Today, we had our first field trip for the school year!  We drove to the Air Force Academy in CO Springs to witness a very special annual event.  In mid-June, roughly 1200 new recruits entered the Academy’s basic training program, which lasts about 6 weeks.  After basic cadet training (known as BCT or BEAST because of how grueling it is), those that complete the course will enter into the Academy school program.  This entrance is officially done during the USAFA Acceptance Parade. 

As we waited for the ceremony to start, we could see the cadets getting ready at the far end of the parade field. If you look closely in this photo, you can see the newest, basic cadets, lined up in formation on the grass. Behind them, going up the ramp, the cadets of the sophmore, junior, and senior classes are lining up.

 All total, roughly 4,000 cadets marched in perfect unison out on the field–an impressive display by any definition!  When you consider the fact that roughly 1200 of them have only been training for 6 weeks, it is all the more impressive to watch!

The cadets marched out onto the field, with the basics closest to us and the upper-classmen on the opposite side of the field.

We had a very unique opportunity to see a fly-by from a U-2, which is normally a very high-altitude flying reconassaince aircraft. It is seldom seen in flight.

The basics took the Air-Force pledge, to remain loyal to their country and their duties, in unison.

 About this time, we were about 30 minutes into the ceremony.  I don’t have pics of it (thought it would be rude), but S leaned over and gave me the heads up that any moment, the cadets would start hitting the ground.  You see, although they are trained to stand properly, the event is an exciting, climatic moment for them, and apparently it never fails that some forget what they were taught.  As a result, they wind up locking their knees.  After standing for that length of time, they get dizzy and even pass out!  Sure enough!  No sooner did S warn me, a medic discreetly and very tactfully, rushed into a group of basics, grabbed one by the arm, and led him out of the field. Within moments, another cadet knelt to his knees.  A medic came and led him out.  This scenario repeated over and over.  After a few more minutes passed, one cadet fell into the guy standing next to him, which broke his fall, and the 2nd guy helped him to his knees.  You would think this all was incredibly distracting, yet it really wasn’t.  It was quite entertaining at one point when it seemed that cadets were dropping like flies, but the ceremony continued, each medic and cadet made a discreet exit from the field, and everything continued going just as planned and practiced.  What really amazed me was how the medics seemed to know exactly who was going to go next.  They would discreetly walk up and down the different groups, see whatever they were looking for, grab someone’s arm to support them just before they fell, and help them off the field.  One poor cadet was so determined to complete this ceremony, he took a knee twice, swayed several times, and each time the medic came to help, he refused it.  I think they finally forced him to leave.  I felt kinda sorry for him, as it was obvious he wanted to stay, but, unfortunately, it had gotten to a point he couldn’t stand at attention anymore without feeling woozy.  It was just fascinating how quietly, smoothly, and discreetly all this played out.  The only reason I even noticed all of it is because S had pointed it out to me. Otherwise, I probably would not have noticed anything even happening. 

Eventually, though, the standing-at-attention part of the ceremony ended and the actual acceptance began. 

Although you can't see it from this angle, the basic cadets have formed an inverted wedge across the length of the field, and are marching into the middle of the upper-class cadets. It is a symbol of the upper-classmen officially "accepting" and welcoming them into the U.S. Air Force Academy.

 Once the upper-class cadets accept the basics, the basics are then known as just cadets (instead of basic cadets).  They will now be the freshmen class of the academic year 2010/2011, or the class of 2014.  After the acceptance, all 40 cadet squadrons, roughly 4,000 students, then marched in formation off the field. 

Unfortunately, we did not get to see the ending in it’s entirety, as the heavens unexpectedly opened up and the rains came down!  With 4 little tykes and no umbrella, we got creative as long as we could.  We were nowhere near our car, and there was no cover except a porta-jon, so we had little choice except to sit there and wait it out.  At one point, S was holding A and they were wearing hats, I tucked N into my ergo and covered his head with the flap to keep him as dry as possible, JR had a wide-brimmed hat and tucked his arms into his shirt to try to stay warm, and M took all she could stand and proceeded to climb down off the bench and take cover under my ankle-length skirt!  Whatever works!  Eventually, we did have to try to get some shelter, so we went down under the bleachers.  Plenty of rain still came through those, but it helped a little.  When all the poor, cold, soaked, and muddy cadets finally marched off the field, we were able to leave and return to our car. 

A not-so-perfect end to a very interesting morning!

All-in-all, we had a very interesting and educational morning.  It made me proud to be American and proud to be Air Force.  If you are ever in the USAFA area when it is time for the acceptance parade, I highly recommend it!  But you might want to bring a raincoat and umbrella!