U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
"Sit up straight."
"Put your heels together."
"Put your hands on your knees."
Sitting up straight on the bus to the Hill may be the first order incoming basic cadets receive during their Academy and subsequent operational Air Force days, but, without doubt it, won't be the last.
During in-processing July 25 the Academy welcomed the Class of 2013 as the appointees, turned basic cadets, took their first steps in the adventure of their Air Force careers.
"You are here to start a journey, an exciting journey," William Thompson, Class of 1973 and chief executive officer of the Association of Graduates, told the new basics and their families and friends outside Doolittle Hall.
He reminded class members the Academy has produced 41,000 Air Force officers since it opened in 1955.
The Academy selected the 1,373 class members from 9,897 applicants.
Basic Cadet Training runs from inprocessing to Aug. 1. Classes begin Aug. 6.
Parents, family and friends said final good-byes, in some cases not without some waterworks, as the new cadets climbed the stairs to the second floor of Doolittle Hall to begin their Air Force journey.
After dealing with banking and mail concerns upstairs, the new basics moved outside and were reminded of the sacrifices of other Academy graduates by the Memorial Wall. They then crossed the Memorial Bridge on the way to waiting buses, which took them to the base of the Core Values Ramp.
New basics had their own motivations, preparations and goals for attending the Academy.
"It was a tough decision," said Basic Cadet Michael Duff, who hails from Illinois.
There were, however, aspects of the Academy which particularly appealed to him.
"There is an honor code, and everyone will have as much drive to succeed as I do," he said.
He prepared for the physical demands of Academy life by running and performing push-ups. In high school Basic Cadet Duff, the potential chemistry major, played baseball and football.
He was both excited and nervous about the days ahead, but he got a good night's sleep in preparation for the first day.
Basic Cadet Andrew Oury traveled from Wisconsin for in-processing by himself. He, too, had a good night's sleep, through the bed and breakfast program where Academy volunteers provide a comfortable bed, good food and camaraderie before in-processing.
He wants to major in physics but is unsure about flying. He is sure about his choice of schools.
"I really wanted to have a career in the Air Force, and this is the best place for training," he said.
Basic Cadet Rachel Allison from Gettysburg, Pa., would like, eventually, to major in English and fly helicopters.
To prepare for BCT, she has been running about four miles a day, plus doing push-ups and crunches.
The daughter of two Air Force members always considered the option of attending the Academy.
"The aspect of service is very drawing," she said.
Basic Cadet Karolyn Capes from Jacksonville, Fla., was also accepted at the Naval Academy.
She wants to major in aerospace engineering with a minor in Arabic or Spanish.
"I really, honestly wanted to get an education and serve my country," she said.
There was no lack of pride as parents stood by as the basics boarded buses.
"He's wanted to be in the service for a long time," said Patrick O'Connor, Atlanta, Ga., whose son William is a member of the new class.
He described his son as a disciplined person, strong student, good with people, and having a "great sense of humor."
Cadet cadre do the lion's share of planning and implementing BCT. Training began in March.
"It is 100 percent professional, all the time," Cadet 1st Class Marshall Wills, BCT cadet commander, said. "We want to make these the cadets the best they can be."
Cadet cadre members follow a strict script and procedures when interacting with the new basics.
Cadet Wills said BCT is an opportunity for upperclassmen to leave their imprint on the new class, beginning with the bus trip and formation on the painted footprints at the foot of the core values ramp, symbolic of those who have gone before the new incoming cadets.
First impressions are lasting ones.
"We set the tone for the new class. This is a huge responsibility," he said. "We are very proud of the legacy we will leave behind."
During the first day, the new basics turned in medical records, had blood drawn, visited barbers and beauticians, underwent fittings for and picked up uniforms and other clothing items and organized items in dorm rooms.
During the next three weeks, basic cadets will be versed in Air Force heritage, honor, dining decorum, uniform wear, teamwork, the Airman's Creed and, of course, physical training.
It's rise and shine at 4:30 a.m. and lights out at 9 p.m.
The second half of BCT, aka "2nd Beast," will be in Jacks Valley where basics will be tested in field exercises.
Steve Simon said in-processing has changed. Mr. Simon in-processed, when he attended the Academy, before Doolittle Hall was built and parents could accompany new basics the first day.
"I was unceremoniously dumped on the footprints by myself," he said with a smile.
Conversely, today new basics have their own, new challenges, he believes. During basic training now, basic cadets must forego technology on which they have come to depend, including computers, cell phones and texting, MP3 players and even watches.
One thing hasn't changed: the desire to succeed and the ever-present anxiety of failing.
During BCT, Mr. Simon, standing with other class members near the post office in the dorm, was issued a pink slip.
"I thought it was over," he recalled.
The slip was a claim form for a package from home.
Mr. Simon became a member of the graduating Class of 1977 and now serves as the Academy graduate donor liaison.