Gen. Dunford to Class of ‘17 grads: ‘It’s time to lead’

Chairman of the the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford (center) stands between newly-minted second lieutenants after giving the commencement speech for the U.S. Air Force Academy's graduating Class of 2017. The new Air Force officers (left) hold a painting presented to the chairman by the Class of 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Chairman of the the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford (center) stands between newly-minted second lieutenants May 24, 2017, after giving the commencement speech for the U.S. Air Force Academy's graduating Class of 2017. The new Air Force officers (left) hold a painting presented to the chairman by the Class of 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford gives the commencement speech for the Class of 2017 May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The chairman encouraged the new lieutenants to be leaders of integrity and character throughout their Air Force careers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford gives the commencement speech for the Class of 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, May 24, 2017. The chairman encouraged the new lieutenants to be leaders of integrity and character throughout their Air Force careers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenant toss their hats in the air at the end of the Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants toss their hats in the air at the end of the Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Newly-commissioned Air Force officers toss their hats in the air as the Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017, at the end of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Newly-commissioned Air Force officers toss their hats in the air as the Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017, at the end of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants cheer and toss their hats at the end of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants cheer and toss their hats at the end of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Lily Forlini holds up her diploma during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 25, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Lily Forlini holds her diploma during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

The Class of 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Academy gets ready to take their seats in Falcon Stadium before their graduation ceremony begins, May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

The Class of 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Academy gets ready to take their seats in Falcon Stadium before their graduation ceremony begins, May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

The U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 marches under the Sun to their seats in Falcon Stadium before their graduation ceremony begins, May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

The U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 marches under the Sun to their seats in Falcon Stadium before their graduation ceremony begins, May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds takes to the sky above Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Thunderbirds performed a 30-minute demonstration above the Academy after the Class of 2017's graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds takes to the sky above Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Thunderbirds performed a 30-minute demonstration above the Academy after the Class of 2017's graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Newly-minted 2nd Lt. Haji Dunn points to the sky after receiving his diploma during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, in Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)
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Newly-minted 2nd Lt. Haji Dunn points to the sky after receiving his diploma during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, in Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017, May 24, 2017, in Falcon Stadium. Wilson encouraged the newly-commissioned officers to thank their families, friends, and the Academy's faculty and staff for helping them reach graduation day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Delos Reyes)
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Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017, May 24, 2017, in Falcon Stadium. Wilson encouraged the newly-commissioned officers to thank their families, friends, and the Academy's faculty and staff for helping them reach graduation day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Delos Reyes)

Newly-commissioned Air Force second lieutenants pin on their officer's rank at the end of the Class of 2017's graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)
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Newly-commissioned Air Force second lieutenants pin on their officer's rank at the end of the Class of 2017's graduation ceremony, May 24, 2017, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

The Class of 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Academy takes the Oath of Office as newly-commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)
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The Class of 2017 at the U.S. Air Force Academy takes the Oath of Office as newly-commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Second Lt. Chloe Forlini holds her diploma after graduating with the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutiarrez)
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Second Lt. Chloe Forlini holds her diploma after graduating with the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017, May 24, 2017, at Falcon Stadium. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Brodie Hicks shakes hands with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremony at Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017. (Air Force photo/ Mike Kaplan)
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Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Brodie Hicks shakes hands with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremony at Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017. (Air Force photo/ Mike Kaplan)

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt.Darby Germain shakeS hands with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremony at Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017. (Air Force photo/ Mike Kaplan)
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Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt.Darby Germain shakeS hands with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremony at Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017. (Air Force photo/ Mike Kaplan)

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Marlene Flescher shakes hands with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremony at Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Mike Kaplan)
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Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Marlene Flescher shakes hands with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford during the U.S. Air Force Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation Ceremony at Falcon Stadium, May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

The U.S. military’s senior officer welcomed nearly 1,000 new second lieutenants into the officer corps May 24 during the Air Force Academy’s Class of 2017 graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium. 


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford encouraged the new officers to be flexible, team-oriented leaders who embody courage, honor, commitment, loyalty and selflessness.


“These are the intangible characteristics of leadership,” he said.


Dunford looked directly at the 979 graduates seated nearby and said they will be judged as officers by their organization’s success.


“You are at a critical inflection point where after today, the focus is not on you,” he said. “Your successes as officers will be the successes of your squadrons.”


The chairman spoke extensively about the positive effects produced by military leaders who adapt to change.


“Flexibility is the key to air power,” he said. “It’s the key attribute for you as a leader. Embrace and lead change.”


Change is inevitable and has implications at the tactical, strategic and operational levels, Dunford said. However, today’s military officers must find productive ways to grapple with changes in technology, equipment and aircraft systems. Beyond all, leaders must show care and concern for those they lead.


“The military profession at the end of the day is about people,” he said.


Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, a 1982 Academy graduate, spoke before Dunford.


“Most of you graduating today did not do this alone and I know that marching in here today, you were trying to glance at the crowd to see if you could find the face that matters the most to you,” she said. “So go ahead, stand up and look around. Find them, cheer them and thank them.”


Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson also spoke during the ceremony. She encouraged the graduates to seek challenges throughout their Air Force careers.


“You will enter a more complex, interconnected and volatile geopolitical landscape than our military has ever known, but I am confident that you are ready to outpace the rapid developments of our adversaries,” she said.


Johnson said the graduates’ dedication to the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do, and commitment to character development, will help them meet future challenges.


“It is you who will ensure we remain the best air force on the planet and I look forward to the destinations you will take us in air, space, cyberspace and beyond,” she said.


This graduation ceremony will be Johnson’s last as superintendent.


“It has been my great privilege to be a part of these formative four years of development for both this class and our Academy,” she said. “This exceptional class has displayed an inventive spirit and hunger for discovery that has helped accelerate our Academy’s upward trajectory and has exemplified that we are delivering our mission in a modern and relevant way.”


Dunford concluded his speech by commending the graduates for successfully completing the Academy’s rigorous academic, athletic and military training curriculum.


“You’ve accomplished a great deal and deserve to be recognized,” he said before handing the new officers their diplomas. “Graduates, it’s time to lead.”


Top Squadron, Top Grad

Cadet Squadron 32 is this year’s Top Cadet Squadron. Each year, the Cadet Wing’s 40 squadrons are judged on their academic, athletic and military performance. The squadron shared the stage with Dunford.


Second Lt. Young Wu, formerly of Cadet Squadron 03, was the top graduate and the first to receive his diploma from Dunford.


Wu received the honor after scoring the maximum on athletic and physical fitness tests, earning the No. 1 military performance average among this year’s graduating class, and maintaining a high GPA.