The United States Air Force Academy, located in Colorado Springs, CO, is the Air Force’s premiere learning institution. Graduating approximately 20 percent of the Air Force’s new officers each year, maintaining high standards among its cadets and future graduates is integral to accomplishing the Air Force’s mission: “to fly, fight and win—in air, space, and cyberspace.”
With recent scandals—including the 2017 sexual assault scandal and the Academy’s recent overreaction to a false flag racist attack—young men interested in a career in the armed forces need to ask themselves this question: is the Air Force Academy worth attending?
Unlike most civilian institutions, the Air Force Academy isn’t a walk in the park. Upon arrival, basic cadets will endure a six-week long Basic Cadet Training (BCT), where many will begin their transition into the military. The basic cadets will experience new stresses: cold showers, sleep deprivation, eating at attention, quote memorization, personal and dormitory hygiene, and grueling PT.
At the conclusion of BCT, the newly minted doolies (fourth-class cadets) take the Cadet Honor Oath: “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” They are then accepted into the cadet wing.
After BCT, doolies must endure a nine-month probationary status where they maintain heightened standards, including keeping their rooms in perfect order, attending biweekly training sessions, memorizing Air Force knowledge for weekly knowledge tests, and not consuming any media (Facebook, Netflix, etc.), all on top of rigorous academics.
Doolie year culminates with Recognition, an abridged “hell week” where the limits of each cadet are met and broken. During this period, most doolies develop close ties with their squadmates, developing friendships and camaraderie for years to come.
After doolie year, the Air Force Academy continues to challenge its cadets. During the summer, the Air Force Academy offers Expeditionary Survival and Evasion Training, teaching cadets the basics of survival and combat. Also during the summer, the Academy challenges cadets with Jump Training, being the only program in the country where students jump without an instructor or static line for their first jump, as well as the Soaring and Powered Flight programs.
Once cadets have taken these programs, the Academy then offers cadets summer leadership roles, teaching some cadets to be instructors for each program.
During the academic year, cadets must take physically challenging classes, including boxing, unarmed combat, basic weight lifting, and the dreaded water haze (water survival). After their doolie year, cadets are given leadership positions within their squadrons and academics become more difficult. By their firstie (senior) year, the cadets have embraced operation graduation and motivation peaks.
Besides introducing challenges, the Air Force Academy offers many perks. Cadets who work hard and succeed academically are given opportunities to work with high-level government officials, influence national policy, and work on cutting-edge projects, such as redesigning the F-22’s wing and inventing lightweight, bullet resistant armor. They also receive paid internships with the NSA, the national labs, or with big names in private industry.
The best part: the Air Force Academy is “free” to attend. You are actually paid to attend a four-year university and get your bachelor’s degree, an expected value of $450,000 (when you include extracurricular programs). On top of that, you have a guaranteed job as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Furthermore, if you want a rated (flying) position in the Air Force, almost half of the previous class (480) got rated positions, with 386 members going to pilot training.
Of course, few things in your life has feel as good as hearing the Thunderbirds roar overhead as you graduate and throw your hat in the air.
The military—and by extension the Air Force Academy—is fundamentally one of the most progressive institution in the United States. As we have seen with Congress pushing women into combat roles and the DOJ allowing transgendered individuals to enlist, actual combat effectiveness is (at minimum) second to the current social order.
What does this mean for young men? Well, that false sexual assault accusation might not just get you kicked out of college, and that racial slur might not just get you berated by your professor. A cadet is a member of the military and subject to the Articles of the UCMJ. Getting caught for violating rules at the Air Force Academy often leads to far worse punishments than similar infractions at civilian institutions.
Similarly, young men will be discriminated against, especially if you are a white male. While women make up about 25 percent of the cadet wing, a disproportionate number of women end up with leadership positions and military accolades. If you want to ranked the best as a male cadet, you have to work significantly harder and be overwhelmingly better than your competition.
Of course, even if you work hard, the Air Force Academy’s military rankings are mostly subjective and getting a high rank is ultimately a popularity contest, where the cadet leadership’s friends and brown-nosers usually get the best rankings.
Many of the Academy’s clubs work in a similar way. The Wings of Blue, the Academy’s jump team, is notorious for only picking hot girls and cool guys, completely disregarding an individual’s aptitude for parachuting. If you are boring, like most young men with the grades and aptitude to get into the Air Force Academy, your avenues for success will be limited.
Finally, there is the stupid shit. The Air Force Academy worships football, forcing cadets to pay for and attend every game as well as alcohol-less tailgates in a dry stadium. Cadets cannot engage in sexual contact with other cadets in the dorms without the threat of expulsion. Many cadet girls, being only 25 percent or less of their class, develop massive egos that are perpetuated by “falcon goggles” (seeing women as far more attractive than they really are because you hang out with so many men).
Marching every day, mandatory meals, mandatory fun, the sex gap… there is an endless buffet of stupid shit.
At the end of the day, you can also get shot at in Uncle Sam’s wars and might die for a cause that you don’t believe in. You will earn, with blood, sweat, and tears, all of the benefits and privileges of military service.
In conclusion, there are massive upsides to attending the Air Force Academy: a free education, room and board, and a guaranteed job afterwards. There are also several downsides that young men will face if they decide to attend. I recommend that, if you get the opportunity to attend, keep your nose to the grindstone and treat it like any other job. Fortunately, life does get better after graduation, even if the military bureaucracy gets worse.