Lorenz on Leadership: Starting a wonderful journey

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- I recently had the honor of attending the swearing-in ceremony for the Class of 2017 here at the Academy.

Looking east across the Cadet Area past Vandenberg Hall, I was struck by the large size and beauty of the garrison flag blowing in the slight breeze. Behind me, standing at the top of the class wall were thousands of proud, cheering parents, who only the day prior had dropped off their sons and daughters at Doolittle Hall to start their journey as Academy cadets.

The scene brought back waves of memories of this very same day 44 years ago when I joined our Air Force and took the oath of office for the very first time.

The speaker at the ceremony was Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, commandant of cadets. He took his oath for the first time in 1981 as a cadet at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

You see, it does not matter where you take the oath - it could be here at the Academy, at any one of our 144 Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments across the nation, at officer training school or standing in the middle of the parade field at basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

No matter the location, source of commission, officer or enlisted, we all start our journey of serving our nation by raising our right hand.

Lengyel began his remarks to the 1,090 members of the Class of 2017, who stood at attention in formation:

"In a moment, you will be sworn-in as basic cadets in the United States Air Force. In taking this oath you are making a public statement of your personal commitment of service, sacrifice and responsibility. You will become a self-bonded servant of the American people. It is a moral obligation to do right by and for the American people in defending their Constitution, nation and way of life."

He went on to give praise to the parents, family and friends that attended the ceremony in support of the cadets.

"Thousands of staff, faculty and support personnel and billions of dollars in facilities and infrastructure exist to take you from being a basic cadet to becoming a second lieutenant in our United States Air Force." Lengyel said. "I want you to look down over your left chest pocket on your airman battle uniform. Read the embroidery tape. It says U.S. Air Force. You are now in the U.S. Air Force, and your rank is basic cadet. Your unit is your respective basic cadet squadron in the basic cadet training group ... In four years, most of you will be newly commissioned second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force. It seems like a long time from now, but I assure you it will go by quickly."

As the beautiful U.S. flag fluttered back and forth, Lengyel asked the class to raise their right hands and repeat after him.

"I (state your name), having been appointed a basic cadet in the United States Air Force..."

Listening to the cadets as they repeated the words of the oath of office, I thought, "How lucky these great young men and women are as they start their exciting military careers."
I would trade places with them right now and do it all again.