Cadets LIFT spirits of Fort Carson families

Cadet 3rd Class Layne Harrod, left, and Cadet 2nd Class Chelsaa Ragland, right, help Oakley Gardner build a balsa glider during a Leaders in Flight Today program outing at the Cadet Field House Jan. 22, 2011. Oakley is the daughter of Army Staff Sgt. Erich Gardner, who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Cadet 3rd Class Layne Harrod, left, and Cadet 2nd Class Chelsaa Ragland, right, help Oakley Gardner build a balsa glider during a Leaders in Flight Today program outing at the Cadet Field House Jan. 22, 2011. Oakley is the daughter of Army Staff Sgt. Erich Gardner, who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Mary Katherine Harrison, center, skates at the Cadet Ice Arena Jan. 22, 2011, with help from her mother, Megan Harrison, right, and Cadet 2nd Class Nichole Stilwell. More than 100 family members from Fort Carson, Colo., came to the Air Force Academy for a day out at the invitation of cadets as part of the Leaders in Flight Today program. Mary Katherine is the daughter of Army 1st Lt. Daniel Harrison. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Mary Katherine Harrison, center, skates at the Cadet Ice Arena Jan. 22, 2011, with help from her mother, Megan Harrison, right, and Cadet 2nd Class Nichole Stilwell. More than 100 family members from Fort Carson, Colo., came to the Air Force Academy for a day out at the invitation of cadets as part of the Leaders in Flight Today program. Mary Katherine is the daughter of Army 1st Lt. Daniel Harrison. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Academy cadets invited family members of deployed Soldiers from Fort Carson to a day of fun Jan. 21 at the Cadet Field House here.

More than 100 family members were greeted by 75 cadets as they enjoyed movies, face painting, inflatable obstacle courses and ice skating. The field day was the brainchild of the cadets and was a part of the Leaders in Flight Today, or LIFT, program.

"It's one of the programs we have to go through here," said Cadet 2nd Class Delaney Kiernan, one of the cadets in charge of the event. "Cadets have to go through similar programs each year and they kind of build on one another. It's all about learning how to be a leader."

This particular program gave the cadets the opportunity to learn how to be leaders of a different sort.

"It's important for us to realize that there are other ways to be a leader," said Cadet 2nd Class Colin Swanson, another event organizer. "We need to know that we aren't just in charge of our people on the battlefield, we need to take care of our people at home as well."

"I think so often we're here so often and put so much into this school, that it's good to get a look at scope out into the real world and understand that we're not the only ones going through something tough," Cadet Kiernan added.

And while the cadets got a good learning experience, the families got a fun break away from what can be a very monotonous time while mom or dad is away.

"Knowing that we could come here and have something fun to look forward to, that was a huge deal," said Janelle Ginsburg, wife of a Fort Carson chaplain. "Instead of sitting around on another Saturday looking at each other saying, 'What do you want to do? I don't know, what do you want to do?' Just being able to look forward to something fun to do was a big impetus for us to come."

Following the field activities, the families were treated to an Air Force Falcons basketball game by the Athletic Department.

This was the second LIFT program event this school year, and coordinators and cadets would like to see it happen again.

"I thought the event went extremely well this weekend," said Lt. Col. Bryan Huntley, director of character and leadership development. "We definitely enjoyed ourselves and we know the families definitely appreciated it. What made it especially meaningful was pairing a cadet to each family; the connection between the children and cadets was immediate. I received many comments from both cadets and parents saying how special this event was because of the direct interaction."