Georgia Tech ROTC Cadets Experience Summer Training — Space Force Style
While most rising third-year cadets from Georgia Tech’s Air Force ROTC program spent part of their summer learning about airpower or other traditional U.S. Air Force activities, two spent much of their time instead looking toward space.
College of Engineering student Sonia Thakur, a third-year aerospace engineering student from Lawrenceville, and Georgia State University student Amir Goziyev attended the first-ever U.S. Space Forces-specific field training program for ROTC cadets held at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
“Instead of partaking in deployed environment scenarios outside of the base, we were mostly in an academic environment in Maxwell, focusing on understanding the Space Force mission, our assets, and future roles, and were assessed on more space-oriented scenarios with a focus on mission planning,” Thakur said.
Space Force is a separate branch of the U.S. armed forces but is organized under the Department of the Air Force, similar to the U.S. Marine Corps’ relationship with the U.S. Navy. As Navy ROTC does with Marine-option cadets, Air Force ROTC trains future Space Force officers attending civilian colleges.
This summer was the first time space-related specialties were emphasized for Space Force cadets during summer field training that all ROTC cadets must graduate from to move on to the final two years of the program and, eventually, an officer’s commission.
Georgia Tech is a natural destination for future Space Force officers, given its strong emphasis on the engineering and computing skills crucial to the branch’s mission to defend U.S. and allied interests in space.
“The cadets we train are highly motived, technically proficient, and well on their way to being prepared to help secure our nation’s interests in, from, and to space,” said Lt. Col. Kelly Sharbel, commanding officer and professor of the practice in Georgia Tech’s Air Force ROTC program.
Wargaming exercises are among the many classroom activities and exercises Thakur, and Goziyev participated in while at field training.
“We would be given a wargaming scenario and a set number of resources, which would be satellites, cyber teams, jammers, etc. to assess the situation, plan a mission, allocate resources, and make decisions that would benefit the mission in the end,” Goziyev said.
Thakur said the amount of knowledge the cadets were expected to absorb was breathtaking.
“Every day was something different,” Thakur said. “Learning everything from orbital mechanics to navigating through virtual reality, I loved how we were exposed to a wide variety of knowledge.”
Because Space Force is so small, the two often participated in activities together and even co-led one scenario, Thakur said.
“It’s almost guaranteed that I will see some of the cadets I trained with in the future,” Thakur said. “Overall, it felt really special to get to be one of the first few cadets to be a part of the Space Force field training experience.
Georgia Tech’s ROTC programs are housed in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.