WICHITA, Kan. — For more than a decade, 22-year-old Valley Center native Braden Vining had plans to follow his brother into the military. He couldn’t have planned on the military career he’s about to have, though, because it didn’t exist.
Vining is the first Kansan to be recruited into the U.S. Space Force, a branch of the military that started in late 2019 to protect the United States’ interests in space. Unlike the “Space Force” comedy starring Steve Carell, which may be better known than the actual Space Force, the military branch isn’t as much about sending rockets into space as it is about maintaining dominance and protecting what’s there, such as satellites.
The people doing the protecting are called guardians, which is what Vining will become after basic training at Lackland Air Force Base this spring followed by technical training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, The Wichita Eagle reports.
“It’s vital that we maintain air space and cyber space superiority,” said Aric Sievers, an Air Force technical sergeant who recruited Vining.
It was Sievers who set Vining on a path to the Space Force.
“I’ve always wanted to join the military,” Vining said. “My brother joined while I was in middle school, and I always just looked up to him.”
His brother, Army Sgt. Brice Morrow, currently is stationed at McConnell Air Force Base.
Vining originally had plans for the Army, too, but he decided the Air Force might be a better fit.
Then he took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test.
“It’s like the military version of the ACT,” Sievers said. “Braden scored so high.”
Sievers, who recruits for the Air Force and the Space Force, said he recognized that Vining could be a great match for the Space Force. He called to tell him.
“Hey, remember how you came in my office to join the Air Force? How about joining the Space Force instead?” Sievers asked.
“It wasn’t on my radar at all,” Vining said.
He said he recognized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I just had to jump on it.”
Then he had a lot of explaining to do to people who not only didn’t understand what the Space Force is but, in some cases, didn’t quite believe is exists.
His parents and some of his siblings “thought I was joking at first.”
“I understand their skepticism, but they immediately got on board.”
Morrow never doubted his brother’s new career.
“He immediately got excited,” Vining said. “He knew what it was.”
Most people have to ask what the Space Force is.
“Yeah, it’s funny every time,” Vining said.
The “Space Force” TV show tends to come up, too, even when Vining is searching the internet for something related to the military branch.
“That’s immediately the first thing that pops up, so I have to dig through Steve Carell to find the actual Space Force.”
Vining hasn’t seen the show yet even though he loved Carell in “The Office.”
“I’m actually a huge ‘Office’ fan, so you’d think I have seen (‘Space Force’), but I have not.”
Now, he may be a little busy to watch it.
“Yeah, life’s a little hectic right now,” Vining said.
In addition to preparing to join the Space Force, he and his wife, Kylie, are preparing to welcome their first child, a daughter they’ll call Piper.
“Her due date is just a few days after I leave, so we’re really hoping she comes early,” Vining said.
Currently, he’s working as an electrician. In the Space Force, he’ll be in client systems.
“It requires a top-secret clearance, so unfortunately I can’t go into a lot of detail about it.”
Basically, it’s a computer technology position.
Vining may not be trained in computer technology yet, but he said, “Growing up in this day and age, it’s kind of second nature to me.”
He said he wants “to learn more about how computers work and everything that goes into that.”
Though he’s still only a recruit, Vining already is thinking he wants to make a career out of the Space Force.
“I’m just excited to see where this takes me.”