When the Space Force first opened its doors to prospects from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in March, leaders of the new branch thought it might garner some interest from across the military.

Only 50 slots were available. Then more than 3,700 troops applied.

“We are overwhelmed by the number of applicants, and the outpouring of support our sister services have provided as we’ve partnered together to design the Space Force,” Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson said in a release Wednesday.

Of the first group of 50 future guardians, 40 will come from the Army, seven from the Navy and three from the Marine Corps. About one-third of them are women. They are headed for jobs in satellite operations, intelligence, cyber offense and defense, engineering and acquisition.

The 50 active-duty officers and enlisted troops who were selected will begin transferring into the Space Force in July. They’ll help work out any kinks in the system as the service prepares to choose another 350 or so members from that applicant pool in the next month. Those picks are slated to transfer during fiscal 2022.

“The competition for selection has been tough. So many of the applicants are top performers with experiences and skill sets well-suited for the Space Force,” said Patricia Mulcahy, the service’s chief human capital officer, in the release. “With help from our sister services, we had the tough job of reviewing the applications to select the 50 candidates for this first transfer opportunity, and will use a similar process for the remainder.”

To whittle down the pool, an inter-service transfer board looked at which candidates had the level of experience or education the Space Force wanted, service spokesperson Lynn Kirby said in a July 2 email. Then they figured out whose jobs and specialties, grade and years of service matched currently available and expected openings. Applicants also wrote an explanation of why they’d like to join the Space Force to add a more personal touch to the assignment process.

The board included members from the other military services who could clarify troop records as needed.

Nearly 2,000 people from across the military and the American public are expected to join the Space Force next year, growing from 6,434 active-duty troops to 8,400. Its civilian corps is also slated to grow from 3,545 to 4,364 employees, according to the service’s fiscal 2022 budget request.

Even while the Space Force plans to reach about 20,000 uniformed and civilian employees in the next few years, it’s still dwarfed by the other military branches -- from the Army at roughly 1 million total soldiers to the Marine Corps at around 218,000 active-duty and Reserve members alone.

Pentagon officials are hashing out which other space-focused units will move under the Space Force, which was created from the existing Air Force space enterprise. Incoming units include those that operate Navy narrowband communications satellites and Army-run aspects of the Wideband Global Satellite Communications and Defense Satellite Communications System programs, among others.

Several hundred troops who work on those missions will get the chance to transfer into the Space Force in 2022 and 2023, the service said.

“We are excited to have guardians from these services join more than 5,200 Air Force transfers, and look forward to the new experience, perspective and culture they will bring as we continue to build the Space Force,” Thompson said.

Read the list of soldiers, sailors and Marines who made the cut here.

This story was updated on July 6 to include more details of the selection process.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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