In a press release Tuesday, the service announced that Space Force Specialist 3 Dakota Desrosiers, a 26-year-old all-source intelligence analyst, was the first to be named as Space Force's top performer for his class and also was the top graduate for all of the trainees at boot camp, including members of the Air Force.
"Typically, 10% of each class will finish with honors based on their performance, but only one individual earns the honor of being named the Top Graduate," the Space Force said in the press release. "Desrosiers' exemplary performance led to him being named the Top Graduate among an impressive cohort of 444 Guardians and airmen."
Desrosiers' historic achievement as the first Guardian to become a top basic military training graduate as well as the top performer for the Space Force marks a major step for the service, which has worked to shape and mold its own boot camp culture and to earn widespread recognition in the eyes of the American public.
"It was such an awesome moment," Desrosiers said in a press release. "I stood there at attention while my teammates cheered for me and congratulated me."
Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, head of the service's Space Training and Readiness Command, told Military.com in an emailed statement that Desrosiers' achievement is a notable testament to Guardians' values and hard work.
"His historic recognition underscores the potential every Guardian possesses and reflects the ethos of our force -- one that values intelligence, resilience and teamwork," Bratton said. "As we continue to evolve and grow, Dakota's achievement stands as a shining beacon of what we strive for in every Guardian."
Desrosiers first became interested in the Space Force this past February. After learning that he needed a high school diploma or a GED certificate to join, he went quickly online to take all the proper courses before reaching out to a recruiter.
"I didn't have my high school diploma or GED, but after deciding the Space Force was something I definitely wanted to pursue, I went online and scheduled my GED tests. Within 72 hours, I had taken all four tests and passed," he said in the press release. "As soon as I received my credentials, I contacted a Space Force recruiter."
Desrosiers also needed to lose 15 pounds before shipping out for basic military training and reached his required weight by May. He did mock physical training tests with his mom to prepare. They timed each other's 1.5-mile runs and counted their push-ups and sit-ups together.
Once he arrived, he immediately set his sights on earning the top graduate title.
"I tried to focus on process over outcome," Desrosiers said in the press release. "I figured if I took it day by day, followed orders, and did my absolute best at any task I was given, it would be enough to earn honor graduate status."
Since graduation last month, Desrosiers has reported to the 533rd Training Squadron Detachment 1 at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, according to the service.
In October 2020, Guardians began attending basic military training with airmen at San Antonio-Lackland. By the following December, the first seven Space Force Guardians were trained by Air Force drill instructors and graduated alongside airmen. The experience was barely distinct from troops enlisted into their sister service branch. They were simply given a Microsoft tablet with materials about the Space Force to study.
In 2021, the service created the 1st Delta Operations Squadron Detachment 1 to formulate its own training, curriculum and standards.
Last year, Military.com embedded with Guardians for the first-ever separate and specialized Space Force boot camp and wrote a three-part series examining the changes. It served as a litmus test for how the new military service was growing and changing, and was a public-facing opportunity for the Space Force to identify and decide what defines a Guardian.
Now, eight dedicated Space Force drill instructors graduate around 500 Guardians each year, with a service-specific curriculum ranging from the subtleties of emotional intelligence to the intricacies of space warfare.
A major change came to basic military training this past November, when the Department of the Air Force announced it was doing away with BEAST week, the four-day-long deployed war exercise that has been a staple of the service's boot camp since 2006.
BEAST week, which stands for Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, was replaced by a new exercise called PACER FORGE, which stands for the Primary Agile Combat Employment Range, Forward Operations Readiness Generation Exercise.
During the PACER FORGE exercise, airmen "will deploy to the former BEAST site" and "will be put to the test with scenarios that are built to provide flexibility, promote information seeking, teamwork, decision making and are results focused," the service said last year when announcing the change.
Space Force Guardians, like airmen who attend Basic Military Training at San Antonio-Lackland, have also started going through PACER FORGE during boot camp.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated. In a statement after the publication of Military.com's story, a Space Training and Readiness Command spokesperson clarified that Desrosiers was not the first Guardian to win top graduate -- that was done by a Guardian who was trained solely by the Air Force -- but the first to have been trained by fellow Guardians and the first to be named Space Force's top performer as well as basic military training's top graduate. Additionally, STARCOM misidentified Desrosiers' duty station in its press release; he's heading to Goodfellow Air Force Base.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.