United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA or Air Force) is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States. The Academy’s stated mission is “to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” It is the youngest of the five United States service academies, having graduated its first class in 1959. Graduates of the Academy’s four-year program receive a Bachelor of Science degree, and most are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force. The Academy is also one of the largest tourist attractions in Colorado, attracting more than a million visitors each year.
The program at the Academy is guided by the Air Force’s core values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do,” and based on four “pillars of excellence”: military training, academics, athletics and character development. In addition to a rigorous military training regimen, cadets also take a broad academic course load with an extensive core curriculum in engineering, humanities, social sciences, basic sciences, military studies and physical education. All cadets participate in either intercollegiate or intramural athletics, and a thorough character development and leadership curriculum provides cadets a basis for future officership. Each of the components of the program is intended to give cadets the skills and knowledge that they will need for success as officers.
Cadets’ military training occurs throughout their time at the Academy, but is especially intense during their four summers. The first military experience for new cadets (called “basic cadets”) occurs during the six weeks of Basic Cadet Training (BCT), in the summer before their fourth class (freshman) year. During BCT, also known as “beast,” cadets learn the fundamentals of military and Academy life under the leadership of a cadre of first and second class cadets. Basic cadets learn military customs and courtesies, proper wear of the uniform, drill and ceremony, and study military knowledge and undergo a rigorous physical training program. During the second half of BCT, basic cadets march to Jacks Valley, where they complete the program in a field encampment environment. Upon completion of BCT, basic cadets receive their fourth-class shoulder boards, take the Honor Oath and are formally accepted as members of the Cadet Wing.
The Air Force Academy is an accredited four-year university offering Bachelor’s degrees in a variety of subjects. Active-duty Air Force officers make up approximately 70 percent of the faculty, with the balance long-term civilian professors, visiting professors from civilian universities and instructors from other U.S. and allied foreign military services. In recent years, civilians have become a growing portion of senior faculty.