NORMAN, OKLA. – Cash Balke has become the first University of Oklahoma graduate to join the Space Force. He commissioned into the Space Force on Dec. 19, one of less than 100 cadets to be commissioned into the newly formed military branch this spring. Balke, from Edmond, graduated Dec. 18 with a degree in aerospace engineering and was a member of Air Force ROTC Detachment 675.
When the Trump administration announced the formation of Space Force last year, Balke said, “it’s like the stars aligned.” He said he’s always been interested in space and that being selected is a dream come true.
“When I got the news, I was ecstatic because I couldn’t believe it,” Balke said. “It’s a huge honor.”
Col. Justin Boldenow, Air Force commander of the 675 Detachment, said, “We (Air Force ROTC) are at the University of Oklahoma to find and qualify leaders for service to our nation. … I am proud of 2nd Lt. Balke’s accomplishments through the Air Force ROTC program, and I look forward to all he will accomplish with the U.S. Space Force.”
Two additional cadets, Harold Nguyen and Samuel Turner, will join the Space Force following their graduations in spring 2021. Capt. Skyler Awisus, an assistant professor of aerospace studies and an education officer for OU’s Air Force ROTC, also recently transferred from the Air Force to the Space Force.
“Part of the reason I joined the Air Force was from hearing about my grandpa’s time in the Air Force in World War II,” Awisus said. “Just thinking about the heritage of the creation of a new branch during his time (when the Air Force split from the Army in 1947), and the idea of being a part of the new branch now, the decision to join was too easy.”
As far as OU ROTC’s role in preparing future Airmen or Guardians, Awisus said, “we train our cadets to be air and space force officers with the same leadership skills…we’re training students to be leaders, to be officers of character, ready to lead our nation’s services.”
OU’s connection to the nation’s space program spans decades and includes alumni like Jack Ridley, who broke the sound barrier as an Army Air Corps test pilot in 1947, and astronauts Fred Haise Jr., Owen Garriott, Shannon Lucid, Fred Leslie and dozens more involved in NASA programs.