United States Air Force Academy

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Air Force Academy cadets celebrate after graduation
The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), is an institution for the undergraduate education of officers in the United States Air Force. The campus is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Upon completion of the four-year program, graduates receive a Bachelor of Science degree and are normally comissioned as Second Lieutenants in the United States Air Force. (A small number of graduates "cross-commission" into other services each year, and a few foreign cadets and graduates who are not medically qualified will receive a degree but will not be comissioned.)



Congress authorized the construction of the Academy on April 1, 1954. On July 11, 1955, the first class of 306 cadets was sworn in at a temporary site at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver while construction was completed in Colorado Springs. The design of the Academy was awarded to the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Lieutenant General Hubert R. Harmon, a key figure in the development of the Academy, was appointed the first superintendent. On August 29, 1958, a wing of 1,145 cadets moved to the present site, and less than a year later the Academy received accreditation. The first class graduated in 1959.

Campus and facilities

The current campus of the Academy covers 18,000 acres (73 km²) on the east side of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains, just north of Colorado Springs at an altitude of 7,258 feet (2,212 m) above sea-level.

A cadet's life is focused on the main buildings in the Cadet Area:

  • Fairchild Hall, the cadet academic building, named after General Muir S. Fairchild, the first commander of Air University and later Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Vandenberg Hall, a cadet dormitory named after Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg
  • Sijan Hall, a cadet dormitory named after Captain Lance P. Sijan, the first USAFA graduate to win the Medal of Honor
  • Mitchell Hall, the cadet dining facility, named after General William "Billy" Mitchell
  • Arnold Hall, the cadet social center, named after General of the Air Force Henry H. "Hap" Arnold
  • Harmon Hall, the administration building, named after General Hubert R. Harmon, the first Superintendent of the Academy
  • The Aeronautics Laboratory
  • The Cadet Gymnasium
  • The Cadet Fieldhouse
  • The Cadet Chapel, considered by many to be among the most aesthetically beautiful buildings on the Academy campus, and among the most beautiful of American academic architecture. The Cadet Chapel contains separate chapels for Protestant, Catholic and Jewish worship, as well as interfaith rooms for cadets of other religions.

Some other notable locations on the campus include:

The Honor Code and character education

The Cadet Honor Code is the foundation of a cadet's professional training and development. The code itself is simple:

We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.

At the beginning of the fourth class (freshman) year, every cadet takes an oath to uphold the honor code, and resolves to live honorably. The Honor Oath as adopted in 1984:

We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Further more, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.

To reinforce the importance of character and integrity to future officers, cadets are given an extensive character and leadership curriculum. The Academy's Character and Leadership Education Division provides classroom, seminar, workshop and experiential-based learning programs to all cadets, beginning when they enter Basic Cadet Training (BCT), and continuing each year through their last semester at the Academy. The Centerís mission is to facilitate programs and activities throughout all aspects of cadet life that help cadets develop a cadet's internal moral compass.

Military organization and training

Cadets are divided into four classes, much like a civilian college. However, they are not referred to as freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, but rather as fourth-, third-, second- and first-class cadets, respectively. Fourth-class cadets (freshmen) are also known as "doolies," which is rumoured to be derived from a Greek word meaning "slave" or "servant." First-class cadets (also known as "Firsties") function as the cadet officers, while the second-class cadets serve as the cadet non-commissioned officers in the command structure.

The Cadet Wing is structured similarly to an active duty military unit. The Cadet Wing is organized into 36 squadrons, each of which consists of about 120 cadets from all four classes. The cadet squadrons are organized into 4 groups of 9 squadrons each. Cadets provide the leadership structure for each of the squadrons, groups and the Cadet Wing. The cadets are supervised by specially-selected active duty officers called Air Officers Commanding (AOCs). The Cadet Wing is overseen by the Commandant of Cadets, normally an active-duty brigadier general. The Superintendent of the Academy, normally an active-duty lieutenant general, oversees all aspects of the Academy, including military training, academics and athletics.

Much of the military training at the Academy happens over the summers. In the summer before their fourth class year, all new cadets undergo six weeks of Basic Cadet Training (BCT), also known as "Beast". During BCT, cadets learn the basics of military life and life at the Academy, under the supervision of upperclass cadets. Basic cadets learn how to wear the uniform, practice marching, learn military knowledge and undergo a rigorous physical training program. For the last two weeks of BCT, basic cadets march to "Jack's Valley" where they complete the BCT program in a field encampment environment.

Between fourth- and third-class year, cadets undergo combat survival training (CST) and training on air force operations in a deployed environment. For their last two summers, cadets serve in leadership roles in BCT and CST, travel to active duty air force bases, and may participate in a wide variety of other leadership, research and aviation programs. During the academic year, all cadets take classes in military theory, operations and leadership.


The Air Force Academy is an accredited four-year university offering Bachelor's degrees in a variety of subjects. The faculty is a combination of Air Force officers, civilian instructors and visiting instructors from civilian universities and other U.S. and allied foreign military services. All graduates receive a Bachelor of Science degree, due to the technical content of the core requirements. The Faculty is lead by the Dean, normally an active-duty brigadier general.

Cadets may major in a number of divisional, disciplinary or inter-disciplinary subjects, including: Aeronautical Engineering, Astronautical Engineering, Basic Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Mechanics, English, Environmental Engineering, Foreign Area Studies, General Engineering, Geography, History, Humanities, Legal Studies, Management, Mathematical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Meteorology, Military Strategic Studies, Operations Research, Physics, Political Science, Social Sciences, Space Operations, Systems Engineering, and Systems Engineering Management. Minors are available in Foreign Languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian or Spanish) or Philosophy.

The academic program has an extensive core curriculum, in which cadets take required courses in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, military studies and physical education. Most of a cadet's first two years are spent in core classes. During the third and fourth years, cadets have more flexibility to focus in their major areas of study, but the core requirements are still significant.


All cadets must compete in either intercollegiate or intramural athletics. Additionally, all cadets take an extensive range of physical education courses over their four years that includes combative sports such as boxing, wrestling and unarmed combat; swimming and water survival; and "lifetime" sports such as tennis and golf. Cadets are expected to pass an aerobic fitness test—a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) run—and a physical fitness test (pull-ups, standing long jump, sit-ups, push-ups and a 600 yard run) each semester.

Intramural sports pit cadet squadrons against one another in sports such as basketball, cross-country, flag football, racquetball, flickerball, rugby, boxing, soccer, mountain biking, softball, team handball, tennis, ultimate frisbee, wallyball and volleyball.

Intercollegate athletes at the Air Force Academy compete in the NCAA's Division I-A. Most teams compete in the Mountain West Conference. The gymnastics (men and women) and men's soccer teams compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and its hockey team competes in College Hockey America. The sports teams are nicknamed the Falcons.

USAFA has traditional service academy rivalries with Navy and Army. The three service academies compete for the Commander in Chief's Trophy in football each year. Home football games are mandatory for cadets to attend, as are occasional basketball games.

Women at the Academy

President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation October 7, 1975, permitting women to enter the military academies. On June 26, 1976, 157 women entered the Air Force Academy with the Class of 1980. The women were initially segregated from the rest of the Cadet Wing, but were fully integrated into their assigned squadrons after the first winter break. On May 28, 1980, 97 of the original female cadets completed the program and graduated from the Academy. Michele D. Johnson '81, was the first woman to serve as the Academy's Cadet Wing Commander—the senior ranking cadet—and was the Academy's first female Rhodes Scholar. Terrie Ann MacLaughlin '86, was the first female cadet to graduate top in her class.

In 2003, the Academy came under intense national scrutiny when a number of female cadets and recent graduates reported that they had been victims of sexual assault while at the Academy. Some of these women reported that the Academy leadership either ignored their reports or, in some cases, threatened punishment for other offenses such as underage drinking. This exposure led to major changes in the training structure at the Academy as well as the way in which the Academy deals with sexual assault reporting. One of the more controversial steps, especially among cadets and graduates, was the removal of the "Bring Me Men..." sign on the Academy grounds. For more detail see Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal.

Religion at the Academy

The soaring Cadet Chapel is the most prominent building on the Air Force Academy campus. It features a 1,300 seat Protestant Chapel on its upper floor and a 500 seat Catholic Chapel on the lower floor. There is also a 100 seat Jewish Chapel on the lower floor and interfaith facilities. A survey of cadets in 2004 reported that 85 percent were Christian, 2 percent atheists, 1.5 percent Jewish, 0.3 percent Hindu, 0.4 percent Muslim, and 9.3 percent gave no preference or identified themselves as "other."

Accusations of religious intolerance

This article or section contains information about a current or ongoing event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses and may temporarily contain inaccuracies, bias, or vandalism due to a high frequency of edits.

In early-mid 2005, editorials in major US newspapers (including The New York Times)[1] (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/11/opinion/11sat2.html?pagewanted=print) reported that the academy was being dominated by Evangelical Christians who were forcing their beliefs onto other graduates. The information in these news reports also indicates that important members of staff were also instrumental in this process. An Air Force panel investigated the accusations and issued its report [2] (http://www.af.mil/pdf/HQ_Review_Group_Report.pdf) on June 22, 2005. It reported that some officers and faculty had used their position to promote their Christian beliefs and that the religious needs of non-Christian cadets had not been adequately accommodated. No finding of overt religious discrimination was found, only "insensitivity". The Academy leadership was praised for working to improve the situation [3] (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/23/politics/23academy.html?th&emc=th).


To be eligible to enter the Academy, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Be unmarried with no dependents
  • Be of good moral character
  • Be at least 17, but less than 23 years of age by July 1 of the year you would enter
  • Meet high leadership, academic, physical and medical standards

In addition to the normal application process, all candidates must secure a nomination, normally from a U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative. Each member of Congress and the Vice President can have five appointees attending the Air Force Academy at any time. The process for obtaining a congressional nomination is not political, and candidates do not have to have know their senator or representative to secure a nomination. Additional nomination slots are available for children of career military personnel, children of disabled veterans or veterans who were killed in action, or children of Medal of Honor recipients. The admissions process is a lengthy one, and applicants usually begin the paperwork during the second semester of their junior year of high school.

Notable graduates

  • Lt. Gen. Bradley C. Hosmer '59, the first graduate in the order of merit in the first class at the Academy, and the first graduate to return to the Academy as Superintendent
  • Gen. Hansford T. Johnson '59, the first graduate to be promoted to the rank of General (four-star)
  • Col. Karol J. Bobko '59, the first graduate in space, and the only astronaut to have flown on the maiden flight of two space shuttle orbiters

External links


  • Bruegmann, Robert. Modernism at Mid-Century: The Architecture of the United States Air Force Academy. University of Chicago Press: 1995. ISBN 0226076938.
  • Contrails (various years)
  • Fagan, George V. Air Force Academy: An Illustrated History. Johnson Books: 1988. ISBN 1555660320.
  • Fifty Years of Excellence: Building Leaders of Character for the Nation, 2004.
  • Lui, 'Elizabeth Gill. Spirit and Flight: A Photographic Salute to the United States Air Force Academy. 1996. ISBN 0965258505.
  • Phariss, Mark R., Class of 2003, Direct Personal Knowledge.

Template:Mountain West Conferencede:United States Air Force Academy


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