By Amber Baillie, Academy Spirit staff writer / Published June 27, 2014
Basic cadets from the Class of 2018 are addressed by cadet cadre as they stand in formation June 26, 2014, on "the footsteps" outside of the Core Values Ramp at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. Basic cadets spent their first day getting a military haircut and their uniforms, donating blood, meeting their cadre, and receiving a taste of Academy life. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Sarah Chambers)
Approximately 1,200 U.S. Air Force Academy appointees and their parents swarmed Doolittle Hall June 26, before exchanging hugs and parting ways as the Class of 2018 took its first steps to becoming cadets and Air Force leaders.
Emotions ran high as parents wished their sons and daughters farewell and watched as they loaded onto buses to begin their inprocessing for basic cadet training.
"Today is hard," said Duke Pope, Class of 1994 Academy grad from Florida. "It's bittersweet to send off my son, but I'm as proud as can be."
Pope's son, Josh, was recruited to play football here; Pope said Josh hopes to become a pilot.
"He wants to serve his country and be a part of the Air Force mission," he said. "Josh has a strong character and is definitely ready for the Academy."
Senior Academy leaders, including Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, the Academy superintendent, and William "T" Thompson, the Academy Association of Graduates chief executive officer, welcomed the new class to “The Long Blue Line” of the military's finest and spoke about the Academy's mission.
"Today forward everything will be about character and leadership development based on the core values of our Air Force and a demanding honor code you will help enforce," Johnson said. "We're a part of the great American joint force and there is something special that Airmen bring to the fight. You will be immersed in this every day."
The Academy received 9,082 applications for the 1,200 slots in the Class of 2018. The class includes 14 international cadets from Bulgaria, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
"Because of your hard work you're about to receive a unique privilege for the American people to attend this great institution," Thompson told the appointees. "With opportunity comes responsibility. Your responsibility while here is to give us your best."
Thompson told the appointees to remember that 47,000 graduates preceded them as they face challenges here.
"This is a tough program -- it's designed to be," he said. "We know that you have the talent and ability to make it through this place and that's why you received an appointment. Be proud to be an Academy cadet, be proud of your Academy because it is your institution. We're proud to have you here and wish you the best as you take your first steps beginning this journey."
Tyler Rodriguez, an appointee from Texas, said he is ready to experience cadet life. "I'm excited - not nervous," he said. "I'm anxious to begin the Academy's program and work my way toward becoming an Air Force officer."
Danny Crabill from Pennsylvania said his son, Donald, has wanted to attend the institution since junior high.
"He wants to serve his country and fly airplanes," he said. "I think it's beneficial for him to attend the Academy because it's a great education, a way to serve the nation, and he will have great opportunities afterward. It's hard to beat."
Basic cadets spent their first day getting a military haircut and their uniforms, donating blood, meeting their cadre, and receiving a taste of Academy life.
During basic training, the Class of 2018 will be known as "basic cadets." Basic cadet training continues until August 2. The training includes physical conditioning, marching drills, numerous inspections, weapons training, an overview of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, first aid, honor and ethics lessons, and an introduction to the Air Force core values.
The basic cadets are scheduled to begin classes with the rest of the Cadet Wing Aug. 13.