In a week the USAFA Class of 1972 will meet for its 50th year reunion. It is our largest rendezvous since graduation, with 400 of 678 living graduates scheduled to attend. The tireless efforts of the reunion committee have made this lifetime event possible.
In 1968 during the escalating involvement of the Vietnam War and the social unrest pervading college campuses, 1254 of us from all walks of life and every state in the union arrived at USAFA. Our personal identity became subordinate to that of the aggregate, which fostered a level of cohesion that has continued for 54 years.
High grades and test scores coupled with athletic and leadership achievement in high school did not necessarily translate into success at the Academy. Relying on the infallibility of the cadet selection process is flawed, since it cannot identify those who will fail under extreme duress. Unremitting pressure and intense competition selected out those cadets who either lacked the motivation or talent to succeed.
When we are reunited next week, many of us will not have seen each other for 50 years, but the ensuing conversations will continue as if we never parted. Such is the bond forged by our mutual experience. There is an unspoken knowledge that we are elite, and we prevailed together through intense training during an era when our civilian peers dismissed us as pariahs for our military service.
It is a pity that cadets now attending USAFA, through no fault of their own, do not have the opportunity to prove their mettle. Cadet life, as portrayed in a video produced by a first year Academy cadet, demonstrates that the system is far less arduous compared to previous times and unrecognizable to past graduates. Graduation rates in the last decade approach 90% in some recent classes, as compared to 60% during our era.
Application rates to the Academy plummeted in 2022, with only 46% of qualified applicants compared to the previous year. All service academies experience a shortfall, but USAFA fared considerably worse than USMA and USNA. The official storyline lays the blame on Covid, but this trite excuse overlooks more serious reasons.
Traditionally the Academy eschewed political engagement and directed its efforts to train career Air Force officers. Nowadays the institution is overtly political: From its aggressive, pervasive Diversity and Inclusion Program (DI), to its sympathetic treatment of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and its support of George Takei and Black Lives Matter, no cadet is left untouched.
USAFA political science professor Lynne Chandler-Garcia admitted in a Washington Post op-ed that she taught CRT at the Academy. The Academy administration cannot be taken for its word that this did not occur or present an uncontested argument that the instruction was merely an academic exercise exploring the underpinnings of a Marxist philosophy. Quibbling is an Honor Code violation and clever use of language does not excuse dishonesty. Show the public the class syllabuses and the academic background of the faculty, including their publications and graduate theses.
The Academy now offers a minor academic degree in DI, and in mandatory training sessions, staff lecturers admonish cadets on nonsensical prohibitions. “Mom” and “Dad’ are no longer acceptable terms and should give way to sanitized identifiers such as “caregivers” and “guardians.” It is as if one’s mom and dad are employees administering end-of-life care in a nursing home facility.
High performing cadets and prospective candidates have been expelled or denied admission for refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccination series. Religious exemptions are summarily denied, and the administration downplays the vaccine's risks and exaggerates its benefits. This heavy-handed approach continues unabated despite volumes of evidence challenging the policy, and the President declaring the pandemic over in an interview last week on “60 Minutes.”
There is a recruiting crisis throughout the military. Service branches cannot fulfill their quotas and have resorted to lowering standards. There is a critical pilot shortage that compromises national security. At a certain threshold the segments of the population who have historically served our country say, “Enough is enough—why should I serve when I am vilified for my phenotype and forced to abide by CRT indoctrination?
USAFA is at a crossroads, and the graduate community and public must not allow a few high ranking, politically appointed generals to transform the institution into a liberal arts school. The stakes are too high to concede the battle to zealots who have either forgotten the Academy’s mission or know full well what they are doing.