courtesy of Missouri S&T/ Photos by Amber Headingscourtesy of Missouri S&Tcourtesy of Missouri S&T

Willow Springs Native Commissioned to the Space Force

Cory Chafin, son of Philip and Gayla Chafin, has become the first native son of Willow Springs to be commissioned to the United States Space Force, the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces which was established in December 2019.
Chafin, a recent graduate of Missouri S&T, was commissioned to the Space Force on Dec. 19, 2020, and is one of fewer than 100 cadets entering the new military branch as an officer during its first year. Chafin was a member of S&T’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 442 Cadre and graduated in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics and a minor in communication studies.
Lieutenant Chafin’s commission as an officer means a great deal to his family. His father, Philip Chafin, told Howell County News that Cory is the first military officer in the family’s history.
“My family has always been enlisted people,” Philip said, “Cory is the first Chafin officer.”
Philip himself enlisted in the Air Force and served as an air traffic controller, and his grandfather, Freddie Chafin, enlisted in the US Navy and served on the USS Enterprise during World War II.
In Detachment 442, under the previous command of Col. Brent Unger, Cory toured or trained at various U.S. Air Force bases including Maxwell, Buckley, Schriever, Patrick, and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. But it was his Air Force Space Command summer internship at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs - now the provisional location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters - where he clarified his ambition to work with the military communication satellites that are essential for the defense operations of orbital warfare. That realization led him to volunteer for the Space Force when his cadre was approached with the opportunity.
“I feel blessed and honored to have been selected from a very competitive application process,” said Chafin to a representative of Missouri S&T, “My four-and-a-half years of hard work at S&T paid off. I think back to all the people who helped me get here and want them to know that they deserve my deepest gratitude. This achievement isn’t mine alone to share. I want to give back to my family for their confidence in me, and to Missouri S&T.”
Cory has nothing but praise for the education he received at Missouri S&T.
“Math is in everything S&T does,” he said. “If you can make it through Calculus I, II and III, you can make it through this school. Coming from a rural high school that didn’t offer many college prep courses, starting out here in lower math set me up for success. And as one professor said, ‘Math is like a foreign language — you just have to learn it.’”
Cory’s parents credit his accomplishment not only to his academic prowess, but to his determination and drive.
“Growing up in Willow Springs gave him a wonderful personality,” said Philip, “He’s used to a small town with good people where everybody's friendly.”
Gayla Chafin praised the small town experience Cory received in Willow Springs public schools, where he graduated as Salutatorian in 2016.
“You have a smaller class setting and more interaction with the teachers,” she said, “With a bigger school, you wouldn't have that.”
To explain Cory’s drive and leadership skills, Philip shared this story from Cory’s ROTC colonel.
For a time, Cory was the commander of his ROTC cadre. When the group did their PT test, Philip said Cory ran his own time but then circled back to run alongside the slower guys and paced with them.
“Instead of running one and half miles, he ran three so he could make sure his guys scored well, and they scored a 100 percent,” Philip said, “Cory’s that type of leader. The colonel told us that Cory has the makings of possibly being a general some day.”
The Department of Defense classifies Space Force as a separate service under the Department of the Air Force, and like the Marine Corps to the Navy, it will look to the Air Force for support. The entire Space Force will be about the same size as a Marine Corps division, and the unit aims to be agile and flexible, eliminating layers of command, notes Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the new service’s first senior enlisted advisor.
“Most people don’t realize that for the next several years, the path to becoming an officer in the Space Force will be through Air Force ROTC,” says Lt. Col. Daniel Willis, commander of Missouri S&T’s Detachment 442.
Lt. Chafin’s bright future will lead him away from Willow Springs indefinitely. According to his parents, he hopes to be stationed in Colorado Springs. Cory is in town for the summer, but will leave in September for additional training and education at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Chafins’ pride in Cory’s accomplishments is very clear to see.
“He’s very dedicated and works hard at everything,” Philip offered, “Cory’s a Christian young man. He gives God the glory. We’re blessed because God loves us.”
Parts of this article were originally written by Delia Croessmann and have been reprinted from with permission.


Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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