So we dropped her at the Air Force Academy for prep school in-processing. Sounds pretty simple and maybe it was, at least the practical part of it.
There’s not much to it, really. Go through the security gate, follow the signs, get to the parking lot and follow the cones to the spot where you drop off the cadet candidate. Simple.
Except it wasn’t all that simple. We had spent several days in Colorado Springs to help our girl get acclimated to the altitude and give us all a little space from the COVID box we’ve been living in for months. We were lucky enough that our recent USNA grad was able to use his basket leave to join us.
All in all, we kept the emotions under wraps, though they were obviously just below the surface. Catie’s main concern was the paperwork, fearing that something was missing and they’d said, “oh, you don’t have [insert paperwork item]? You’ll have to go home.”
We pulled up to the gate, had friendly banter with the guard, and headed to the drop off point. The Academy grounds are so vast, especially compared to the Naval Academy (which we drove through countless times), that you sometimes forget where you are. But the well-placed signs reminded us – “Prep School Drop Off —>” and kept us on track.
We pulled over on the shoulder, said one more quick goodbye, then drove to the final destination where we were greeted by a friendly volunteer, who pointed us in the right direction. Then came the chaplains, who assured us they’d check in our cadet candidate, then finally another woman in a blue uniform. “She’s some sort of commanding officer,” our ensign said from the back seat.
Whoever she was, she was incredibly kind and warm, welcoming Catie to the Prep School and answering our questions about phone calls and being restricted to campus. Long story short, no phone calls during BMT and, yes, the plan was for restricting them to base until they went home at Thanksgiving and, yes, no visitors, either. I stared at her name tag … man, that looked familiar.
“But we’re going to do a lot of fun things here, like do a drive-in movie on the athletic fields and some other stuff,” she said smiling beneath her mask. “I know it’s hard. My only son starts college this Fall and it’s going to be so different.”
We pulled ahead and the next gentlemen met us. “Welcome to the Prep, just the cadet leaves the car, please,” he said. “Don’t worry, we’re going to take good care of her.”
With that, Catie opened the door, hiked her backpack fully on her shoulders, gave a small wave, closed the door, and, just like that, she was gone.
As we were driving back to the hotel to prepare for our flight home, it hit me. The name tag read “Youderian.” We had been talking to the new commander of the prep school.
I told my wife and she said, “really? That was the commander? She seemed really nice.” And she smiled.
Looks like we’re all on our way.