I love May and not just because it’s my birthday month. It’s usually time for some of the year’s best weather and the promise of summer relaxation is within reach.
For the cadets at the United States Air Force Academy, May has its share of celebrations, but it’s also a time of transition.
The Firsties get both. They are celebrating – as well they should – as they prepare to graduate and commission into the Air Force or Space Force. Friends and families who have supported them for the while four-year ride are ready to help them cap off their time in grand style.
But that celebration leads to a transition – for the families and the now-Firsties. While the last four years have had their share of uncertainty, there has also been the comfort of USAFA’s rhythm. Knowing the cadence didn’t always make things easy, but it certainly made things easier. If your Cadet was fretting over a December final exam, you knew that Winter Break was just around the corner. You didn’t have to worry about Labor Day picnics. Wherever the soon-to-be graduate is heading, it’s a safe bet the schedule will be less public and certainly less set than the one they have had for the past four years.
Then there’s the communication. The Academy may not share everything, but they do a pretty good job of keeping parents and loved ones in the loop. Add to that a network of USAFA parents willing to share knowledge and expertise, and it’s not hard to stay up-to-date with what’s happening. That, too, is about to change dramatically. Military training facilities and bases are in the business of preparing young men and women for their roles and are not in the business of keeping parents in the loop. The trickle-down is that you’ll have fewer parents in the know from whom to glean information.
It’s the transition from military academy life to military life. Just before my son’s Herndon Climb at USNA, I was speaking with another dad who had served a couple of decades. While he acknowledged that life at the academy was difficult, he said they would learn to appreciate the time.
“They’ll soon find out they’ve been at Disneyland for four years,” he said.
The rest of the Cadet Wing is preparing for transitions, too, albeit much less dramatic.
The C2Cs celebrated their Ring Dance which means they are preparing for a big transition of their own, ascending to the top of the Cadet Wing. They will be the leadership for the coming academic year and will begin their personal Parade of Lasts. This summer will be something special for them, their last summer before commissioning. As for the parents, see above, and enjoy it as much as you can.
Meanwhile, the C3Cs know that when they return from summer training, they will cross a major threshold. Once classes begin in the Fall, they can no longer leave without incurring some sort of consideration. Most will not blink. Some will have many sleepless nights over this decision.
Of course, the C4Cs are making a transition, too. They know that their summer will be challenging but won’t resemble the BCT they endured last year. And they are excited to return in the Fall with another group holding the title of Doolie. For the Class of 2025 parents, my humble advice is to enjoy this as much as you can. Once they return to the Springs for C3C year, the time is going to fly by, I mean really fly by. We will be preparing for our own Commissioining Week before you know it.
So whatever your reason for celebrating in May, enjoy it to the fullest. Then strap in. The transitions are next.