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Space Force Members Will Be Called 'Guardians'

Vice President Mike Pence arrives for a ceremony to commemorate the first birthday of the U.S. Space Force on Friday. Members of the branch will be called "guardians."
Andrew Harnik
Vice President Mike Pence arrives for a ceremony to commemorate the first birthday of the U.S. Space Force on Friday. Members of the branch will be called "guardians."

The Army has soldiers. The Navy has sailors. Now, one year after its creation, it's official: The Space Force has "guardians."

Vice President Mike Pence revealed the moniker during remarks celebrating the first anniversary of the military branch on Friday.

"It is my honor, on behalf of the president of the United States, to announce that, henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as 'guardians,' " Pence told a room of military and other government officials, who broke into applause as Pence nodded and smiled. "Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardians will be defending our nation for generations to come."

In a statement, the Space Force explained that the name was the product of a yearlong process that drew hundreds of submissions.

"The opportunity to name a force is a momentous responsibility," Space Force said. "Guardians is a name with a long history in space operations, tracing back to the original command motto of Air Force Space command in 1983, 'Guardians of the High Frontier.' "

The Space Force announced in February that it was seeking ideas on what its members should be called.

"Proposals must be gender-neutral, distinctive and should emphasize a future-oriented military force," the military branch said at the time, adding that submissions couldn't violate copyrights or infringe on others' intellectual property.

And yet, while the name seemed well received by those in attendance at the anniversary speech, others noticed it seemed cribbed from the Marvel franchise Guardians of the Galaxy. After Pence's announcement, Guardians director James Gunn tweeted: "Can we sue this dork?"

It's not the first time the Space Force drew attention for seeming to borrow from popular culture. When the branch announced its logo in January, sci-fi fans immediately noticed the similarities to the Starfleet insignia from Star Trek. In fairness, though, the logo had more in common with the existing logo for the Air Force Space Command, America's precursor to the modern Space Force.

In the year since the force was created, the Space Force's ranks have grown to about 4,000 members — or guardians. Two Air Force stations in Florida were officially redesignated as Space Force facilities earlier this month.

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Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").