Learning to lead: Recognition event challenges four-degree cadets

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  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – The Class of 2024 cadets completed a multi-day, military skills and personal leadership assessment known as Recognition, March 13

Maj. Gen. Michele Edmondson, USAFA’s commandant of cadets, said “Recognition is an exciting milestone for the entire institution."

"We are all invested in making this an objective based, comprehensive assessment that identifies which four-degrees are ready to take the next step and become a frontline supervisor….which I would argue is the most important role in the cadet wing,” she said. 

The three-day challenge ended with a culminating ceremony where upperclassmen pinned the coveted ‘prop and wings’ on the four-degrees’ service dress uniform symbolizing they are now ready to take the next step in their cadet leadership journey. 

“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for us all as we’ve navigated this COVID environment together," Edmondson said. "I’m extremely proud of our four-degrees for all they have overcome to get to this major milestone and I’m equally as proud of our upper-class cadets for all they did to ensure this event was a success …even in the freezing cold.”

‘I Learned How to Lead’
Cadet 1st Class Megan Cordone and Cadet 2nd Class William DiRubbio were on the cadet cadre organizing recognition. They and other members of the cadet cadre led squadrons of fourth-class cadets through team-building activities near the Ropes course, March 13.  

“My Recognition was the hardest 72 hours of my life and yet the most rewarding,” DiRubbio said. “I wholeheartedly believe the cadet and person who went through Recognition became a better person because of it. Going through recognition, I learned how to lead even if I wasn’t entirely comfortable or needed help. Recognition teaches, and sometimes forces, humility.”

Cordone said she’s inspired by the determination of the fourth-class cadets.

“These fourth-class cadets endured a global pandemic and left home last summer [for basic cadet training] to enter an environment completely unknown to them, and under strict rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus," she said. "Training looked different this year, but I remind myself that COVID-19 added unique challenges for all classes but especially the freshmen.”

Cordone said her Recognition experience inspires her to stay motivated.

“I’ve tried to keep channeling the grit I learned during my [fourth-class] year and recognition by running marathons, taking advantage of challenging opportunities and more,” she said. 

DiRubbio said his recognition experience stays with him as well, and he keeps an illustration in his dorm room of upperclassmen supporting the fourth-class cadets.

“In the months leading up to and during recognition I was going through a lot personally. I’m not ashamed to admit it,” he said. “Even though I was going through a lot of things and that arguably showed at some times, my upperclassmen believed in me. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I look at that piece of paper,” he said. “I’m reminded that I’ve had worse days and that those above me still saw a lot in me. I’m reminded that no matter what, people believe in me and I cannot let them down. Recognition will remain one of the most meaningful events in my life.”