As part of its new mission to now train future U.S. Space Force (USSF) officers, the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), in conjunction with the fledgling space service, is creating a program to screen candidates for the Space Force after graduation. And to do so, the Space Force is turning to the Marine Corps and NASA for inspiration.
According to the Air Force Times, Col. Jeffrey Greenwood, the school’s USSF liaison, said Thursday that new “initiative, named ‘Azimuth,’ is based on the four-week ‘Leatherneck’ program used at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis to vet future Marines’ leadership, physical fitness and military skills.”
Azimuth will also resemble the physical and mental evaluations that NASA uses for potential astronaut candidates.
As with the other services, the Air Force Academy, based in Colorado Springs, offers one of three routes to becoming an officer in the Air Force or Space Force. The other two are Officer Training School (OTS) at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at numerous civilian colleges.
The academy sent about 115 graduates to the Space Force this year, up from nearly 90 in 2020.
Another four students from the sister military academies such as West Point and Annapolis can earn a spot to cross-commission into the Space Force as well, Greenwood said.
But the USAFA is still the premier route, and best bet to commission into the USSF.
“If you want to come to the Space Force, you need to come to the Space Force academy, and that is USAFA,” Greenwood said. “Coming here gets you the best chance of commissioning into the Space Force.”
And the academy’s extensive new Space Force preparation, including its take on the Marine Leatherneck program at the Naval Academy, is a big reason why.
Air Force Times notes that:
Azimuth could run over the summer between a cadet’s sophomore and junior years at USAFA as part of a broader Space Force prep segment, Greenwood said.
“We’re going to try to implement that here for next summer,” he said. “Ideally, you could see cadets who want to do Space Force be able to … spend three weeks doing ‘Ops Space Force’ and another three weeks doing Azimuth. That is going to fine-tune and help us determine who those candidates should be that we would then select for the Space Force.”
Ops Space Force takes after an existing air-focused program at USAFA that allows students to shadow airmen and the military aviation industry to better understand those missions. Its first iteration ran this summer, taking about 70 cadets on trips to space ops and satellite production facilities across Colorado.