Now that the Space Force is here, the fledgling service must figure out how to manage, attract and promote its uniformed Guardians.
But the culture the Space Force ends up with might look very different from other branches of the military -- more like a digital-heavy startup than its decades- or centuries-old sister services.
That means less emphasis on deployments and a greater emphasis on diversity and digital skills. And it could mean a greater willingness to accept recruits with pre-existing conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes.
"If our objective is that we need to be able to grow and develop leaders and warfighters to secure space ... it's going to take a special approach for us in managing our talent," Space Force Chief Human Capital Officer Patricia Mulcahy said at a roundtable discussion with reporters at the Air Force Association's Air Space & Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
Mulcahy and other Space Force officials repeatedly stressed the service's unique character among the military branches, and their desire to do things differently.
For one, the Space Force is far smaller than other branches of the military, with just 6,490 Guardians and a little more than 6,200 civilian employees. And with the service's heavy emphasis on science and technology, it's going to need to attract skilled young people with highly in-demand skills.
But, Mulcahy said, the Space Force is not where it needs to be. Only 18% of its force is female, she said, and the service wants to do more to attract talented women.
"We're trying to see where we can get in different places where women are, and generate that interest, and let them know that the Space Force is real, and here's how you can join," Mulcahy said.
Jason Lamb, a talent strategist for the Space Force, said the service must be diverse to bring in the kinds of talent it will need to accomplish its missions.
"Is it because we're looking for certain visuals, we want to look a certain way?" Lamb said. "The answer's no. It is a strategic imperative. Diverse teams outperform, consistently, homogeneous teams. They simply do."
Lamb is a retired Air Force colonel who went viral with a series of columns, written under the pseudonym Col. Ned Stark, that called the Air Force out for its outdated ways of developing and managing officers.
In his keynote address to AFA, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond highlighted a Space Force Guardian who had been able to join despite having Type 1 diabetes. That had never before happened in the military due to deployment requirements, Raymond said.
But because the Space Force almost always operates on bases, not deployed to rough territory, Mulcahy said it can look at things differently and be more willing to use accession waivers for health conditions that might otherwise have barred people from serving.
"We're small, and we're mission-focused," Mulcahy said. "So we don't have quite the challenges that our sister services have, that have many, many other broader missions and are typically deployed to austere environments."
Fitness will continue to be important in the Space Force, she said -- but the service could approach it differently. That might include wearable devices that tell Guardians how their fitness or sleep patterns are going.
"Fitness needs to be an everyday thing," Mulcahy said. "So we are looking at ways to potentially get away from the one-and-done, once-a-year fitness evaluation that you go, 'OK, I don't have to worry about that anymore,' to one that complements a daily regimen of fitness."
The Space Force also is preparing to take major steps forward to set up its own systems for performance appraisals and boards to decide promotions and other career advancements. The service will be relying on legacy systems it inherited from the Air Force until 2022, with yet-to-be-determined systems of its own ideally in place in 2023.
"All services have different values, and we'll need to assess differently," Mulcahy said.
And, she said, the Space Force hopes to take some cues from how other space-focused organizations such as NASA and SpaceX evaluate their employees.
"There are different ways that talent is assessed in industry, and we really want to learn about that," Mulcahy said.