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LIFEATTHEAIRFORCEACADEMY

LifeattheAirForceAcademy
StevenCromer
AcademyHighSchool

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Jetszoomoverascadetswaitfortheirnametobecalled.Theyarenowcommissioned
officersintheUnitedStatesAirForce.GraduatesbecomeSecondLieutenantsreadytogolead
theworldsgreatestAirForce.TheUnitedStatesAirForceAcademyisapublic,fouryear
undergraduatecollegelocatedinColoradoSprings,Colorado.TheAcademywasfoundedin
1954andhascontinuedtobuildleaderseversince(History,2012).TosucceedattheAcademy,
communicationisamust.Communicationbetweenprofessorsandfellowcadetsisessential
becauseeveryonemustsucceedasaunit.CadetsattheAirForceAcademyarebeingbuiltto
handledifferentchallengesduringandaftertheirtimeattheAcademy.Ifsuccessisnotattained,
alackofcommunicationoccurredsomewhere,somehow.Asyouprogress,yearbyyear,things
changeforyourlifeattheAcademyandyoureceivedifferentresponsibilities.Itonlygets
harder,butmorerewarding.
AirForceAcademycadetsareheldtocertainstandards.AstheyentertheAcademyfor
thefirsttimeandexitforthelasttime,thereisaphrasehangingabovetheirheads.Itreads,We
willnotlie,steal,orcheat,nortolerateamongusanyonewhodoes.In2012,seventyeight
cadetsweresuspectedofcheatingonamathexamtheyweretakingonline.Mostofthecadets
foundcheatingadmittedtoitandwentthroughasixmonthacademicprobationperiod.[Cadets]
thatliedaboutcheatingwereexpelled(Steiner,2012).CaptainTammyGrant,aprofessoratthe
AirForceAcademyexplains,Therearehardchoiceswehavetomakeinlife.Asking[cadets]
aboutthosesortsofthingsandhelpingstudentstocraftstrongbluefiberssotheycanmakethose
toughchoiceswhentheyhaveto,ispartoftrainingcadetstobeleadersandmakethese
decisionsontheirown(Academyadmissions,2011).Thefacultymemberstakeitupon

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themselvestoguidecadetstomaketherightchoicesandtounderstandthatthesechoiceshaveto
bemadebythemselves,withouttheinfluenceofothers.
ItisnotaneasyroadtoattendtheAirForceAcademy.Therearecountlesslongnights
andmoundsofpaperwork.Ontopofthat,thereareotherrequirementssetbytheAcademy.An
Academygraduatewrote:
GettingacceptedtotheAcademytookalotoftimeandhardworkduringmysenioryear
inhighschool.Ihada3.8GPAand[workedhard]togetintogoodphysicalshapeit
wasrequiredtohaveacongressionalnominationbeforetheAcademywouldevenbegin
toconsideryou(Hartman).
Alargeportionoftheworkstartsinhighschool.Tohelpapplicantsseewheretheystand,the
Academysetsbenchmarks.Therearefourmainthingstheadmissionsboardconsidersfora
potentialAcademycadet:academics,athletics,leadership,andcharacter(AcademyAdmissions).
Tobeacompetitiveapplicant,excellentgradesareamust!TheaverageACTscoreofthe
graduatingclassof2016was30(Ryan,2012).But,thatisjustanaverage.Applicantsarerarely
consideredwithscoreslessthana24onEnglishorReadinganda25onMathorScience
(AcademyAdmissions).Gradesandtestscoresarenoteverything.Aspiringcadetsneedto
participateinathleticsbecausewhileattendingtheAcademy,itisrequiredthateverycadetmust
joinsomesortofextracurricularactivitywhileattending.Ifhighschoolstudentsdonotplay
sportsinhighschool,theyareputtingthemselvesatadisadvantage.Whileapplyingtothe
Academy,thereisaphysicalfitnesstest.Playingasportormultiplesportsinhighschoolwill
greatlyenhancethepossibilityofgettingabetterscore.Hereisatableoftheaveragescoresfor

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thisyearsjuniorclass.Thesesarejustaverages,somescorescouldbesignificantlyhigheror
lowerthanthese(AcademyAdmissions).
PhysicalProfile:Classof2017
Exercise

AverageforMen

AverageforWomen

BasketballThrow

70

42

PullUps

12

24sec

8.4sec

9.5sec

ModifiedSitUps(crunches)

81

81

PushUps

63

43

6:12

7:03

FlexedArmHang(women)
ShuttleRun

OneMileRun

LeadershipisanotherthingtheAcademyconsiderswhenmakingtheirselection.Theadmissions
boardknowscandidatesparticipatedinclubsandsports,butdidtheyholdaleadershipposition?
TheAcademywantstoseeiftheywerepresidentsinthoseclubsorcaptainsoftheirsports
teams.Lastly,theygradeyourcharacter.TheAirForcehasthreecorevalues:Integrityfirst.
Servicebeforeself.Excellenceinallwedo.Beingcomposedofthesethreethingswillmake
applicantsstandout.TheAirForceAcademywantstoseehowmanycommunityservicehoursa
studenthasandforwhat.Thismayseemlikealotofwork,butitisnotimpossible.
LifeattheAirForceAcademydoesnotgetanyeasieronceaccepted.Thefirst,ordoolie,
yearisthehardestyearofthesecadetslives.Itstartstheminutedooliesgetoffthebusthere
willbeanupperclassmencadetintheirfacetellingthemtheyhavenobusinessbeingthereand
tojustgohome.Oncefourthclasscadetsstepoffofthatbus,theyresigningtheirlifeawayfor

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whatseemslikeforever.Itbecomesthelongestyearoftheirlives.RetiredColonelSueRoss
(2012)writes:
[Yourfriendsatothercolleges]candecideforthemselveswhattheydoeveryminuteof
everydayCollege,theysay,isablast.Youmightquestionyourdecision[ofattending]
theAirForceAcademy.Youhearthosevoiceagain:WhyamIhere?WhyamIhere?
(p.127).
WhenthedaysgettoughattheAcademy,andtheywill,cadetshavetothinkaboutthebig
picturebeinganofficerintheUnitedStatesAirForce.ThereasontheAcademyisasmentally
challengingasitisacademicallytomakesurecadetsdonotcrackwhileperformingthedutiesof
anofficer.Officersmuststaysharpandincontrol.Totestdooliesabilitytodoso,
upperclassmenmaketheirliveshell.Seniorcadetsteardooliesdowntobuildthembackup
strongerthanbefore.First,thereareseniors,thenjuniorsandsophomores,fiftyfeetofcrap,then
freshmen.ItstaysthatwayuntiltheendofthedoolieyearwithatraditioncalledRecognition
wherefirstyearsgettobetreatedlikehumansagain.TroyHartmanconfessesabouthis
Recognitiondayasbeingthemostmemorabledayofhislife.Thelittlethingslikelooking
aroundwhereheliked,walkinginsteadofrunningeverywhere,andhefinallywasabletoeat
howhelikedmadehimhappierthanhecouldeverimagine(Hartman).Everydoolielivesforthe
daytheycanbenormalcadetsagain.Moreprivilegescomealongeachyearsuchashavingacar,
cellphone,andgoingoffbaseontheweekends.
Thesecondyear,itgetseasierinaway.Mentallyitbecomeseasier,butitstaysas
academicallychallengingasitalwayswill.Thirdclasscadetsreceivemoreprivileges,butthey
stillcannotownormaintainacar.But,theyhavemoreweekendandcommunicationprivileges.

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Asasecondyear,thirdclass,cadettheyareexpectedtoberesponsiblefortheiracademicwork
andmaintainingtheirdormitoryformorninginspections.Theyarestilllowonthetotempole
becausesecondyearcadetsdonotholdleadershippositionssotheymustreporttoranking
cadets.Eachyear,cadetswillearnmoreandmorerespect.
Aseachyearpasses,theroadtograduationisslowlyapproaching.Throughoutthe
differentparades,balls,andceremonies,cadetsbuildupexcitementfornewchallengestheywill
faceeachyear.Itistheirthirdyear,whichmeanslessdisciplineandmoreprivilegessuchas
owningacar(AcademyAdmissions).Secondclasscadetshaveearnedmorerespectandnow
mentorthefourthclass,doolie,cadets.Thisiswheretheyhunkerdownbecausethereisonlyone
yearleftuntiltheirnameiscalledtoreceivetheirgoldbars.Thereisnoneedtoslackoffitis
fourthquarterforthesethirdyearcadets.Theyhavetofindafifthgearandcontinuemoving
forwardwithahundredpercentoftheireffort.
Acadetssenioryeariswheretheyassumeleadershippositions.Theyeitherleadtwenty
cadetsorfourthousand.Itjustdependsontheirleadershipabilityandtheopportunity.Cadet
Colonelandfirstclasscadet,JakeSortor(2014)wastheAcademyWingCommanderinthefall
of2014andhebelieves,Nootherschoolprovidestheopportunitiestosucceedandlearnlike
theAcademy(USAFA2014).Fourthyearcadetscontinuetomentoryoungercadetsandmold
themintobetter,futureleaders.Withperseveranceandalotofhardwork,thesecadetswillsoon
becommissionedofficers.
GraduatingfromtheAcademyisthebeginningofaneweraintheseyoungofficers
lives.Morethanhalfofthemwillgotosomesortofflighttraining:pilottraining,combat
systemsofficers,airbattlemanagers,etc.(AcademyAdmissions).Butwhathappenstotheother

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fiftyorsopercentofgraduateswhodonotgotoflighttraining?Wellluckilyforthem,theAir
Forcehasbecomeanextremelydiversebranchthatspecializesinspaceoperationsand
cyberspace(Ross,p.212213).JobsintheAirForcedonotstopthereeither.Thepercentageof
graduateswhochoosenottogotoflightschoolareherebelow(AcademyAdmissions):
MissionSupport(Personnel,Police,PublicAffairs,Health):10%
SortieGeneration/Logistics(MissileMaintenance,Intelligence):6%
Operations(AirTrafficController,SpaceOperations):16%
Scientific/Technical(CivilEngineering,Communications,Acquisition):18%
Thesefourfieldsarejustafewnonflyingopportunitiesgraduateshave.Aftergraduation,each
newlycommissionedmustserveeightyearsintheAirForce,fiveofwhichmustactivedutyand
theotherthreemaybeinactivereserve.Graduateswhowishtobecomepilotssignatenyear
contractstartingaftertheycompletetraining(AcademyAdmissions).Nomatterwhatthecareer
fieldis,theseyoungofficersarededicatingtheirlivestoserveintheUnitedStatesAirForce.
EverychallengefacedbycadetswillpreparethemtobecomeexcellentofficersintheAir
Force.Ifanofficerfailstocommunicatewiththeirsuperiorsorsubordinates,failureswilloccur
whichmayresultinlossoflifeinextremecases.Thehistory,prestigiousness,academic
challenge,personalstruggles,andcommunicationareallimportantaspectsinbuildingaleaderat
theUnitedStatesAirForceAcademy.NothingattheAcademyiseasy,theymakefoldingshirts
achallenge.But,cadetsmustadapttosurviveanddowhateverittakestosucceed.TheAcademy
willnotacceptfailurewhichiswhyfellowcadetsaregoingthroughthesamehell.Cadetscannot
makeitthroughtheAcademyalone.Nooneshouldacceptfailure.Challengesneedtobetaken
headonlikegrabbingabullbythehorns,andyouhavetogiveitahundredpercenteffortto

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wrestlethatbulldown.Ifcadetsdothat,thentheAcademywillsucceedinbuildingthemintoa
leaderfortheUnitedStatesAirForce.

References
Academyadmissions.(2011,Jun27).
AirForceAcademyDevelopingOfficersofCharacter
.
Retrievedfromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQDmsCEFDEU.
AirForceAcademyAdmissions.Retrievedfromhttp://www.academyadmissions.com/.
AirForceAcademyHistory(2012).Factsheet.Retrievedfrom
http://www.usafa.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=9409.
Hartman,Troy.
TroyHartmanBiography
:AirForceAcademy.Retrievedfrom
http://www.troyhartman.com/air_force.htm.
Ross,Sue(2012).
TheAirForceAcademycandidatebook:Howtoprepare,howtogetin,how
tosurvive
(5thed.).Monument,CO:SilverHornBooks.
Steiner,Matt(2012).78AFAcadetsaccusedofcheatingonmathtest.
TheGazette
.Retrieved
fromhttp://www.gazette.com/article/139802.

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TheOfficeofCongressmanPaulRyan(2012).
DemographicProfileoftheClassof2016
.
Retrievedfromhttp://paulryan.house.gov/uploadedfiles/usafa_2016.pdf.
U.S.AirForceAcademy(2014).20142015Catalog:Cadetlife.
C1CJakeSortor
.Retrieved
fromhttp://usafa.smartcatalogiq.com/en/20142015/Catalog/CadetLife.