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Face of Defense: From Army 'Brat' to Space Force Guardian

Space Force Sgt. David Kim, 25, has spent almost half of his life overseas, thanks to three branches of the military: His father served in the Army; he enlisted in the Air Force after high school; and when the chance came in early 2021 to be one of the first members of the military's newest branch — the Space Force — he jumped at it.

A guardian stands in front of a satellite and dome-type structures.
Satellite Site
Space Force Sgt. David Kim, assigned to the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, stands in front of his work site, Europe 3, a satellite communications facility at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Nov. 23, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kegan E. Kay
VIRIN: 211123-N-OX321-1017Y

Space Force Sgt. David Kim
Job Title: Satellite Systems Supervisor
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Stationed: Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy
Unit: 7th Reconnaissance Squadron
   

What was it like growing up as an Army "brat"?

For me, it was an enriching experience because I did get to grow up in a lot of different environments. It's weird whenever people ask where you're from or what's home because I can't really give a solid answer. The majority of my life has been overseas; I have lived in Germany for 12 years total! I have my Korean heritage from my mom and dad, but based on the way I talk and act, I'm completely American. It's a bunch of cultural influences that can make it confusing for me. 

A family of four poses for a photo.
Family Photo
David Kim poses for a photo with his mother, Seuna Kim; sister, Jennifer Kim; and father, Tae O Kim, in Los Angeles, June 2015.
Photo By: Courtesy David Kim
VIRIN: 150615-D-D0439-101

What was your father's path to service?

My dad was a Korean immigrant who served for 23 years in the Army. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 80s or early 90s, and after my sister was born in 1993, he needed a way to support the family so he joined. For my family, the military is one of those things that we are really grateful for. It gave us opportunities we really needed.

How did you decide to join the military?

The reason I joined primarily is I didn't have too much direction about what I wanted to do after high school. I didn't think going to college for an aimless reason was going to do me any good, so I decided to go to the military. My dad is the one who said I should choose the Air Force before any other branch. I enlisted right after I graduated high school while we lived in Korea at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan-Casey.  

A guardian poses for a photo by a satellite.
Satellite Savvy
Space Force Sgt. David Kim, assigned to the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, poses for a photo while conducting maintenance on a satellite at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Nov. 23, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kegan E. Kay
VIRIN: 211123-N-OX321-1006Y

How important has travel been to you?

My dad and my mom knew they would never be able to necessarily provide financial riches, but at least with the experiences that they were able to provide, we were able to go to so many different countries. They instilled the travel bug really early on to me. To me, knowing that some people don't have passports or have never been out of their state boggles my mind. I had to get a passport as soon as I was born so we could move to Germany! 

Three people wearing life preservers pose for a photo in a boat, with an ornate Thai building in the background.
Bangkok View
David Kim with his mother, Seuna Kim, and father, Tae O Kim, in Bangkok, October 2018.
Photo By: Courtesy David Kim
VIRIN: 181001-D-D0439-101

Right now if it weren't for COVID, I'd be going to a different country every other week. In my lifetime, I don't even know how many countries I've been to. Over 30 at least. If you get the chance, definitely go to Thailand! 

Is it ever hard to be overseas? How do you cope?

As a young service member, when you're overseas you go through a lot of stuff that sucks, like being isolated and being away from everybody, even if you do get to live in a cool location.

I got into Olympic weightlifting when I lived in Korea [during high school] because of CrossFit. … I don't have any numbers where I'll ever be able to go to the Olympics, but I just love the sport because it's a lot of fun and I like things that require you to get really nitty gritty with it and just pay a lot of attention.

A person kneels and grasps a barbell with weights.
Ready to Lift
David Kim in Kindsbach, Germany, Oct. 2017.
Photo By: Courtesy David Kim
VIRIN: 171001-D-D0439-101

If you're willing to put a bunch of weights over your head and stand it up, then I think you're more than capable mentally to do a lot of things that the military will ask of you. 

You served in the Air Force for four years. Why did you transfer into the Space Force?

I joined on a whim! My old unit was asking if anybody wanted to do it, and I applied because I thought it would be cool to say I was part of the newest branch. I didn't actually realize I was going to get it until I came over here [to Sigonella]. 

Two airmen raise their right hands while facing a third airman doing the same.
Taking an Oath
Air Force Lt. Col. Rolly Cooper swears Sgts. David Kim, right, and Rylan Phung into the Space Force at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Feb. 5, 2021.
Photo By: Courtesy
VIRIN: 210205-D-D0439-103
Two airmen raise their right hands in a room.
Right Hands Raised
Air Force Sgts. David Kim, right, and Rylan Phung enlist in the Space Force at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Feb. 5, 2021.
Photo By: Courtesy
VIRIN: 210205-D-D0439-102

As a new branch, we're at that new frontier. One of the reasons I joined is because with the new things comes the ability to kind of think outside the box. I like the idea of being able to be creative and try to figure out something that hasn't necessarily been done yet. 

You're a satellite communications technician. What is your job like now that you're in the Space Force?

I came to Sigonella under the slot of an Air Force job, and for now at least, it's the same job. It's not like I'm actually going to go to space. I'm transferring soon to Buckley Space Force Base in Colorado, so my answer may be different then.  

At its core, what I do in the military is information systems technology equipment for the Air Force/Space Force. My job, specifically. is in radio frequency transmission systems. We spend a lot of time outside doing maintenance on the equipment, but we're also in front of a computer a lot of the day. The thing about my career field as a whole is it's very vast. You always have a wide array of opportunities to do a bunch of things.

A guardian handles wiring in a satellite.
Sigonella Satellite
Space Force Sgt. David Kim, assigned to the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron, conducts maintenance on a satellite at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Nov. 23, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kegan E. Kay
VIRIN: 211123-N-OX321-1003Y

What do you want people to know about the Space Force?

[Comedian] Steve Carell is not my boss! Thank you, Netflix, for giving us that advertisement [on your streaming TV show], but that's not actually how it is. It's just like any other branch of the military, as far as my experience.

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