of college education, 11% of which have a bachelor’s degree. All had high ASVAB scores. “So a very well educated, a little more experienced and highly skilled group,” Thomas said. “The Space Force receives recruits of exceptional quality. “
The next challenge is to attract more women, Thomas said. Last year, only 20% of Space Force recruits were women, compared to 25% for the Air Force. Gender and race diversity is “one of the areas that we are working very hard on,” Thomas said.
The changes proposed by Raymond who argued that the Space Force should also have more flexibility in selecting recruits are also being debated. In a recent paper, the Space Force argues that existing models of military recruiting were designed to attract large numbers of people and train them in narrowly defined and limited specialties, and that this model is incompatible with the needs of the Space Force. .
Thomas said the Air Force is granting exemptions and waivers to current service requirements on a case-by-case basis, and broader reforms are being discussed.
“We are considering, for example, medical exemptions,” he said.
A health problem could disqualify Army, Marine Corps or Air Force recruits who must deploy overseas to areas where they may not have access to medical care . The Space Force Guardians will not be deployed far from home at the same rate, Thomas said. “So there may be medical conditions that would be more important to an aviator or soldier that are not necessarily disqualifying for a guardian.”
Most officers entering the Space Force are graduates of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. About 1,000 cadets graduate each year, of which about 10% will go to the Space Force. A small number of officers are ROTC graduates or commissioned from the Air Force Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.