USAFA Class of 2023 celebrates commissioning, commencement
June 1 2023
Mostly overcast skies and an occasional drizzle couldn’t dampen the excitement at Falcon Stadium Thursday as 921 freshly-minted second lieutenants celebrated commissioning into the U.S. military during the Class of 2023 graduation ceremony.
President Joe Biden sported a blue and white Air Force hat while offering a smile, salute and handshake to every young officer as they made their way across a stage after receiving their diplomas.
“I’ve never been more optimistic about the future for this country, in no small part, because of you,” Biden said.
Family members and loved ones waved and cheered from the stands as each second lieutenant’s name was read. The 97 distinguished graduates were honored followed by grads from each squadron. All wore parade uniforms with white pants, blue tops, oval-shaped white-topped caps and either a gold or silver sash.
This year’s graduating class was 71% male, 29% female, of which 31% were minorities.
President Biden proudly noted the percentage of minorities while delivering the graduation address.
“We have the finest military in the history of the world,” Biden said. “That’s the God’s honest truth. Today is a day to celebrate.”
Lt. Gen. Richard Clark ’86, USAFA superintendent, delivered opening remarks, telling graduates, “We are here for one reason only, to honor the commitment, sacrifice and dedication of the Class of 2023.”
The new officers arrived at the Academy in June 2019, eight months before a global pandemic began to take hold. They were sent home early their fourth-class year to learn virtually but were brought back on schedule for their third-class year because “your country needed you,” Gen. Clark said.
Gen. Clark says he can sum up the Class of 2023’s experiences the past four years in one word: “resilient.”
The class touts one Rhodes Scholar, one Marshall Scholar, two Truman Scholars and two Fulbright recipients.
One quarter of the class, 230 individuals, are headed immediately to earn advanced degrees. Nearly 400 are headed to pilot training.
“I’m so honored to be your superintendent because when the odds were against you, you did not falter, you did not fail, you survived and you thrived,” Gen. Clark said.
The Honorable Frank Kendall, 26th secretary of the Air Force, also attended and spoke to the new officers.
“Our country needs strong leaders,” Kendall said.
He encouraged the graduates to be leaders of character, to take care of those they oversee and to be the people the country can count on.
2nd Lt.’s Ashford Hollis and McKayla Mickel both said the road to becoming commissioned officers was long and difficult but agreed that celebrating on the the Falcon Stadium field as the Thunderbirds performed an air demonstration made all the hard work worth it.
Hollis is headed to Colorado School of Mines to get a master’s in chemistry, while Mickel is going to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where she will be a force support officer.
2nd Lt. Chris Sylvester, who is headed to pilot training, said he’s made a lot of good friends at the Academy and that they have leaned on one another to get through tough times.
2nd Lt. Jesus Diaz, of Peru, said the past four years have been amazing.
“It was a dream to be here,” Diaz said. “Now I’ll take those wonderful memories with me for the rest of my life.”
- 921 new second lieutenants
- 651 men (71%)
- 270 women (29%)
- 31% minorities
- 12 international graduates from 11 countries including Cambodia, Jordan, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Tunisia.
- 419 rated officers
- 398 pilot
- 12 remotely piloted aircraft
- 5 combat systems
- 4 air battle manager
- Officers commissioning into five U.S. military branches
- 820 Air Force
- 93 Space Force
- 3 Army
- 3 Navy
- 2 Marines