Prep School Class of 2011 joins Academy family

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
The Air Force Academy's Preparatory School is a microcosm of the cadet area. A small handful of buildings a stone's throw from the Community Center and main Fitness Center house, feed and train about 240 prospective members of the Class of 2015, a diverse group that includes young adults just out of high school as well as Airmen with prior enlisted experience.

In this Academy writ small, a team of Airmen led by Col. Bart Weiss will prepare the cadet candidates, who were accepted Saturday for the 2010-2011 academic year, not simply to enter the Academy but to graduate. Colonel Weiss said the cadet candidates' transformation in since inprocessing July 14 has been astounding, and he credits the prior-enlisted cadet candidates with playing a key role in that process.

"They really hit the ground running," said Colonel Weiss, a 1986 Academy graduate with nearly 5,000 flying hours in C-141 Starlifters, VC-137 Stratoliners and KC-135 Stratotankers. "The other cadet candidates look to them for leadership."

Inprocessing went extremely well thanks to Airmen with the 10th Air Base Wing, Colonel Weiss said. The entire starting class of 241 cadet candidates was inprocessed in six or seven hours.

Once cadet candidates finished inprocessing, they immediately began intensive training to prepare them for life in the military, said Lt. Col. Angie Robertson, the Prep School's commandant of cadet candidates.

"The focus was 100 percent on military training," Colonel Robertson said. A typical day of basic training started with physical training, followed by reveille and breakfast. Briefings throughout the day included topics such as honor classes and core values lessons, drill, and dormitory and uniform standards.

"Some of them have never marched a day in their lives," Colonel Roberson said. "On the other side are our 22-year-old prior-enlisted cadet candidates, who show the younger cadet candidates the fundamentals of uniforms and how to march."

Intramural sports in the afternoon reinforced the importance of teamwork among the cadet candidates.

"We try to get the cadet candidates to realize, 'Hey, you're in the military now,'" Colonel Weiss said. "We get them ready to cast aside their identities and become part of a team."

The Prep School serves as a landing pad for applicants to the Air Force Academy who have the motivation and the leadership potential to become officers in the U.S. Air Force but who may need help with academics, Colonel Robertson said.

Once the Prep School's academic year begins, cadet candidates will learn how to effectively manage their time, Colonel Weiss said.

"Time management affects everything. By definition, if you can't manage your time, something's going to drop out of the sight picture," the colonel said. He compared time management to plate spinning -- a spinner must keep an eye on each spinning plate and prioritize which plates he will spin up next.

Cadet candidates must also learn how to build and lead a team, Colonel Weiss said.

"Whether you're an airman basic or a general officer, you have to know how to put a team together and balance that team so that you have the right priorities at the right time and the right place," he said.

The Prep School has 10 months to turn high school graduates and some of the Air Force's best junior-enlisted Airmen into cadets who can succeed in the Air Force Academy's rigorous environment, Colonel Robertson said.

"We not only teach them the three Rs -- reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic -- we also teach them respect, responsibility to self and responsibility to others," she explained. "We have 10 months to teach them discipline and set the foundation for them to be successful when they go to the Hill."

That, said Colonel Weiss, is where the Prep School's mission meets its vision. All of the Prep School's staff have committed themselves to helping the cadet candidates succeed.

"Whether someone's an English instructor or a football coach, we have to know these cadet candidates and get them better prepared," he said.