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Nevada high school launches first Space Force JROTC program

A military commander ceremoniously hands a black and gray flag to a student cadet dressed in a blue semi-formal military uniform. Another student cadet dressed in a blue uniform stands at attention as she looks on from behind them.
Clark County School District
U.S. Space Force Col. Niki Lindhorst, Space Delta 13 commander, passes a flag for the first U.S. Space Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program to a cadet at Durango High School during a ceremony in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 2, 2021.

The U.S. Space Force established its first JROTC program in a Southern Nevada high school. 

Las Vegas’ Durango High is the first of its kind in the nation. About 150 students are enrolled in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and are making the move from cadet-Airmen to Guardians. They’ll learn the lingo, update their uniforms and start classes by chanting “go for launch!” 

Space Force Col. Niki Lindhorst is the commander of Space Delta 13, or the unit responsible for space education. She says there are also plans for a new JROTC curriculum aimed at immersing students in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. 

“Space is incredibly challenging,” Lindhorst said. “It’s not an easy domain to operate in. It requires people who are ready and excited and prepared. We’re looking to where we can do our part with that.”

The U.S. Space Force became the first new branch of the armed services in 73 years when the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law in December 2019. There’s a Space Force unit at Nellis Air Force Base, which played a part in the decision to start this program in Las Vegas. 

JROTC does not recruit students but instead teaches soft skills like leadership and attention to detail. 

Durango High instructor and retired Air Force officer Jason Kimbel says while the topic of space travel has become more prevalent, he wants his students to be informed with more than just the day’s headlines. 

“That’s what I’m most excited about,” Kimbel explained. “Giving them a foundation of space knowledge to make them smarter in whatever career field they go into when they graduate.”

Nine other schools across the country are expected to make the switch to Space Force JROTC by early next year.

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