The Essence of USAFA Eight Pillars

• Developing character and leadership
• Focusing on the Air Force mission in air, space
  and cyberspace
• Immersing cadets in a total experience
• Harmonizing science, technology, engineering 
  and mathematics and the liberal arts
• Competing
• Internalizing the Air Force ethos
• Exposing cadets to professional Air Force culture
• Building upon the foundation of an exemplary installation

What Makes Us Unique
The Academy offers a broad spectrum of academic, athletic, aviation, and military training, education and experiences unlike any other commissioning source. We believe that the young men and women who pursue these opportunities and dedicate themselves fully to their achievement will be forges--and forge themselves--into leaders of character for our Air Force and the nation. The key components of our essence are (click on each element to find out more):
    • The Academy's unique opportunities allow cadets to practice leadership theory and learn from their experiences. Daily leadership challenges and opportunities abound to learn, apply and refine leadership principles. The intentional and integrative nature of this officer development catalyzed by the Center for Character and Leadership Development, but implemented throughout, is pervasive at USAFA and not available anywhere else. The Honor Code guides this leadership development to set cadets on a path of living honorably.
    • Our nationally recognized airmanship, cyber and space teams and programs are second to none. They expose cadets to the modern way of warfare and prepare and motivate cadets for operational careers. These operational activities provide cadets their first exposure to how the Air Force applies and projects airpower. Together, these experiences develop an operational mindset and systemic appreciation for the wide spectrum of the AF missions and uniquely postures cadets for the profession of arms.
    • Per DODD 1322.22, our cadets are "immersed in the traditions and professional values essential to the institutional character of the Air Force." They experience an "intensive professional military environment while achieving a four-year college education." This leadership training environment crystalizes their intentional commitment to the core value of "Service Before Self" and enables them to become fit, ethically-based, service-minded officers prepared to lead and mentor Airmen.
    • Built on a strong core curriculum, our rich academic courses of study, combined with practical hands-on projects and hands-on activities, equip our graduates to deal with the technological, organizational and personnel challenges they will face on active duty. Theoretical, abstract thinking (Humanities and Science) education coupled with applied problem-solving disciplines (Social Sciences and Engineering) are fundamental and practical for the uncertain and ambiguous operational environments our graduates face.
    • A wide range of competitive opportunities challenges our cadets to excel and requires them to balance time between academic, intercollegiate, team, club, cyber, military and airmanship demands. Competition enhances their determination, demands commitment and teaches life lessons that will build skills and resiliency while shaping cadets into more capable leaders.
    • Our cadets must apply Air Force doctrine and guidance to internalize desired behavioral and personal characteristics in our graduates to "develop and produce a leader of character with a warrior ethos and expeditionary mindset who is a culturally aware, motivated professional dedicated to serve the nation and prepared to lead in the 21st century."
    • More than half of our faculty and staff are currently serving or retired Air Force/military officers and enlisted. Exposure to uniformed personnel and professional career civilians enriches every experience for cadets and is an invaluable part of their early development.
    • The Academy receives over four hundred thousand visitors annually and hosts numerous competitions and community events, much like colleges and universities across the nation. Unlike most academic institutions, we conduct these events while maintaining stringent security requirements and force protection postures. Additionally, the Cadet Area is a National Historic Landmark where the Air Force develops future leaders, and the Academy installation is a natural and architectural treasure that must be responsibly maintained and protected.
Our Way Ahead
The Air Force's Academy will successfully implement a resource-constrained strategy focused on those cadet activities that have the highest priority to prepare Lieutenants to lead Airmen. In recent years we reduced the size of our Cadet Wing to 4,000 from 4,400. All aspects of the Academy will be examined under our clean-sheet review to ensure we can continue to support the AF mission and graduate cadets better prepared to lead Airmen than other commissioning sources. We face the possibility of reducing academic courses and majors, eliminating military training opportunities and significantly reducing the number of athletic team sports--but must do so without seriously eroding our essence. This new fiscal reality is daunting. However, we will move forward as one team, focusing on what we CAN do, instead of on what we need to cut. To succeed, we will adopt a common vision and go with it.

To that end, we will pursue several avenues to execute our mission in this new environment emphasizing these imperatives:
• We will foster a culture of commitment and a strong climate of respect. Commitment to Air Force core values is fundamental to building effective leadership. Respect among all at the Academy is essential to unit cohesion and effectiveness and to preventing the scourges of sexual assault, harassment, discrimination and suicide. 

• We will provide a rigorous, accredited Bachelor of Science degree built on a foundation of breadth and depth of topics and inquiry that prepares cadets to support the Air Force mission with a rich set of experiences and capabilities. We will balance core requirements with specialized learning and facilitate comprehensive exposure to mission areas including Airmanship, Space and Cyber Ops. 

• We will improve our organizational direction, alignment and commitment and adopt a "business philosophy" to identify and implement effectiveness and efficiency improvements. 

• We will continue to maintain standards and enforce discipline focused on increasing cadet responsibility and holding cadets accountable for their actions. 

• We will simplify and focus cadet schedules to increase opportunities for them to develop individual and unit responsibilities. 

• We will take a more fundamental approach to athletic competition, blending a business-like approach to harness AFAAC benefits with clear focus on intramural program makeup and recruited athlete requirements to enrich the programs that build positive physical cadet attributes. 

• We will examine the degree to which the Prep School is achieving its original purpose of providing firm foundations in math, science, and English to students who need more academic preparation to succeed and lead at USAFA. We will also seek out and implement creative new ways to accomplish its mission given current USAFA and AF resource constraints and priorities.

• We will create a national-level resource for character and leadership development by creating an iconic structure and maturing an effective catalyst that will help the Air Force develop key characteristics and leadership capabilities in our Airmen on a continuum throughout their careers ... from cadets through general officers.

Essence of USAFA

Essence Why We Exist
Our mission is to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation. We are charged to produce leaders, mentors and experts in the Air Force core competencies and their respective career fields. The intellectual and social capital that is built during the USAFA experience is our competitive advantage. The minimum Officership requirements are simple: possess a Bachelor's degree, be of good moral character, be medically sound and be physically fit. Each of the Air Force's commissioning sources produce excellent officers based on varying production requirements. Our uniqueness stems from the breadth and depth of our offerings, our four-year cadet experience, and how we execute our mission. Our purpose is to produce leaders that are exceptionally well-prepared to lead in a complex, challenging, technically sophisticated and ever-changing geopolitical environment. This singular purpose is embedded in each cadet activity and yields leadership development that is greater than the sum of its parts. 

The Academy will embrace the necessity of making decisions that may reshape the institution but will remain committed and capable of producing top-quality Lieutenants for our Air Force and the nation. We will continue to articulate what is unique about USAFA as a commissioning source and the red-line minimum resources required to graduate Lieutenants exceptionally well-prepared to lead Airmen in our Air Force. We will tell our story in a humble but confident way--we are the Air Force's Academy!