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UD graduate Jacob Wandless will join the U.S. Space Force, a relatively new branch of the military. On Jan. 6, 2020, a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying an installment of Starlink satellites. That was the first official launch of the U.S. Space Force.
Jacob Wandless received his bachelor’s degree on Saturday, May 28, and he will hold the distinction of being the first University of Delaware graduate to get his commission in Newark and move into the U.S. Space Force.
“There may be some UD alumni who joined or transferred into the Space Force but we know that Cadet Wandless is the first to complete the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program based at UD and have his first assignment be in the Space Force,” said Lt. Colonel Victoria Thomas, commander of Air Force ROTC Detachment 128 at University of Delaware.
“Cadet Wandless earned his place in history through academic excellence and proven leadership in the cadet wing,” said Thomas. “I know he will be an officer who leads with professionalism and empathy.”
Created in 2019, the U.S. Space Force is the world’s only independent space force. It is organized under the Air Force in a manner similar to how the Marine Corps is organized under the Navy.
Space Force articulates its mission as conducting “global space operations that enhance the way our joint and coalition forces fight, while also offering decision makers military options to achieve national objectives.”
Wandless, who double majored in political science and history, said that when he applied to the Space Force, he felt like it was a long shot. He was both surprised and thrilled when he found out he was accepted.
The 22-year-old grew up in Magnolia, Delaware, and graduated from Polytech High School in Woodside, where he was active in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). His decision to apply to UD’s Air Force ROTC was influenced, in part, by hearing about his grandfather’s military service.
Wandless will begin his career in the Space Force with six months of tech school training in San Angelo, Texas. While he hopes to do intelligence work, he isn’t exactly sure what he will be doing or where he will be doing it. But he and his bride of five months, Kayli, don’t mind the uncertainty.
“We haven’t traveled widely and we are up for wherever the Space Force sends us,” he said.
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Jacob Wandless double majored in political science and history at UD.
One of the reasons Wandless is comfortable embracing uncertainty is because he said that his time at UD — both inside and outside the classroom — has prepared him well for whatever lies ahead. Air Force ROTC Detachment 128 is student-led and while Lt. Col. Thomas is there to support the cadets, ultimately, they are the ones rotating through the various leadership roles.
“ROTC is preparing you to become an officer. The biggest emphasis is on leadership,” said Wandless. “You’re planning lessons and making decisions that impact your team.”
Wandless and the other cadets also spent time giving back to Habitat for Humanity and other area nonprofits. In addition, Wandless held a part-time security position with UD’s Public Safety Department. Academically, he said that he gained a whole new perspective from the classes he took in both majors, and especially enjoyed learning about East Asia and Eastern Europe.
“I met so many different people and heard so many diverse opinions about the content we were studying,” he said.
Wandless thrived under the tutelage of scholars such as Alice Ba, a professor in the department of political science and international relations. “Jake was one of a small but fabulous cohort of students that took two of my Asia classes in 2020-2021, and I could always count on Jake to offer thoughtful contributions and provocative questions to class discussion,” said Ba. “I am thrilled to hear that Jake received such a great appointment. The U.S. Space Force is lucky to have him.”
Operation Desert Storm was widely considered the first “space war” in which strategic space capabilities were integrated into the battle. Many of these capabilities, such as Global Positioning Systems, are integral to current military operations and may very well be the tools that Wandless employs on the job. He doesn’t take his upcoming responsibilities lightly.
“I know how important space is to the world and how important the Space Force is to what is happening in the world right now,” said Wandless. “I am super excited to become a part of the U.S Space Force; it is like a dream come true.”
Article by Margo McDonough, photos courtesy of Christopher Miller, UD AFROTC Detachment 128, and U.S. Space Force
Originally pubished June 03, 2022