Jonathan Novak wanted to be a stealth fighter pilot. Aaron Brooks was fascinated with space ever since he was six years old. And Katie Scheibner just knew she wanted to serve her country in some way.

After four years at the U.S. Air Force Academy, these three second lieutenants walked out onto campus grounds for graduation earlier this month, donning platinum sashes around their waists to distinguish them from their fellow cadets, who wore traditional gold ones. The platinum ribbon represented a transformation: they, alongside 83 other cadets, now make up the first officers to commission directly into the U.S. Space Force, the military’s newest branch, devoted solely to space operations.

“This was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Scheibner, a cyberspace operations officer. Scheibner, Novak and Brooks recently spoke with about their reasons for pursuing the Space Force, their thoughts on helping to craft its culture, and their thoughts on what the final frontier means to them.

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