Class of 2013 'Best to be Seen'

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets from the Class of 2013 and their cadet cadre instructors march to Jacks Valley at the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 13, 2009. Freshmen cadets adopted the motto "Best to be Seen ... big, bad and mean" while marching to activities shortly after inprocessing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dave Ahlschwede)

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets from the Class of 2013 and their cadet cadre instructors march to Jacks Valley at the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 13, 2009. Freshmen cadets adopted the motto "Best to be Seen ... big, bad and mean" while marching to activities shortly after inprocessing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dave Ahlschwede)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy Class of 2013 completed Basic Cadet Training last week and started classes this week. Shortly after inprocessing earlier this summer, they began chanting, "2013 Best to be Seen ... big, bad and mean," while marching and transitioning from activities; following a tradition to choose a class-specific motivational motto. And in many ways, at least to date, they are the best class the Academy has seen.

"We appoint the best and the brightest young people, not only from across the nation, but also from around the world," said Col. Chevalier Cleaves, Air Force Academy director of admissions. "Once a new class arrives, our focus is on maximizing their potential while helping them develop into officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation."

Before this new class entered, USAFA Admissions knew they would be extremely competitive statistically because of their outstanding GPAs, standardized test scores, as well as their exceptional character and leadership composites. According to data compiled by Air Force Academy Plans and Programs, the Class of 2013 has the highest average SAT composite and tied for the highest average ACT composite in USAFA history. Their average weighted high school grade point average was 3.86, and 76 percent of them were in the top fifth of their graduating high school class. 

In addition to record academic scores, their character and leadership indices were both the highest on record since Admissions began using the current holistic review process. Finally, the pool of applicants was larger than it has been in the past five years realizing an 11 percent increase over the previous year, while the number of qualified candidates also experienced the highest one year increase on record.

Additional historical numbers from Academy Plans and Programs show that the Class of 2013 is by far one of the most structurally diverse classes ever to enter USAFA. Academy Admissions received the highest number of African American, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Islander applications in history and the third highest number of female applications in history. This class yielded the highest number of qualified Hispanic candidates and the third highest number of qualified female candidates ever. Hispanic candidates accepted the highest number of appointments in USAFA history, while minorities overall, as well as females, accepted the second highest number of appointments ever. 

The Class of 2013 also produced the highest number of qualified African American candidates and African American appointments offered, while tying the highest number of African American appointments accepted, all in the last 17 years.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould states in the June 2009 USAFA Diversity Plan, "The Academy's premise is to increase its graduate population across the definition of diversity not only to enrich the USAFA educational and training experience but to leverage the known benefits of diversity that can enhance Air Force capabilities and warfighting skills. Our graduates will serve as leaders of an Air Force already composed of people from widely diverse backgrounds and experiences and projected to become even more diverse. "

Oftentimes, this diversity is thought to comprise only race, ethnicity and gender. However, the Academy's Diversity Plan broadly defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics that includes personal life experiences, geographic background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical/spiritual perspectives, age, as well as race, ethnicity and gender.

In addition to exemplary scores, historical data and records in diversity, there are some things numbers can't describe: noble displays of character, inspirational leadership, commitment to community and service, and overcoming extremes in adversity. Although stories exemplifying these qualities in our new cadets are rarely told outside of the Admissions Directorate, the Air Force Academy treasures the quality such additions make to enhance the cadet wing, and later the officer corps. The following are just a few examples which highlight the depth of character, will, perseverance and leadership that we see in the latest class to join the Long Blue Line.

One freshman, who is the child of a disabled single parent, maintained a job as a waitress, among other extracurricular activities, while operating as the caregiver for her little brother. Her Admissions Liaison Officer said her "personal character and maturity are beyond her peer group." In terms of diversity, she will offer her classmates personal life experience, socioeconomic background, gender and work background.

One cadet and his family immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. After high school, he enlisted in the Air Force as a medic, and later went to the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. He will add language abilities, cultural knowledge, work experience, race and ethnicity to the cadet wing.

One young man lived in Germany and attended German Primary schools from first through eighth grade and played for the Bayern Munich professional soccer club, the U.S. national soccer team and was a member of the U.S. Olympic development program in Europe. He will offer the Academy excellence and diversity in terms of language abilities, cultural knowledge and physical abilities.

Another cadet and his younger brothers came from a challenging home life and moved from family to family beginning when he was four years old. As early as first grade, he fixed breakfast for his brothers, walked them to the babysitter's house and then walked himself to school. For seven years he lived in a drug and violence laden neighborhood. This young man brings added perspective from his personal life experiences, ability to overcome significant adversity, race as well as geographic and socioeconomic background.

The next cadet lived in Germany due to her father's military service and is fluent in German. Six years ago, after her sister died in a car accident and her mother was permanently brain damaged, she helped raise her youngest sibling. She will offer her peers cultural knowledge, language abilities, personal life experiences and the ability to overcome significant adversity.

The collective strength and potential of the class of 2013 is represented by all of the characteristics and accomplishments chronicled above: record high standardized test scores, extraordinary evidence of prior commitment to our core values and tremendous diversity.

As stated in the Diversity Plan, "The Air Force Academy is a leadership laboratory where cadets develop leadership abilities through demonstrated performance. Cadets are organized in a structure similar to the Air Force itself and progress through cadet ranks and positions that allow them to exercise leadership skills at progressively more challenging levels. This provides exceptional opportunities to learn, and these opportunities are best realized when the cadet cadre itself is widely diverse. Correspondingly, we conclude that recruiting, retaining, developing and graduating a diverse cadet corps is as important for Air Force leadership training as it is for the quality of academic education."

"We have extremely high expectations for the Class of 2013, as we do for all of our cadets," Colonel Cleaves said. "Every person on the Admissions staff has worked tirelessly day in and day out to bring such high caliber students, and well rounded people, to the Academy. I have no doubt that this class will continue to impress all of us while striving to live up to their motto of "Best to be Seen ... big, bad and mean" in all areas of cadet life and into their officer careers."