Trainees graduate from 'Big Bad Basic'

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Basic cadet training ended Saturday for more than 1,200 incoming cadets with spirited male and female "Big Bad Basic" pugilist competitions in a ground ring surrounded by chanting and cheering basics who had spent two weeks in Jacks Valley.

"It went a lot smoother than expected," said Senior Master Sgt. Roderick Schwald, NCOIC of the confidence course. "Some on the Tarzan were afraid of heights and it built confidence. The cadre was supportive and encouraging."

The day also featured the Sweepstakes competitions with trainees running the obstacle course and the assault course, and other events.

Over the last two weeks, they have been in what they call the "Second Beast" or second phase of basic training.

From along the outer rim of the massed basics, Basic Cadet Lindsey Horn from Albuquerque, N.M., said second beast was partly what she had expected.

"I knew it was going to be hard, but not as much fun as it was with the teamwork and courses," she said. She sensed a spiritual aspect to it.

"You think about friends back home and what you've been through. I've learned things I thought I never would."

The cadets had learned ground combat tactics and techniques. Some had never previously held a weapon.

There were several events and competitions to test the skills cadets learned during their training, with tests that measured their physical and mental skills.

They learned new things about themselves.

"They learned teamwork," said Cadet 2nd Class Nicole Robiland, sitting on a sandbagged position well above the basics and the flailing pugilists. "They're a team now; Jacks Valley brings them together."

For Cadet Robiland and the other cadet cadre, it was deja vue.

"You had to push them," said the third-year cadet from Bristol, Conn. "But you had to remember that most of them are only 18 years old."

Below, in the ring, the pugilists ceased their efforts.

Basic Cadet Emily Frick was the women's winner and Basic cadet Griffin Biscone was the men's.

Brig. Gen. Susan Desjardins, Commandant of Cadets, expressed pride in the basic cadets, noting that the obstacles they had overcome would serve them well in the future.

"The Class of 2011 has conquered the Beast!" said General Desjardins. "They follow in the footsteps of more than 38,000 graduates in the Long Blue Line in reaching this milestone. They have overcome the challenges of a rigorous physical training program, endless drill and the difficult courses in Jacks Valley. Individual heart and will were key to this accomplishment! Our BCT cadre have taken the basics to places they never thought they could go, and in doing so, have prepared them to embark on the challenges and opportunities of their fourth class year and beyond."