Cadets 4th Class Matthew Schuetz, Caleb Belden and William Hicks of Cadet Squadron 18 recite information about the F-15 Eagle while performing push-ups during Recognition at the U.S. Air Force Academy March 12, 2010. Recognition is a series of military, physical and mental exercises that culminate with freshmen achieving upperclassman status. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rachel Boettcher)
Cadet 4th Class Carly Serratore receives encouragement during Recognition events at the Air Force Academy's Cadet Field House March 12, 2010. Recognition consists of several days of mentally and physically demanding activities and culminates with the ascension of the freshmen into the ranks of upper-class cadets. Cadet Serratore is the daughter of Air Force hockey head coach Frank Serratore. (Air Force Photo/Mike Kaplan)
Brig. Gens. Sam Cox and Dana Born and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Ross lead the Class of 2013 on the Run to the Rock during Recognition at the Air Force Academy March 13, 2010. Recognition consists of several days of mentally and physically demanding activities and culminates with the ascension of the freshmen into the ranks of upper-class cadets. General Cox is the commandant of cadets, and General Born is the dean of the faculty. Chief Ross is the commandant of cadets' superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
Cadet 4th Class Billy Tyrrel of Cadet Squadron 24 carries his squadron's charge on the return leg of The Run to the Rock during Recognition at the U.S. Air Force Academy March 13, 2010. At the end of the event, the freshmen are welcomed into the ranks of upper-class cadets. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Mike Kaplan)
Cadet 4th Class Michael Griffin of marches down the darkened hallways of Cadet Squadron 18 as upperclassmen salute him in the time-honored tradition of the Props and Wings Ceremony Mar. 13 during Recognition Events. Recognition consists of several days of mentally and physically demanding activities, and culminates with the ascension of the freshmen into the ranks of upper class cadets. (Air Force Photo/Mike Kaplan)
3/16/2010 - US AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Say goodbye to carrying book bags, morning minutes of knowledge recitation, restricted paths on the Terrazzo and wearing uniforms off-base.
Say hello to wearing hard-earned prop and wings and acceptance as upperclass cadets for the Class of 2013 during closing ceremonies for this year's Recognition, March 11 through Sunday.
Recognition is a culmination of the four-degree training process, a capstone challenge event of physical fitness and knowledge, said Maj. John Orchard, air officer commanding for Cadet Squadron 16, the "Proud Chickenhawks." Recognition reflects the Basic Cadet Training experiences and challenges; it summarizes and wraps up those challenges and the knowledge the freshmen have gained throughout the year.
"It's an emotional milestone, and they know they have done something important in their life," he added.
He also gave high praise to the upperclassmen that ran the training event.
"They were very professional, and they put the job before all else," he said.
Master Sgt. Brady McCoy, CS 16's Academy military training NCO, said some in the squadron were dreading Recognition, while others looked forward to it.
"For me, it's teamwork," he said of the takeaway he hoped the they would have. "It's looking out for people."
Challenges began the evening of March 11 in the squadrons with a rigorous training session testing a combination of fitness and knowledge. March 12 was dedicated to physical fitness courses, leadership exercises and tours of the Terrazzo, where upperclassmen explained the rich heritage of the Academy present there and, of course, threw in more physical fitness for good measure.
That evening, freshmen took time to reflect in squadron "theme rooms." Each squadron puts their own spin on a variety of themed rooms purposed to imitate real-world scenarios. For CS 16, the first was a mock deployment briefing, followed by a flight simulation, capture, a prisoner of war interrogation and a funeral for a squad mate. Major training events officer Cadet 1st Class Brian Thorn said it was the highlight of his own Recognition.
"It is the most meaningful reminder of what my profession is," he said. "This is serious business."
On Saturday, freshmen's dorm rooms and uniforms went under upperclassmen's rigorous inspection, then ran to Cathedral Rock.
Afterward, in the darkened hallways of the dorms, lined with upperclassmen rendering salutes, each fourth-classman at last heard the long-awaited words, "Recognition granted."
Dinner followed in Mitchell Hall, where the newly-recognized class received congratulations as new upperclass members of the Cadet Wing.
"Wearing my backpack is sweet," said Cadet 4th Class Rory Montgomery, CS 29, from Sammamish, Wa.
He expressed appreciation for the privilege of wearing comfortable clothes and not having to recite military knowledge first thing in the morning. He also said he felt, despite the rigorous challenges, he was treated with a great deal of respect.
"I'm thankful they pushed me -- pushed me for two and a half days like no time before," he said. "I could always do another push up."
Cadet 4th Class Matt Demichiei from CS 37 said he also appreciates wearing his backpack and the privilege of walking anywhere on the Terrazzo, a combination he called "great."
"The best part is not having to worry about doing something wrong, like not greeting properly," he said and added the worst part of Recognition was the anticipation.
Cadet 4th Class Mary Hansard, an Atlanta native also assigned to CS 37, said the hardest part for her was staying motivated during the exercises but Recognition was definitely worth it, including the privileges of listening to music and having her own clothes back.
"I got to see how much I have grown up, having simple pleasures again and liking the Academy more," she said.
3/27/2010 12:08:47 PM ET Congratulations Class of 2013 Rod Rodman '65.
Harry E. Rodman Jr., Orlando FL
3/26/2010 9:01:46 PM ET Recognition...The greater the challenge the greater the reward and with it the satisfaction in knowing that you have become an inseparable member of an elite group.Congratulations to all the 2013 Cadets. Stay focused. Live like the Academy is a marathon, not a sprint. Proud Father and Dad of Anthony D'Errico IICS 25 Class 2013
Anthony D'Errico, New Jersey
3/26/2010 7:44:57 PM ET All we ever hear is how much things have changed. This article shows how much things have stayed the same. Congratulations to the Class of 2013.