When the U.S. Space Force was announced, people wondered what it was and why we needed it. This new military branch is going to do some important work to keep America safe.
Space knows no color, but one of the first college campuses where the new branch is recruiting is North Carolina A&T State University, the largest historically Black university in the country. David Vermillion is the first recruit from the university.
“I knew in high school that I wanted to do something with the Air Force, so I joined Civil Air Patrol, which is the civilian auxiliary to the Air Force,” he said.
In high school, Vermillion took dual enrollment classes at GTCC. From there, he got an Air Force ROTC scholarship. He says he went for a tour at North Carolina A&T and knew that was the school for him.
“Initially I thought I wanted to fly,” he said. “But my sophomore year I found out that my glasses were a little too strong in the prescription to be able to do that. So I was feeling a little down for a while, but space is pretty cool. Star Trek has been an inspiration for me for a while.”
The stars aligned. Then-President Trump announced the creation of the Space Force in 2018 while Vermillion was working his way through the ROTC program at A&T. And the Space Force picked A&T to be one of the first college campuses where it would recruit. FOX8 was the only station there when Space Force leadership came to campus in October.
“So the idea of Space Force, it’s in charge of all the satellites that we have, the military satellites. We protect the space, the domain to ensure companies like SpaceX are able to launch when they want to and they’re not going to face interference from foreign adversaries.”
Vermillion says his time on campus prepared him academically for this new frontier. He also learned some lessons he couldn’t learn in a book.
“As an HBCU, it’s a nurturing environment. I also got to learn a lot about different ethnicities from what I was previously exposed to. So that’s helpful for me to be able to know what’s going on to be a good officer to those who are under me and to be interacting well with people around me as well.”
He learned another important lesson: the importance of listening to people.
“There are experiences like some of my Black classmates mentioned when they get pulled over they’re concerned more than just a normal white person would be concerned like ‘oh I’m going to get a ticket.’ They’re concerned for their lives. And that’s something I haven’t had to experience. I’ve only heard about it. I have to hear that and listen and do what I can to prevent experiences like that from happening under my watch.”
Vermillion graduated in May. He recently moved to California for his training to be a Space Operations Officer.