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The Life of A Cadet at The United States Air Force Academy

Updated on October 6, 2009

United States Air Force Academy Seal

The proud seal of the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO
The proud seal of the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Life

The United States Air Force Academy is located on 18,400 beautifully acres, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado. New cadets are indoctrinated at the US Air Force Academy, every year. Many of the more than 18,000 acres operate much like other military bases, The Air Force Academy is a university and military base; specifically the 10th Air Base Wing (ABW). The superintendent, commandant, dean of faculty, and cadet wing areas resemble a civilian university. But, resembling is about the extent of the similarity.  

The Superintendent is the Academy's commanding officer, and is responsible for cadet military training, academic, athletic, and character development programs.

The Commandant monitors the more than 4,400 cadets, in addition to the 300 members of support staff.

More than 500 courses relating to 32 academic subject areas are controlled by the Dean of Commandants.

The 10th Air Base Wing (ABW) is made up of more than 2,100 military, civilian, and contract personnel.  The 10th ABW components include law enforcement, civil engineering, communications, logistics, military and civilian personnel operations.  A modern clinic and hospital round out the services at the US Air Force Academy.  Of course, the Academy, also, has a commissary, base exchange, movie theater, military social clubs, child care center, gas station, and an arts and crafts learning center.  The Academy also has two golf courses and a high school.

The Academy is considered an 'open' base, and every year, many people visit the military establishment. Historical photos, Air Force memorabilia, and educational information is on display at the modern Visitor Center.  An informative and educational film can be enjoyed by visitors in the comfortable theater, numerous times during the day. The Cadet Chapel is open to the public, and the massive sheets of glass that compose the construction have been described as an architect wonder. 

Visitors are welcome to visit the Honor Court, Cadet Field House, Arnold Hall, Falcon Athletic Center, the Association of Graduates Building, and Falcon Stadium, located in the Cadet academic area.. Along the way, visitors can stop at scenic overlooks that provide an unobstructed view of the spacious plains to the East, and the massive Rocky Mountains to the West.

The 306th Flying Training Group (FTG), located at the Academy, screens aviator candidates prior to their acceptance into the Undergraduate Flight Training program. The 306 FTG provides powered and non-powered flight soaring and parachuting training to more than 2,500 cadets, annually.

The Mitchell Hall dining facility, is one of the largest dining facilities in the world, and covers more than 1.7 acres.  The perfected serving techniques allow more than 3 million meals to be prepared and served.  Additionally, more than 100,000 box lunches are prepared in support of Cadet Wing programs and activities.

Cadets march into Mitchell Hall, nine abreast. Every 10 tables has one wait attendant.  After the cadets take their seats, the meal is served family-style, and is finished in 20 minutes.  The entire food service operation is accomplished by more than 200 civil service employees.

Besides military leadership training and education, cadets must get and maintain in top level physical fitness condition.  Daily fitness routines are incorporated into their busy educational  schedules.  Male cadets also have opportunities to be involved with the many sports offered at the Academy. Sports for men include, baseball, basketball, boxing, fencing, golf, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, rifle, soccer, field and track, water polo, wrestling, and football.  Female cadets are urged to participate in basketball, cross country, gymnastics, fencing, rifle, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

The cadet's free time is very limited. Their days begin at 5:30 AM, and end at 10:30 PM.  Every evening, personal hygiene and relaxation times are provided for, in addition to studying, writing letters to loved ones.  The time to relax is just prior to the final taps of the day.

But, not everything runs smoothly.  As you might expect, adjustment problems develop, such as stress, demanding schedules, and homesickness.  Professionally trained officers and upper class cadets are available to help to new cadets conform to Academy life.  But, still, the high educational, physical, and personal demands of cadet life cannot be expected to be tolerated by everyone.

Having lived and worked on the US Air Force Academy for more than 16 years, I can tell you that the Academy offers uncompromisable educational and lifestyle opportunities for the future military leaders of the United States.  Although, many tears are shed as cadets say 'good-bye' to their families, the benefits will be rewarding.  The cadet life requires many adjustments and commitments, and some people are unable to tolerate the demands. 

If you think you might like to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, do your research.  Perhaps a visit to the Academy could be in your best interest before signing on that dotted line.


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