“T” is for Transition

Summer for Basics and Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy means something different to everyone involved. The Basics, of course, grind their way through BCT. The Cadets have a wide range of experiences that may include BCT as part of the cadre, professional training, and the coveted time off. But there’s one thing they all have in common – summer is over.

Sure, the calendar tells us summer officially ends late in September, but as a practical matter, it’s over for the Cadet Wing. That ending, though, will mean different things to different Cadets. All of it involves change and that’s why Transition is an appropriate term.

The Basics, of course, are simply happy that BCT is over. A Day will arrive and they can begin their Doolie year, but that doesn’t mean things will get easier. Instead, their burden will transition to a whole different set of challenges. And while the six weeks of BCT may have felt like it lasted forever, it will be a sprint compared to the 8-plus-month marathon that is Doolie Year.

Gratuitous photo of me & my C3C spending some of her summer break together. She loves the zoo, so that’s where we went. Of course, we found a plane, as part of the Africa section, complete with noise-making buttons and controls. Our pilot was a 4-year-old, who refused his parents’ requests to get out so they could go see animals. Every time he pressed a button (which was frequently), he would say, “Are you ready for action?”

They aren’t the only ones preparing for change. The C3Cs are coming back from their first real USAFA summer. In the wake of Recognition, they survived Combat Survival Training (no, BCT isn’t the end of summer challenges), learned a little about Air Force life, and got their first extended break since I Day.

They transition on a couple of levels. First, they are all going to new squadrons. While being a Doolie is no picnic, by the end of the year, they had at least become accustomed to their squadmates and the routine. Parents learn that so much of USAFA life is “squadron-dependent,” and now the C3Cs must learn a whole new set of guidelines while at the same time learning to live with a new roommate, which can have its own set of challenges.

The C3Cs also embrace a new role. Last year, they had a coach. Now they are the coach for a Doolie. My daughter had such a good experience that she said she can’t wait to meet her Doolie. Still, it’s a new role, so there are sure to be speedbumps.

The C2Cs return to Colorado Springs for an important milestone. As per tradition, on the first day of their C2C year, they will sign their commitment papers, or as my son called it when he signed his “2 for 7s” at the Naval Academy, “the point of no return.” While this is largely ceremonial, it reinforces the commitment they are making to serve in the Air Force or Space Force.

I think it can be easy for an 18-year-old to accept an appointment to a military academy and not really understand the gravity of the post-commissioning commitment,. But after two years of academy life, they have a much clearer picture of military life and all the sacrifices it entails. Some will smile and sign without hesitation. A few will feel the weight of that pen before they supply their signature. There is also a good chance some will decline to sign at all. It’s ceremonial, but it matters.

For the Firsties, well, this is the transition to the Parade of Lasts. It’s their last Transition Week. It’s the last Doolie class they’ll meet as Cadets. Soon will come the last Parents Weekend, the last football game, well … you get the picture. They are also making the transition to the top of the pecking order. They assume the mantle of leadership for the Cadet Wing; it’s their year.

At civilian colleges, August is a time to take those last few sweet bites out of summer. For the USAFA Cadets, summer is over and the next chapter in their adventure is about to begin.

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