U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
The first physical steps nearly 1,200 young men and women took toward becoming cadets and ultimately Air Force officers, occurred June 29 on the curved, tree-lined sidewalk outside Doolittle Hall.
In all, 1,198 basic cadets admitted to the Academy were scheduled to arrive to begin Basic Cadet Training, a six-week mental and physical training program here. To become a cadet, they must graduate BCT, a long-established standard for uniformed service members and service academy cadets.
By 7 a.m., the line grew into the hundreds. By noon, the last group had been fielded through several stations where they tagged their luggage, were assigned buses to take to the cadet area, and attended briefings from Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, the commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, the dean of the faculty, and Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the superintendent of the Academy.
“You’re joining a lifestyle, a force, a community,” Johnson said to the basic cadets. “Thank you for all the hard work you put in to get here.”
Johnson, a 1981 Academy grad, said the Air Force brings unique qualities to national defense in the realm of its air, space and cyberspace capabilities. Today’s generation of Airmen are the best qualified to grapple with advancing technology and address national security concerns, she said.
“The U.S. depends on Airmen to solve problems creatively,” Johnson said. “You will all bring special talents to our Air Force and our nation that no other service delivers. We’re depending on you to do just that.”
The superintendent encouraged the crowd to meet any challenge they face with commitment and dedication to the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.
“Character and leadership is as the forefront of everything we do at the Academy,” she said. “It must remain at the forefront.”
Johnson said the commandant, the dean and the Academy’s faculty and staff, are dedicated to the school’s mission of developing leaders and devoted to the success of each basic cadet.
“We exist for you to be able to serve in the greatest Air Force in the world,” she said.
Along with the faculty and staff, cadets have a big role to play in the BCT.
Cadet 2nd Class Sedacy Walden is a BCT element leader, one of many cadets who will lead the basic cadets through BCT. He said the training cadre might appear less than friendly, but they’re always concerned for the wellbeing of the basic cadets enduring the same training they once participated in.
“It makes me feel good to be here because I see the different faces and their reaction and know the potential they all have,” he said, referring to the long line of basic cadets. “They don’t know the end result but we do. We do everything for a reason and that’s to get them through their training and help them become cadets. It’s a special position.”
Waiting in Line
Mark Anarumo, Alaina Lucius and Trey LaRok were among the basic cadets in line. They may come from diverse backgrounds but shared the same balance of excitement and apprehension.
Anarumo, 19, is from Middletown, New Jersey. He’s the son of Col. Mark Anarumo, head of the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development.
“I’m mostly excited and just want to get in the groove,” he said. “I’ve always seen what the military has done for my dad and my family and I want the same opportunity for my own family -- the travel and just everything. I just want to make my dad proud.”
Lucius, 21, is from Mansfield, Ohio. She’s a former airman first class in the Ohio Guard and was assigned 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield. She said she’s eager to “get things started.”
“I’m probably going to be the ‘Old maid’ of the group,” she laughed. “I’m just hoping my past enlisted experience helps me here and that I can help in leadership roles and take on more responsibility.”
She said her parents were very supportive of her applying for admission to the Academy.
“They must have raised me right because they got me here,” she said.
Trey LaRok, 18, is from Syracuse, New York. He said he’d like to serve as a combat systems officer after graduating from the Academy but overall, but he’s just happy to be here.
“I’ve always wanted to serve in the Air Force and attend the Academy and see what happens,” he said.
Trey LaRok said his father, Senior Master Sgt. Corey LaRok, as his primary inspiration for joining the Air Force in any capacity. Corey LaRok is assigned to the 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse.
“I’m going through a lot of emotions,” he said when describing the close relationship he shares with his son. “It’s kind of like losing your best friend but in the essence of it all, this is the best thing for him. I’m confident in the Academy staff to take care of him physically, mentally and in any way.”
Corey LaRok relied on his own military service to give Trey a good idea of what to expect during basic training.
“I told him to rely on and take care of his classmates,” he said. “Teamwork is definitely one of the things I brought up to him.”
Corey LaRok knows that save for an emergency situation, he and his wife Delinda won’t be able to communicate with their son during BCT, but the couple plans to visit the Academy when they can.
“We’ll be back for Parents’ Weekend,” he said.