Living up to a legacy of excellence

Cadet 1st Class Christian Brechbuhl

Cadet 1st Class Christian Brechbuhl

Cadet 1st Class Nathan Orrill

Cadet 1st Class Nathan Orrill

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- To a cadet born in 1991, 60 years doesn't mean a whole lot.

To a "firstie" about to commission into the world's greatest Air Force, words such as "final exams" and "graduation" hold much more meaning. The daily regime of the Academy sometimes overshadows that our institution is now a widely-recognized academic institute and producer of countless leaders and public servants. For nearly six decades, our graduates have served in conflicts and wars across the world, with many giving the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Our Academy has produced congressmen, chief executive officers, civic leaders and generals. Cadets who once walked the halls of Fairchild and Vandenberg have stepped foot in outer space and have propelled our Air Force and nation to new heights. The Air Force's Academy has established an enduring legacy and an unrivaled team which all can take pride in.

Celebrating our 60th anniversary provides us with an opportunity to reflect on those who have come before us. Our nation has given us a tremendous opportunity by inviting us to attend the Academy, and has placed in us a sacred trust to do great and noble work on their behalf. To not only serve with humility and integrity, but continue a life of service beyond our military careers.

What exactly does this lasting legacy mean? It means we must soon take up the challenge left by our predecessors: the challenge of leading a changing Air Force through difficult times, the challenge of leaving the Academy better than we found it, the challenge of living up to a legacy of over 50,000 graduates. This may not be easy, but it is a challenge we eagerly accept.

The Class of 2014 has, and continues, to work to improve the Academy by focusing on cadet ownership and accountability. Unlike 60 years ago, when the first class of cadets entered the Academy at Lowry Air Force Base, we now have a fully-trained and motivated corps of upper-class cadets responsible for a significant portion of the lower class' development. Cadets execute the daily mission of the Cadet Wing by holding jobs ranging from supervising one forth-class cadet to commanding the 4,000 member cadet wing. Cadets hold positions of squadron academic staff to running a wing level training program. Under the direction of Academy senior leaders, the Cadet Wing has taken responsibility for its own development by executing the daily mission and taking an increased role in policy development.

By taking ownership of our development, we are preparing to be motivated lieutenants for our Air Force and servant leaders for our nation. We are focusing on skills that will help us be effective officers who can adapt to any situation with integrity and excellence.

The legacy of our Academy and its graduates is truly something to be truly proud of. Over the past 60 years, our graduates have gone on to do amazing things, both in and out of the military. We will, and must, continue to strive to live up to the ideals of our great nation, our Air Force, and our Academy. The 60th Anniversary provides each cadet the opportunity to reflect on our history and look toward the future.

(Brechbuhl and Orrill will graduate in May)