At the Air Force Academy, honor is a way of life

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Not long ago, two residents of Colorado Springs wrote a letter of thanks to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould praising two cadets -- Cadets 2nd Class Ashley Bartmas and Tara Harris -- for returning an MP3 player that their daughter had lost while visiting the Academy.

"Here are two ladies (who) are great ambassadors of the Academy and follow the Honor Code in all aspects of their lives," Dan and Jan Erickson wrote. "These two ladies are outstanding examples of everything the Air Force Academy stands for and teaches the cadets."

The Honor Code to which the Ericksons refer is a way of life at the Air Force Academy and one of many aspects of Academy life that sets cadets here apart from students at most other colleges, said Cadet 1st Class Sean Knowles, the Cadet Wing Honor chairman.

"The Honor Code is the minimum standard," said Knowles, a native of Allentown, Pa., who is assigned to Cadet Squadron 10. "It's here to create a culture where cadets are living honorably and preparing for the hard decisions that are going to come up as a part of officership."

The Honor Code compels cadets not to lie, cheat or steal, nor to tolerate among them anyone who does. It applies throughout their lives, from activities in the classroom or athletic fields to time spent off base, Knowles said.

The Code forms the basis for living honorably, said Cadet 1st Class Brandon Roberts, the Cadet Wing character officer.

"The Air Force Academy's mission is to develop leaders of character," said Roberts, a native of Denton, Texas. "You can't be a leader of character without being an honorable person, and to some extent, you can't be an honorable person if you don't have character.
Living honorably means having the integrity of your word. It means you treat others with respect, you hold yourself to standards. It means doing what you say you're going to do."

Cadets face stringent consequences if they should fail to abide by the Honor Code. The Honor Code Reference Handbook lists possible sanctions as honor rehabilitation, honor probation or disenrollment. The cadet loses his good standing within the Cadet Wing under honor probation and may also lose his good standing under honor rehabilitation. A cadet undergoing honor rehabilitation or probation must, according to the handbook, "reflect on what habits led to the violation and why."

Knowles stressed, however, that cadets should look at the Honor Code and honor system as something to help them grow, not as a purely punitive or procedural system.

"It was placed here for a bigger purpose: to prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead of you," he said. "Look at it as something you can adopt and make part of your daily life."
Most importantly, living honorably as cadets prepares the future officers for life in the Air Force, whose principal core value is "Integrity First."

"The Honor Code pervades everything we do," Knowles said. "It's something we hold ourselves to, something we're responsible for and something we're proud of."