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Supt.'s Corner: USAFA Class of '18 inspired by founders

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Texas to attend Founder’s Day activities with Air Force Academy graduates, families, supporters and friends, and in the weeks to come I look forward to attending more of these events in Boston, St. Louis and California. 

It’s been a privilege to meet so many of our USAFA community members, and to witness their enthusiasm for our mission. It’s also been inspiring to see the wide impact of this Academy -- we’ve come a long way since 1955, when 306 cadets began their training and education at Lowry Air Force Base, just east of Denver.

Those cadets would become our first graduating class, the Class of 1959, and in the 59 more graduating classes that have followed since, nearly 50,000 cadets have graduated and commissioned from here to become officers and leaders of the highest caliber. They have led the development of our Air Force into the incredible, barrier breaking force it is today -- the strongest and most professional Air Force on the planet.

Founder’s Day is an important opportunity for us, across our institution and extended community, to reflect upon that beginning. We’re an Academy rooted in a strong foundational heritage and warrior ethos, and dedicated to our unchanging core values as an anchor of our culture. But we’re also committed, as we always have been, to the constant pursuit of innovation at the cutting edge. 

Creativity, agility, and innovation -- and utilizing these to increase our lethality as a force -- is as crucial now as it ever has been to stay ahead of our rapidly changing adversaries in this age of technological upheaval. We’re preparing cadets to encounter battle spaces as complicated and volatile as they ever have been -- but there is value in looking to our roots, to the grit, determination and sacrifice of those that came before us, who led the way here.

In my career I’ve learned much from the graduates of our past. But in my first eight months as superintendent, what has surprised me is how much I’ve learned from our cadets. Quite simply, they’ve blown me away with their talents and abilities -- qualities that will serve them well as they take on the myriad challenges presented by our current battle spaces, and the untold challenges our rapidly changing future will present.

The Class of 2018 is ready for these challenges. In just a few short months they will become our 60th graduating class. They stand on the shoulders of the 59 proud classes that came before them, a heritage that has formed an incredibly strong and accomplished community of alumni -- the Long Blue Line. As we near Founder’s Day weekend, take a moment to reflect upon the contributions of those who came before us, and remember the cadets we’re teaching, influencing and developing today will first serve alongside us, and then one day will replace us. Our crucial task is to ensure that when they leave, here they are armed with the skills to not repeat our accomplishments, but exceed them -- to go out into our Air Force and make it their own. I’m confident they will because I’m confident in our incredible USAFA team.