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Academy leaders discuss importance of warrior ethos, preparing cadets for unknown conflict

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A panel of senior officials and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy discuss "Warrior Ethos as Airmen and Citizens," at the Academy, Jan. 21, 2021. Their conversation, livestreamed to all cadets, was part of the Center for Character and Leadership Development’s “Continuing the Conversation” series, a precursor to this year’s National Character and Leadership Symposium. From left to right, the panelists are: Cadet 1st Class Michael Greisman, cadet-in-charge of this year's NCLS; Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre, the Academy’s dean; Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Sparks, the Academy’s command chief; Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Academy’s superintendent; retired Lt. Gen. Chris Miller, a profession of arms expert at the CCLD; Maj. Gen. Michele Edmondson, the Academy’s commandant of cadets; Nate Pine, the school’s athletics director; and Cadet 2nd Class Conley Walters, cadet non-commissioned officer-in-charge of this year’s NCLS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A conversation broadcast to cadets at the Air Force Academy Jan. 21 featured top officials at the school discussing the balance between a warrior mindset and the unpredictable nature of warfare.

The “Warrior Ethos as Airmen and Citizens,” discussion was part of the Center for Character and Leadership Development’s “Continuing the Conversation” series, a precursor to this year’s National Character and Leadership Symposium, Feb. 25-26.

Retired Lt. Gen. Chris Miller, a profession of arms expert at the CCLD, moderated the conversation in Polaris Hall between Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark; Commandant of Cadets Maj. Gen. Michele Edmondson; Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre; Athletics Director Nate Pine; and Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Sparks, the Academy’s command chief.

“The conversation was a great shared experience and I hope it inspires cadets and Airmen to consider their commitment to our Air Force and their teammates,” Sparks said. “I also hope it encourages cadets to think about the importance of imparting an example of the warrior mindset to the enlisted Airmen they’ll lead.”

The Academy defines warrior ethos as “the embodiment of the warrior spirit: tough mindedness, tireless motivation, an unceasing vigilance, a willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the country, if necessary, and a commitment to be the world’s premier air, space and cyberspace force.”

Clark and Letendre said the warrior ethos extends beyond physical courage and includes a drive to develop the intellectual acumen needed to face modern warfare challenges, particularly challenges posed by the cyber and space environments.

“It might be the most difficult intellectual challenge you’ll ever face,” Clark said. “It’s the idea that we’re not going to lose, we’re not going to quit. We’re going to keep on pressing.”

In a Jan. 22 message to all Airmen, acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth said the Air Force “will move forward, advancing the department’s efforts to build the U.S. Space Force, modernize the Air and Space Forces we need, grow strong leaders and resilient families, and strengthen international cooperation with our allies and partners.”

The group also discussed how the warrior ethos mindset might be applied in space.

“Future conflicts don’t look like they used to,” Sparks said. “How do we train for that? We want innovative people. We want people who think outside the box.”

Letendre said the school’s curriculum equips cadets to prepare for the unknown.

All agreed that committing to the warrior ethos is important for all Airmen regardless of assignment or career.

The group concluded the conversation with a discussion on what U.S. citizens expect of its nation’s fighting force.

“Society gives us their trust and we can’t take their trust for granted,” Edmondson said.

Walters said panel discussions of this type are vital to the cadet experience.

"They demonstrate the true care and value our senior leaders have for our development," he said. "Whatever the topic, we can truly feel our leaders pull from years of personal experience and urge us to prepare now so that we will be ready when it is our turn." 

Greisman said he appreciated the passion about the Academy's drive to advocate for and create warriors.

"Somewhere along your journey here as a cadet you find your purpose and embrace it with a passion," he said. "These panels are extremely important to the cadet wing because they shine a light on opportunities that we are presented with here -- they remind us why we are here and the common purpose we share as an institution."

The CCLD helps align academic, athletic and military efforts for faculty, staff and cadets the Academy’s four-year course of instruction.