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The US Military’s Bachelor’s Degree in Esports

Okay I’ll admit, the title is a bit misleading: the degree comes from American Military University, a private university where most military tuition assistance is spent. Though one could choose almost any program to apply tuition assistance, AMU gives military members a discount making their degrees cost exactly the amount military tuition provides. Because of this, over half of the military members in university attended AMU, at least this was the case when I worked at an Air Force Education Center in 2020.

And AMU has rolled out it’s most exciting degree yet, a Bachelors Degree in Esports. The military values education in its promotion and commissioning boards. Though exactly what degree you get often doesn’t matter, it just checks a box. I can think of multiple pilots with degrees in political science and space officers with degrees in sociology. So if you need a degree, any degree, why not get one that’s free with tuition assistance and in a subject area you’re passionate about? I’ve already got my degrees but in another life I would’ve loved to have done this program.

The military has a long history of using Esports and videogames for recruitment efforts. We have team jerseys and internal tournaments to select our pro teams. High level players can be paid to train and attend Esports tournaments through the same program as military Olympians. The Space Force, the smallest military branch by far, won the 2021 interservice Call of Duty tournament, the CODE bowl, then launched the trophy into space (kinda, it probably fell short of the Karman line). Semper Supra!

The Nicest Military Office

The military experience varies wildly from person to person. You could be living in a tent or on an isolated beachside home on base. You could be in a shack guarding absolutely nothing or you could be a full time student living with a frat at MIT. There’s a huge diversity to explore and while I’m not sure what asbestos filled warehouse is the worst military office, I’m semi-confident I’ve found the nicest one.

Across the street from Los Angeles Air Force base is the home one of the Space Force’s software factories, Section 31. Recently their organization has been absorbed into their parent, Kobayashi Maru; however, primarily only the former Section 31 members work in this office (a more accurate nomenclature for them now is the Kobayashi Maru Organic Software Teams formerly known as Section 31).

The building is modern and industrial, neighboring other similarly designed office spaces. Walking in the front door one finds an environment more reminiscent of silicon valley than a military organization. Directly inside the door is a huge 20 foot screen displaying a view of the Earth from space. Past the lobby is the common room with a shuffle board and a ping pong table. The ping pong table had high quality paddles and the wax/sand on the shuffle board table well maintained. In the other corner of the room you could work on your golf game with the phi golf swing stick or pretend you’re at the course with the golf arcade game. Also in the room were two Pelotons that probably encompassed the entirety of the gym budget (there’s a shower in the downstairs bathroom in case you were wondering); the Space Force has an odd affinity for Pelotons and it’s common to see senior leaders on the platform. The downstairs kitchen featured multiple beers on tap, a fridge of other bottled drinks, and organization branded glasses, mugs, and silverware. Fenced in a small outdoor eating area was a brand new unused grill.

The second floor features an open office concept with large windows and glass meeting rooms. Rows of standing desks enclose software teams in casual clothing, military uniforms are rarely seen here. The majority of the desks are empty, their computers remotely controlled by others working from home or wherever they felt like vacationing. Working from home was common even before the pandemic at tech giants; in fact, if every member of my team was in the office, there would not be enough space at our station for all of them. My team’s space had team specific stickers, matching costumes for developers who were “pair” programming, and wine that was somehow branded “Vandenberg Air Force Base” (not sure how they got the licensing to make that).

Also on the second floor is a kitchen stocked with a variety snacks, energy drinks, a coffee maker, and rotating kombucha tap. The kitchen features a large balcony and more Kobayashi Maru branded glasses/silverware. Lunch options rotated by day, I saw Chinese food, lasagna, and fried tacos catered by local restaurants.

Out of office fun there was an invitation to a beach day with food and jet skis that weekend.

I believe the intent behind this is to imitate silicon valley’s tech environment and encourage talent to work here. It’s worth noting that very few here are active duty military and even fewer are permanently assigned, most are civilians and contractors that could find better salaries elsewhere. While it’s nothing compared to the Google office, it’s a huge step in the right direction away from the quiet cubicle floors of neighboring LAAFB. I hope that other software factories around the service are also imitating this kind of culture and that the rebranding from “Section 31” to “Kobayashi Maru Organic Teams” changes KM to be more like S31, not the other way around.

Amazing Tacos and the Western Space Launch Range

If you’re stationed at Vandenberg Space Force Base (and all space operators will start at Vandy Land for tech school) you probably live in Lompoc (pronounced lom-poke) or Santa Maria. While Lompoc is cheaper and a shorter drive to base, if you want things to do, I’d recommend Santa Maria. Lompoc’s saving grace however was its amazing Mexican food. It’s close enough to Vandy to stop for lunch as well. My favorite tacos are from Angela’s. They’re underrated compared to Floriano’s though I will concede Floriano’s green sauce is the best sauce. The best move is to stash a bunch of Floriano’s green sauce on an occasional run there and get Angela’s tacos the rest of the week… yeah I had tacos everyday. If you don’t want to go to two places, Angela’s makes a great spicy salsa for their chips that pairs well with the tacos. #justspaceforcethings

Space Force Officer Reviews KA-BAR’s SPACE-BAR

In an attempt to create the world’s most durable letter and package opener, KA-BAR has released a USSF branded KA-BAR. Famously used by the Marines in WWII, the KA-BAR has since found itself in the hands of the Army, Navy, and even Coast Guard. Now-a-days it is typically engraved and given ceremoniously as a thank you or retirement gift. Though the knife isn’t necessarily standard issue today, the company still creates knives branded with KA-BAR on one side and either USMC, USA, or USN on the other (to my understanding they do not make a USAF KA-BAR). Now at long last the US Space Force gets their own branded KA-BAR to use in a pinch against aliens (this leaves the USAF as the last branch to not have a KA-BAR to my knowledge).

The knife was released in December of 2020 as the USSF SPACE-BAR Knife. It features a light blue handle with a grey powder coated blade. The heel of the knife reads USSF on one side and KA-BAR on the other in a retro NASA font. It retails for $111. On the side it comes with a plastic grey sheath and USSF KA-BAR line cover for the box.

In all seriousness, this was not a collaboration with the US Space Force and “US Space Force” is actually not mentioned anywhere on the product advertising, only USSF. The light blue is not at all similar to the “Space Blue” one sees on the uniforms and patches of Space Force members. None of these SPACE-BARs will be issued to Space Force members but rest assured one has found its way into my hands. It is going into a tabletop display on my desk at work. Hopefully some Marines from the neighboring building will get a good laugh out of it. I’d like to note here that the display costs more than the knife brining the total over $200 for a gag but it had to be done.

Both the knife and the case are exceptionally well made. If I had any need for a large knife honestly I would consider buying another one for use instead of collection. The rubberized grip and balance makes this knife very comfortable to hold, I could imagine myself using this… if I had any use for it. The display case features a magnet on the stand that secures the knife in place much better than if it were just a wedge or balancing act.

The KA-BAR USSF line also features an astro military police (karambit), corser folder (folding knife), and my personal favorite, the bridge breaching tool (basically a prybar with extras).

I love this knife. It’s a well made knife and a hilarious nod to our newest military branch. My only critique, they should have used Space Blue instead of this light almost tiffany blue for the handle.

Serious Q&A:

What use is this knife to the Space Force?

I will open letters with them in the rare cases where I get physical packages.

Does anyone in the Space Force actually have use for such a knife?

The electronic warfare guys deploy and could have use for a big knife while opening boxes or something. Honestly about as much use as anyone else has for a knife these days, though who wants to carry around a large heavy knife?

Will astronauts carry this knife?

As of writing, the Space Force has two astronauts. However, I don’t think carrying one of these in space would be a very good idea, the knife is heavy and pointy, not good for space suits.


If you want to know more about the Space Force check out my Space Force FAQ. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments!

Space Force FAQ

The Space Force is officially one year old and I’m going to write up a quick FAQ for those of you with questions. Information dated: 20DEC2020

Do we need a Space Force?

Yes. If you don’t believe in the branch’s necessity, you’re uninformed. A quick google search can direct you to write ups much better than I’d be willing to summarize here.

Why not keep the Space Force under the Air Force?

If you’ve done some reading on the topic you’ll learn that the Space Force, its jobs, and its members are just rebranded Air Force Space Operators. Why not keep it that way? Long story short, money for space turned into jet fuel money under the Air Force.

Why not just have NASA?

NASA is a civilian entity for science and research, not warfighting. You want to separate the two. Money for war is not the same as money for science… though the military does do a lot of science. (Honestly a good way to hide scientific spending in the budget if you were a snide science loving politician)

What jobs are in the Space Force?

I’ve heard that there will be 9 warfighting disciplines. The primary ones are:

1. Orbital Warfare: Flying satellites. But instead of being flown with joysticks they’re flown with physics and math. (Best discipline, cause I’m in it.)

2. Space Battle Management: Track space stuff with assets on the ground and in space.

3. Space Electronic Warfare: Jam satellites.

4. Space Access and Sustainment: Help launch rockets. This is the rarest of the primary space disciplines. It is a career broadening tour. So you can’t get this one out of the gate.

Other warfighting disciplines that as of now are scheduled to join our ranks but aren’t in yet: Cyber, Intel, Acquisitions… I forgot the rest of them.

Will support jobs be added to the Space Force?

Not for the foreseeable future.

How do I join the Space Force?

Get a space job with an Air Force recruiter. That’s 13SX for officer and 1C6X1 for enlisted. If you have a bachelors degree, go officer. We do the same job but officers get paid more.

How do you feel about “Guardians”?

It wasn’t my vote but maybe it’ll grow on me. I’ll give it a chance. I wanted astra, sentinel, or anything but spaceman.

What do your uniforms look like?

We use OCPs with dark blue lettering for our tapes. The flag and higher headquarters patch are on our left sleeve. (I assert this is the best side for the patch since we carry it into battle and you don’t have to reverse the flag.) Our unit patch and duty identifier tab is on our right sleeve. The tab isn’t official yet but many of us wear it to distinguish our discipline. Most of them are about the size of a flight suit morale patch. I’ve seen SEW patches the size of normal duty identifier tabs. Congress has banned the creation of new camos for each service to save money so we’re not gonna get that moon camouflage any time soon. Furthermore, space operators work on the ground. We do deploy for secret missions and we do need OCPs.

Are you against the weaponization of space?

It’s going to happen despite our good intentions of keeping as a scientific frontier. The number of nations that have access to space is growing. We may not be the first to employ kinetic space warfare but we’ll be ready when the time comes.

Where can one get stationed in the Space Force?

80% of us are in Colorado, most of those in Colorado Springs. Generally OW is at Schriever, SEW is at Peterson, and SBM is at Buckley. There are many, many, exceptions to that, for example I’m OW at Buckley. There are also SBMs at radar sites, Beale, Cavalier, and Cape Cod. Then there are a few SA&S guys at launch sites like Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral but that’s a temporary career broadening assignment. And then there are the very few abroad in Thule, Europe, Asia, and those deployed.

July 2021 Updates:

How big is the Space Force in terms of personnel? 

11,000 strong as of last month.

How many Space Force members have been to space?

We currently have two astronauts.


Other questions? Leave a comment.