'Battle for Space Superiority' Subject of Graduation Remarks as 86 Air Force Academy Cadets Join Space Force

Cadets graduating into the U.S. Space Force were told that their job would be to win the "battle for space superiority" in remarks during their graduation ceremony.

The U.S. Air Force Academy's (USAFA) class of 2020 graduated in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday. Vice President Mike Pence changed his plans amid the coronavirus pandemic to deliver the commencement address to the 967 new officers, according to a news release from the USAFA.

Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Gen. John Raymond administered the oath of office to the 86 graduating seniors who are now officers in the U.S. Space Force, a branch of the armed forces that was founded in December to protect the U.S. and its allies' interests in space.

The new Space Force officers will "fight and win the battle for space superiority," Raymond said in remarks during the ceremony. "You are our future and I need you to be bold," he added.

Air Force
Spaced eight feet apart, United States Air Force Academy cadets celebrate their graduation as a team of F-16 Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the academy on April 18, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

This year's graduating cadets experienced a markedly different graduation from previous years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the new officers closed out their four years at the school without handshakes, hugs, or chest bumps, which cadets typically share after receiving their diploma.

The cadets also sat at least six feet from their peers before, during, and after the ceremony, according to the USFA. But some traditions were able to continue, including the cadets hurlings their caps into the air at the end of the ceremony while a team of F-16s flew overhead.

"Today, the 967 exceptional young leaders of the 62nd graduating class of the United States Air Force Academy started their careers as officers, and I am confident that they will take our Air and Space forces and make them their own," said Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria during the ceremony's opening remarks.

Silveria announced earlier in April that the graduation ceremony would be moved up six weeks. Other measures were also introduced to keep cadets, staff and families at the base safe from coronavirus. Most freshmen, sophomore, and junior cadets left the school in March and all cadets continued their studies online. The base was closed to all but official business.

Families and friends of cadets were also told that they would not be able to attend the graduation ceremony, but were able to watch a livestream.

"To the parents, families, friends, loved ones, our local leaders, and community members, thank you for your unwavering support," Silveria added. "This is a community we would normally welcome to Falcon Stadium but under the current circumstances we are honored to have your support from wherever you may be tuning in."

Graduates will leave the Academy at various stages throughout April for their first assignments or to return to their homes for 60 days.

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Correction 4/29/20, 5:40 a.m. ET: A previous headline misstated the academy from which the cadets were graduating. We regret the error.