Rubbing Elbows

Guardian of the Galaxy 

Alexis de Silva, CAS/BS ’21, CAS-SPA/MS ’22


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Alexis de Silva stands in front of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington

Alexis de Silva is poised to boldly go where no Washingtonian has gone before. The enterprising double Eagle is the first Air Force ROTC cadet from the District to join the United States Space Force (USSF).

After she collects her master’s in data science from AU next year, 2nd Lt. de Silva, who was commissioned as an intelligence officer in May, will head to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, for training. Established in December 2019, the Space Force, which is organized under the Department of the Air Force, is the first new branch of the armed services in 73 years and the only agency of its kind on the planet. “I’m a sucker for trying something new,” says de Silva, who will join about 6,500 other guardians, or USSF personnel. “The fact that I get to advance a mission that hasn’t been pursued yet makes me feel like I'm a part of something bigger.”

The Newark, California, native has always taken great joy in the great unknown and is the first in her family to serve in the military. The statistics major joined Air Force ROTC Detachment 130, based at Howard University, for the scholarship and the opportunity to meet a few workout buddies. But those 5 a.m. training runs built more than stamina; they built character. The Air Force’s core values—integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all [they] do—became de Silva’s guiding principles, both in uniform and in the classroom.

As an undergrad, she assisted AU professors Monica Jackson and Maria De Jesus on National Science Foundation–funded research examining the efficacy of a breast cancer educational intervention aimed at Latinas across the DC area. She also spent her senior year mining engineering survey data for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “If I have the opportunity to learn something [about which] I have no idea, I will take it,” de Silva says. “I enjoy being humbled.”

That will serve DC’s pioneering cadet well as she embarks on her next mission: staying “Always Above” with the Space Force. “We're going to be advancing together. That’s what I look forward to most. It’s an honor to say that I could be the first.”