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THE HONOR CODE

Posted 4/16/2009 Printable Fact Sheet

"We Will Not Lie, Steal Or Cheat, Nor Tolerate Among Us Anyone Who Does"

The Air Force Academy Honor Code was formally adopted in 1956 by the first graduating class, the Class of 1959. It was then, and continues to be today, a minimum standard of conduct which cadets expect of themselves and their fellow cadets.

Lt.Gen. Hubert R. Harmon, the Academy's first superintendent, established a committee of noted civilian educators and Air Force officers to study the existing honor codes and systems throughout the country and provide recommendations on a code for the Cadet Wing. The resulting Honor Code has remained virtually unchanged since its overwhelming acceptance in 1956 and has been continually administered by the Cadet Wing.

Elected representatives from throughout the Cadet Wing comprise the Cadet Wing Honor Committee. Presently there are 164 cadets on the committee -- two first-class cadets and two second-class cadets from each of the 36 squadrons, and the executive committee of 10 first-class cadets and 10 second-class cadets. The executive committee consists of the wing honor chairperson, wing honor education officer, wing honor NCO, the wing honor education NCO, eight group honor chairpersons, and eight group honor NCOs. Although there is an officer assigned to assist the Cadet Wing Honor Committee, the cadets administer all phases of the administrative system dealing with Honor Code violations.

The existence of the Honor Code presents many privileges and responsibilities to each cadet. A cadet's word is accepted as the truth at all times. Academic scores can truly reflect a cadet's individual effort and knowledge because each cadet is expected to adhere to the Honor Code. This adherence extends to a responsibility to confront other cadets on suspected violations of the Code. Such confrontations often result in a simple clarification of a misunderstanding, and each cadet learns the value of clear communications in all situations.

From the moment cadets enter the Academy, they begin an education process designed to help them understand the responsibilities and expectations associated with the Honor Code. But despite the Academy's emphasis on integrity, some cadets place themselves in situations where their honor is called into question. 

If a violation of the Honor Code is suspected, the Honor Group Chairperson will appoint an investigative team. The investigative team consists of one first- and one second-class cadet honor representative from a squadron other than the suspected cadet's. The team gathers pertinent evidence about the suspected honor violation. 

The investigation concludes with a review of the case by the group honor chairperson, wing honor chairperson, and the chief of the Honor Division. They review all evidence to determine whether or not the case should be forwarded to a Wing Honor Board or a Cadet Sanctions Recommendation Panel. If a cadet self-reports or admits when confronted, the case is sent to a Cadet Sanctions Recommendation Panel. If the cadet does not admit to the allegation(s), and the case is forwarded, the cadet meets a Wing Honor Board.

Board proceedings are not adversarial in nature. The suspected cadet is present during all testimony and may question any witness. There is no requirement for personal testimony by the suspected cadet, although cadets usually decide to testify in their own behalf. The board consists of eight cadets who vote and one officer mentor who participates in the board but does not vote. The eight voting cadets are all selected at random. They hear and review all evidence and testimony under the guidance of the non-voting Group Honor Chairperson. 

Following the presentation of all evidence and closed deliberations, the Wing Honor Board votes by secret ballot for or against a violation. In order for a cadet to be found in violation of the Honor Code, at least six of the eight voting members of the board must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the cadet was in violation of the Honor Code both by act and intent.

The presumptive sanction for an Honor Code violation is disenrollment. However, this recommendation may be suspended and the cadet placed on honor probation. If the commandant's recommendation is for disenrollment, the cadet may appeal to the superintendent. At any point during the honor process, the cadet may elect to resign. The superintendent ultimately decides if the cadet is to be disenrolled.

Cadets who live under the Honor Code agree it is a vital part of their development as military professionals. It also represents a broader aspect of ethical maturity which will serve them throughout their lives. As the bearers of the public trust, both as cadets and as officers, it is the Honor Code which helps build a personal integrity able to withstand the rigorous demands placed upon them.

(Current as of April 2009)







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