The United States Air Force Academy or USAFA is training school for officers of the United States Air Force. This military school is located in El Paso, Colorado, just north of Colorado Springs. The United States Air Force Academy is also among the biggest tourist hot spots in the state, with almost a million tourists visiting every year. This is the last institution to be established among the five United States service academies. Students are accepted based on their leadership potential, athletic capacity and moral fortitude. A fitness test is required for admission, along with a medical examination and a nomination from a member of the Congress in the student’s district. Over a thousand candidates enter the academy each year.
USAFA’s four-year program awards a Bachelor of Science degree. Most of the graduates immediately enter the service and commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.
The academic program at the Academy is based on the core values of the United States Air Force: military training, athletics, character and academics. Students expect a rigorous training akin to the training programs in other military facilities. Besides the training regimen, the students or cadets take on an extensive core curriculum made up of subjects in engineering, humanities, social sciences, basic sciences and P.E. All students are required to compete in intercollegiate or intramural athletics. The curriculum is also geared towards developing leadership schools to prepare the students for a life as an officer in the military.
After decades of debate on whether or not a military institution for the United States Air Force should be established, plans for the creation of the institution began taking shape in the late 1940s. The National Security Act of 1947, which mentioned the founding of a separate force for aeronautics in the military, triggered renewed vigor in the amassing of support for the United States Air Force Academy. The newly formed Service Academy Board, spearheaded by Columbia University president Dwight D. Eisenhower, began finalizing the plans for and air force academy in 1950. Following this recommendation, Congress passed legislation to begin the construction of the Air Force Academy in 1954.
The early institution of the Air Force Academy faced the challenge of developing a good curriculum. The new faculty was also considered, along with the uniforms of the cadets, establishing a permanent campus and assembling the facilities for proper military and flight training. The first class (Class of 1959) were sworn in and housed in the Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. They used renovated World War II barracks for their facilities and air training officers, most of them from West Point, Annapolis and the Citadel, were recruited.
A typical weekday comprises a routine of academic, athletic and leadership training. A large portion of the day is devoted to academic studies, particularly the morning. The afternoons are devoted to military training, physical training or airmanship time. There are several historic places on campus named after graduates of the academy that served in battle and received accolades for exemplary service. These buildings are usually the spots where incoming cadets are received, where families come to visit and where the cadets conduct their ceremonial events.
The freshmen traditionally receive the most rigorous military tasks among the year levels, with restrictions piled on top of another to get the new cadets accustomed to the norms in the military. Freshmen are required to take on full academic course loads, on top of the extensive amount of military information they have to digest and put to use as soon as possible. Their movements around the campus are also restricted, including adopting proper decorum when addressing upperclassmen. The strict rules and regulations are relaxed after the recognition ceremony, when the Prop and Wings insignia is awarded to the fourth class cadets.
Cadets receive full scholarship, and the US government shoulders all expenses including room and board. A monthly stipend is also given to cadets upon enrollment. In exchange for the completely free military education, the cadet offers a commitment to serve for a specific number of years in the military after graduation.