From Kansas to the Stars

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nathan Eckert
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.-- For the first time in three generations, the United States is witnessing the creation of a new military branch­-the U.S. Space Force. The two latest members of this specialized force are making history for Team McConnell and the entire state of Kansas.


Currently serving as a flight commander for the 22nd Contracting Squadron, 2nd Lt. Corey Cerritos is one of the Space Force's newest members as of his swearing-in ceremony Friday, Feb. 12. He is the first member of Team McConnell to "cross over" to the new service.


Cerritos saw the option to join the Space Force in an Air Force-wide email listing jobs eligible to cross over, discovered he qualified and seized the opportunity that some people only aspire to have.


"A lot of young kids dream of space; it's a cool thing to them" said Cerritos. "I never thought I'd be able to do anything like that."


Braden Vining, a 22-year-old from Valley Center, Kansas, joined Cerritos and is the first enlistee from Kansas to join the Space Force. Together these two men make history by being some of the first Guardians in the U.S. military.


Inspired to join by his brother's nine years of service in the Army, Vining did not initially seek out the USSF when deciding to join the military. He was already taking steps to join the Air Force when his recruiter discovered a Space Force position and asked if he was interested.


"It wasn't one of those things where I was planning on it, but the opportunity came, and I thought it'd be pretty cool to be the first Kansan to join," Vining said.


One of the things Vining expressed curiosity about was his new job, Client Systems.


"I'm very excited to learn a new skill and a new job," said Vining.


Client Systems Guardians provide an array of technological support. Since computers are an integral part of operations, Vining will play a crucial role in maintaining the systems necessary to complete the Space Force mission.


Just as crucial as managing cyber systems, allocations allow for purchasing of those systems and equipment of an astronomical scale. As a program management officer, Cerritos will perform various roles, and because of his background in contracting, his impact will be significant.


"I'll basically be buying satellites, something my 10-year-old self never thought I'd be doing, and I'm really excited for it," said Cerritos.


Like the space pioneers before them, the duo share a passion for the unknown. Cerritos stated with these unknowns come some uncertainties.


"The Air Force has been around a long time, so we know somewhat what our careers can steer to," Cerritos said.


With the rank and organizational structure of a well-established Air Force, it can be easy to see the necessary steps an individual needs to progress. However, with a new branch in its early stages, Cerritos pointed out, you have to be comfortable with not being able to see the path that lies ahead.


Offering advice for all those who might look to join, Cerritos said, "Go in with an open mind, don't be afraid to speak out new ideas, because that's really what the Space Force is about."