During December Murray Independent School District students experienced a virtual meeting with The United Space Force Guardians. It wasn't by chance. The opportunity presented itself through an email invitation from 2005 Murray High School alumnus Sergeant Bryan D. Nixon, TSgt, USSF, Technical and current United States Space Force member
Nixon's thread still runs true to his black and gold roots. Remembering where he developed a passion and love of science and biology with former MISD instructors, Cynthia Steelnack; Becky Fairbanks; and Ted Dotson, Nixon returned the favor and reached out to the place it began for him to provide this first-time opportunity for MISD students.
Nixon invited Murray Elementary, Murray Middle, and Murray High school students to participate with The United Space Force Guardians in the December STEM2Space campaign, as a part of the 2021 STEM engagement campaign.
The United Space Force Guardians program is organized under the Department of the Air Force with The U.S. Space Force (USSF), a new branch of the Armed Forces established in 2019 with enactment of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
A separate and distinct branch of the armed services, the STEM2Space campaign offers participating guardian volunteers, ranked with stripes of all military achievements. The guardians raise awareness about Space Force services and contributions to national security and daily life, while highlighting the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in space.
Since establishing STEM2Space Campaign within the Department of the Air Force, the Secretary of the Air Force has overall responsibility for the USSF under the guidance and direction of the Secretary of Defense. Much similar to how the Marine Corps organization under the Department of the Navy.
Mechelle Morgan, MISD Director of Instructional Technology, facilitated the technical, and virtual meeting and communication set up with Kicking off in December, 2021, The Space Force’s “STEM2Space”campaign, a direct engagement initiative with school classrooms across the country. “We are very grateful to Mr. Nixon for his time in sharing the space force program with our students. MISD works hard to provide lots of opportunities to our students in all areas and we always value real world and direct experiences for our students.”
MES students met with Space Force Guardian Lt. Col Kimberly Myers in Fort Meade Maryland. MMS students met with Space Force Guardian Tech. Sergeant Derron King Manager, AFSOC Cybersecurity HQ Air Force Special Operations Command A6/A6CS Hurlburt Field. MHS students met with Space Force Guardian Megan A. Standifer, Lt Col, USSF Chief, Joint Requirements Integration Division Space Force, SF/S5R 1070 Air Force – Pentagon, in Washington.
MES second grade students in Thenia Gibson's class described the virtual experience with Lt. Col. Kimberly Myers as "exciting," since second grade students are genuinely curious about science. "I believe this experience inspired our students to see beyond the classroom, and provided the students an opportunity to see a real-life scientist, to ask questions, and receive answers about the mysteries of space," she said. "Her (Lt. Col. Kimberly Myers) presentation helped to reinforce our message as teachers that scientists are all around us, to dream big and study hard, because nothing is out of reach."
Callie Adams, MMS Social Studies instructor, said the zoom meeting with Derron King, a Cybersecurity Specialist, was an incredible experience. " My students didn't know a lot about Space Force before our zoom meeting; however, I had students talking about it for DAYS after our chat with Mr. King. Students are fascinated with space and the world of technology; they learned about how this new branch of the U.S. military combines both of those areas to keep our country safe and to continue exploring the world around us."
Prior to scheduled zoom meetings with MES, MMS, and MHS students, students were asked to explore the Space Force Website and prepare questions about Space Force Program, How STEM plays a role in Space Force, Careers with Space Force, and any other related topics. Officer Career careers and positions were provided as an Space Operations Officer, Developmental Engineer, Intelligence Officer, Cyberspace Operations Officer, Acquisition Manager, and Cyber Warfare Operations Officer.
A graduate of Murray State University, obtaining both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from MSU, Nixon enlisted in to the United States Air Force in 2013. A member of the United Space Force since February 2021 and currently stationed in Colorado Springs at Space Operations Command, Nixon described The STEM engagement project both rewarding to him personally and the classrooms he has joined. "The questions that the students normally raise are inspiring in how much curiosity they have with things going on around them."
Nixon said one of the groups he interacted with this year had a keen desire to understand how his respective division allows day-to-day activities to occur without interruptions. "These were fifth graders."
Nixon compliments the Murray School System's programs offered for prepping him to channel his inner curiosity and love for science, along with developing his appreciation for teamwork. "Between Ms. Steelnack and Mrs. Fairbanks, they cultivated my passion to pursue a bachelor of science in Biology/Pre-Medicine, and then a masters in biology. While Mr. Dotson’s classes allowed me to start thinking more outside the box. Between those three, I have developed a sense of balance between the two regimes of structure and creativity that has allowed me to better myself and those around me," Nixon said.
Currently, Nixon and his team are working on constructing the proper training for new members of the United States Space Force (USSF) and how to support them at their duty assignments. "I am constantly working with representatives in the other military branches and government agencies every day."
"We appreciate Sgt. Brian Nixon devoting his time to educate our students about the importance of The Space Force and giving our students insight into his military career," Amanda Tipton, MMS instructor, said.
The SpaceForce2 program concluded at the end of December. Since the implementation of the SpaceForce2 program, the Space Force has grown to approximately 4,000 members, or guardians.
Sherry Purdom, MHS Alumni Director, is appreciative to Nixon. "Communicating with our black and gold alumni near and far presents never-ending tradition, pride, and excellence conversations," she said. "Receiving an offer of this magnitude for our students from Mr. Nixon is immensely appreciated, while also providing an opportunity to spotlight the achievements of Mr. Nixon and the black and gold tradition he emulates each day."