• Five and Dive—Low Expectations Plague The Air Force Academy

    June 3, 2024
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    Davis-Monthan AF Base: 355th Bulldogs last A10s leave Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan
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    During their final year at the Air Force Academy (AFA), cadets choose the specific jobs they will be assigned while on active duty.  This crucial decision, made in the nascence of one's career, has far reaching implications with regard to career advancement.  The Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) links available jobs with an alphanumeric designation, and not surprisingly, pilot training represents the most popular AFSC for graduating cadets at the AFA.  But the second choice is astonishing for cadets who have received a four year education worth $416,000 at an institution that is tasked to train career Air Force officers.

    The minimum commitment for an AFA education is five years of active duty service, and the AFSCs that obligate cadets for the least amount of payback time represent the second most popular job selections in the aggregate.  The act is known among cadets as “five and dive," and it is borne of disillusionment and the realization that DEI entrenched military leadership, quota-based promotions, and falling standards are not what they signed up for. 

    DEI’s nonsensical, unsupported claims that phenotype and sexual identity are indispensable components of superior military performance and the intimidating effect of DEI political officers embedded within the cadet wing breed cynicism and psychological fatigue. Recent undercover investigative reporting that exposes blatant corruption within Air Force DEI programs and an admission of DEI's lack of benefit, affirms the negative view of DEI held by most cadets. If the real Air Force is at all similar to the academy experience, then why devote a career to an organization with priorities more in line with Cloward-Piven than the Constitution?

    The AFA entices prospective cadets by falsely claiming that they will be challenged to the full extent of their abilities.  Those times are gone, and to revisit them, one must return to the academy’s early years.  The performative expectations of academy administrators and their political enablers have fallen precipitously—a disappointment for patriotic men and women, who do not expect, nor bargain for an Ivy League attitude at a U.S. military academy. 

    The 4th class system at the AFA essentially no longer exists.  During basic summer training, upper class instructors cannot raise their voices, and safe spaces are available for those sensitive personalities bearing the brunt of criticism. Basic cadets are limited to performing three pushups if commanded by an upper classmen.  Summer training concludes with Hell Day, which lasts only hours, after which time members of the fourth class are allowed to function at ease for the remainder of their time at the academy.   Ask contemporary commanding officers to defend training that minimizes psychological and physical hardship, and they will respond in unison of their commitment to train “warfighters.” 

    How does the 4th class year compare to that of a half century ago?  The class motto of the AFA Class of 1972 is "Strength Through Adversity," and it serves as a comparative reminder of the devolution of expectations and the redefinition of military science.  The 4th class system which our class endured lasted nearly one full year.  During basic summer, compliance was ensured through food deprivation, punishment runs, special inspections, verbal abuse at high decibel levels, sleep privation, unarmed combat, and for a recalcitrant like myself, enlistment in the "goon squad," where attitudes were uncomfortably readjusted.  

    The academic year afforded little free time between full academic loads, military training, and physical education programs that were all performed under the umbrella of the unremitting 4th class system.  The year ended with the aptly named Hell Week, and to this day, my classmates can recall both the personal indignities they experienced and the sense of relief, camaraderie, and sense of accomplishment.

    Dr. Frederick Malmstrom's prediction that group loyalty would supplant honor as the primary driver of ethical behavior at the AFA has come to fruition. A recent anonymous survey of cadets confirmed that 80% agree that group loyalty is more important than the Honor Code. Expulsions due to honor code violations are rare, and remediation and multiple opportunities to atone for honor code infringements are accepted practice.  In essence, the Honor Code, the distinguishing pillar of a military academy education, has assumed an aspirational quality and represents a capitulation to those who contend that contemporary young adults cannot live by the same levels of honor as previous generations.  Upon commissioning, can one assume that these Air Force officers suddenly will act honorably in an era where influential military officers bend the truth?

    Fifty years ago the Honor Code was not without its problems, particularly with respect to the toleration clause, but the Cadet Wing uniformly attested to its benefits and accepted it as an immutable standard of ethics.  Those guilty of cheating, lying, stealing, or tolerating such behavior were summarily expelled.  Living under the code allowed one to safely live in a dormitory with open, unlocked doors.  Throughout the day when the facility was vacant, a $20 bill left in plain sight in one's room would remain unmolested until the owner claimed it.  A cadet living under a vigorously enforced honor code for four years usually applied these qualities while serving as a commissioned officer. 

    Presently, up to 15% of the cadet wing cannot pass the physical fitness test (PFT), but outliers can retreat to a safe space if the pressure to improve performance is too overwhelming.  The PFT consists of 5 three minute periods, and each segment is devoted to a specific skill—pull ups, standing long jump, pushups, crunches (not sit ups), and the 600 yard run.  A maximum score for each event earns 100 points, while the minimum performance level is worth 25 points. The minimum scores for contemporary, male warfighters are modest: 3 pull ups, 7’2” standing long jump, 24 pushups, 47 crunches, and 2 minutes and 11 seconds for the 600 yard run. 

    The overweight and obese constitute 68% of armed forces personnel, and it is incumbent on the officer corps to set an example of physical prowess.  General MacArthur spoke to the importance of physical fitness and intense athletic competition, but as standards wane, his wisdom has been discarded. Rather than retreating to safe spaces, members of my class were placed on restriction until they passed the PFT. 

    DEI is described in glowing terms in the Association of Graduates (AOG) magazine Checkpoints, the primary information source by which graduates receive news about their alma mater. Other than an occasional, truncated letter to the editor, the settled science of DEI is treated like a godsend. The editors promote an embellished, one-sided narrative of DEI’s dubious benefits, but fail to sound the alarm that cadets are subjected to attend mandatory indoctrination sessions on gender identity. Delving deeply into the murky world of pseudoscience, civilian professors, who constitute 42% of the faculty, proclaim the proven existence of fifty-odd gender types—the validity of which cadets cannot contest in the classroom.

    The meals served at Mitchell Hall, the cadet dining facility, are barely edible.  Cadets often leave the academy premises to eat at fast food restaurants, and judging by the Mitchel Hall cuisine served at our class’s 50th reunion, one cannot blame them. Sijan Hall, one of the two cadet dormitories, was built in 1968.  Renovations have been delayed despite a centralized heating failure this past year, and lack of hot water for the last three months that affected multiple squadrons.  The outgoing superintendent considers these issues to be low priority and fails to address the problems. Cadets view these acts of omission as proof of DEI’s preeminence and the forgotten wisdom of Sun Tzu’s admonition regarding a commander’s responsibility for the welfare of one’s subordinates.

    The ideological direction of the academy provokes escalating concerns from the graduate community, and as a result, their financial contributions to the AFA Foundation have plummeted.  Corporate donations compensate for the shortfall, but as in the case of the United Services Automobile Association's sponsorship of a DEI Reading Room at the academy’s McDermott Library, there is a risk of further polarization to the institution.  Dependence on large contributions from entities committed to corporatism and stakeholder capitalism disenfranchises individual donors whose commitments are based on loyalty and commitment rather than politics.

    Too often the AOG leadership acquiesces to political pressure, supports programs fraught with Marxist ideology, and fails to resist declining cadet expectations.  Most graduates and cadets understand that DEI and falling standards lead to detrimental repercussions and understand the need for these problems to be discussed frankly in an open, non-censored forum.  

    On multiple occasions, frustrated graduates have expressed concerns through formal, constructive presentations to the board and at AOG meetings at the grassroots level about the direction of the academy. Yet these sincere overtures are not welcomed and treated with condescending, threatening rebukes from the Chairman of the AOG's Board of Directors (BOD)—a display of heavy handiness at complete odds with General Colin Powell's views on leadership.   Under no circumstances is a retired military officer, who serves as a volunteer on the AOG BOD, entitled to intimidate fellow graduates who offer informed perspectives to the graduate community. No wonder the academy education is only a shell of pastimes, when graduates are muted and the BOD rubber-stamps every initiative to civilianize the institution.  If the warfighter mentality is alive and well at AFA, then why are graduates diving in five? 



    Scott Sturman

    Scott Sturman is an MD, USAFA Class of 72, and affiliated with STARRS.us, a non-profit fighting Critical Race Theory in the Department of Defense.
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    Brent Beecham

    The lessons learned in Beast, Doolie year and Hell Week have served me throughout my adult life, both in the military and civilian worlds. Adversity comes in many forms. Facing financial and personal loss has been made possible in large part by my Academy experience. The Honor Code has guided me personally and acquired through the Academy experience. I can look in the mirror every morning knowing I have conducted myself with honor.


    As a young man I was very interested in the USAFA. Ultimately I concluded that I would not survive 4th degree without a pilot slot to look forward to, and my not-quite-perfect eyesight was likely to deny me a pilot's career. (I chose to build airplanes instead.)

    It seems that today I'd have survived 4th degree just fine, and likely been a pilot, until I was drummed out of the service or gave up in disgust due to traditional beliefs about right, wrong, and merit.


    My ROTC education cost the tax payer a lot less than 416k and in the end the ARMY got a 2LT. The academies also produce 2LTs but at 5 times the cost. After 20 years in the service I have never found academy graduates to be superior to other officers in any way. Maybe it is time to put that money to better use elsewhere.

    Henry Miller

    My son did four years enlisted right out of high school and then did ROTC on the Army's "Green to Gold" programme. The prior enlisted service made him a better officer. What's just theory to the academy officers is real experience to my son. Being led in combat (Afghanistan) will make him a better leader.


    I don't think that's the point of the article...yes it's in regards to the academies, but this DEI nonsense is pervasive throughout the military. I recently attended a Army ROTC commissioning and what I saw regarding that detachment's leadership disgusted me and my colleagues attending. I guarantee our potential enemies aren't going to be throwing these clowns at us in battle. Never mind our ability to defend ourselves with no more than 3 friggin push ups and morbid obesity

    Henry Miller

    Low Expectations Plague The Air Force Academy

    It's called "DEI."

    Big Bear

    As a "79 LCWB grad I can attest to the accuracy of the printed article. BSEE double track grad, RECONDO Instructor, B-52 Driver, and first Pilot hired by the Major Airlines in my class I can attest to the accuracy of the Honor Code and the living HELL of 4th degree year endured at the "Blue Zoo". Hard times make for hardened Officers that can deal with CONSTANT problems, not graduating winners of beauty contests(USAFA and West Point). DEI (Didn't Earn It) will be the destruction of OUR CORE

    Keith Doyon

    "DEI (Didn't Earn It) will be the destruction of OUR CORE"
    That is exactly the point.
    Feel free to prove me wrong.

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