Academy Board names Class of 2011 top graduate

Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt (center) takes the Air Force Academy superintendent's seat at the invitation of Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould (standing) during a meeting of the Academy Board May 20, 2011. Cadet Schmidt was selected by the Academy Board as the top graduate for the Class of 2011 based on his academic, military and physical fitness accomplishments. 

Also pictured are, from left: Col. Paul Pirog, permanent professor for the Department of Law; Col. Mark Wells, permanent professor for the Department of History; Brig. Gen. Dana Born, the dean of the faculty; Col. Tamra Rank, the vice superintendent; Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, the commandant of cadets; Dr. Hans Mueh, the director of athletics; Col. John Andrew, permanent professor for the Department of Mathematical Sciences; Col. Neal Barlow, permanent professor for the Department of Aeronautics; and Col. Richard Anderson, the vice commandant. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt (center) takes the Air Force Academy superintendent's seat at the invitation of Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould (standing) during a meeting of the Academy Board May 20, 2011. Cadet Schmidt was selected by the Academy Board as the top graduate for the Class of 2011 based on his academic, military and physical fitness accomplishments. Also pictured are, from left: Col. Paul Pirog, permanent professor for the Department of Law; Col. Mark Wells, permanent professor for the Department of History; Brig. Gen. Dana Born, the dean of the faculty; Col. Tamra Rank, the vice superintendent; Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, the commandant of cadets; Dr. Hans Mueh, the director of athletics; Col. John Andrew, permanent professor for the Department of Mathematical Sciences; Col. Neal Barlow, permanent professor for the Department of Aeronautics; and Col. Richard Anderson, the vice commandant. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Lt. Gen. Mike Gould surrenders his seat to Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt during a meeting of the Air Force Academy Board at the Academy May 20, 2011. Cadet Schmidt, a native of Cody, Wyo., assigned to Cadet Squadron 22, was named the top graduate for the Academy Class of 2011 by the board based on his academic, military and physical fitness scores. General Gould is the Academy superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Lt. Gen. Mike Gould surrenders his seat to Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt during a meeting of the Air Force Academy Board at the Academy May 20, 2011. Cadet Schmidt, a native of Cody, Wyo., assigned to Cadet Squadron 22, was named the top graduate for the Academy Class of 2011 by the board based on his academic, military and physical fitness scores. General Gould is the Academy superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt presents information on the Air Force Academy's unmanned aerial systems research during the Unmanned Systems North America 2010 conference in Denver Aug. 27, 2010. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International hosted the event in the Colorado Convention Center. Cadet Schmidt is an electrical engineering major and native of Cody, Wyo. Also pictured, background, are Cadet 2nd Class Christina England and Academy Dean of the Faculty Brig. Gen. Dana Born. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt presents information on the Air Force Academy's unmanned aerial systems research during the Unmanned Systems North America 2010 conference in Denver Aug. 27, 2010. Cadet Schmidt, a native of Cody, Wyo., was named the top graduate of the Academy's Class of 2011 by the Academy Board May 20, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A native of Cody, Wyo., assigned to Cadet Squadron 22 was selected as the top graduate for the Class of 2011 by the Air Force Academy Board Friday.

Cadet 1st Class Hal Schmidt Jr. received the honor after scoring the maximums on both the athletic and physical fitness tests, earning the No. 1 military performance average among the graduating class of approximately 1,000 and maintaining a high grade-point average.

Cadet Schmidt found out about his selection while practicing for the organizational awards parade Friday morning. Lt. Col. Christopher Gough, the Air Officer Commanding for Cadet Group 3, dismissed Cadet Schmidt from his duties for the rest of the morning and told him to report to the superintendent's office.

"He told me not to read too much into it, but to make haste and get there as soon as possible," the cadet said.

But he wasn't about to formally report to Lt. Gen. Mike Gould in his Airman Battle Uniform.

"I ran up the ramp to my room and changed into my service dress as fast as I could," he said. "I ran across the Terrazzo and up the stairs to General Gould's office." Once he arrived, Maj. Jaron Roux gave the cadet a once-over and told him to knock once, step to the side and report in.

General Gould stood up, returned Cadet Schmidt's salute and, after a bit of good-natured ribbing, congratulated him on being selected as the top graduate.

Cadet Schmidt said it's an honor to have been selected.

"It's been a great four years," he said. "I've grown a lot, and I've learned a lot of lessons, good and bad, and I've learned about leading other people. I've had a lot of excellent mentors, and a lot of great friends who helped."

Tech. Sgt. Adam McNeill, the Academy Military Training NCO for CS 22, didn't seem overly surprised at Cadet Schmidt's selection as top graduate.

"In the two years I've been here, I've seen people who do well here and people who stand out," said Sergeant McNeill, a Colorado Springs native. "Hal's always stood out. There are cadets I go to for the inside scoop, for cadets' perspective on things; Hal's always been that person I go to."

The AMT said Cadet Schmidt could have settled for being among the top 10 graduates but chose instead to apply himself even harder.

"You don't end up being the top grad by accident," Sergeant McNeill said. "For someone already performing so well to critique himself, find areas where there's room for improvement and attack them full out reflects on his character."

Perhaps most importantly, Cadet Schmidt inspires the cadets around him to strive for excellence, Sergeant McNeill said.

"It's a testament to Hal's leadership and personality that he's a person other cadets look up to," he added.

Cadet Schmidt reflected on Brig. Gen. Robert Olds, the Class of 2011's exemplar.

"Robin Olds ... that's all I really have to say," he said.

And while being the Class of 2011's top graduate is an honor, Cadet Schmidt has something else to look forward to: today, when every cadet, regardless of his order of merit, becomes a second lieutenant.

"It's a great feeling to graduate together," he said.