Chapters, parent clubs gather at USAFA
The Association of Graduates, Air Force Academy Foundation and USAFA hosted the joint 2021 Chapter Presidents’ Conference and Parents Club Conference over three days (Sept. 1-3).
It was the first time since the start of the global pandemic that the groups were able to gather in person at the Academy.
AOG chapter and parent club representatives from throughout the nation gathered to hear updates about USAFA and its supporting non-profit organizations. They also were able to share best practices that will help their groups function more effectively in the future.
The gathering kicked off with a Wednesday night reception at the home of Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark ’86.
Thursday’s sessions began with a senior staff briefing by Gen. Clark, Dean of the Faculty Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre ’96, Commandant Brig. Gen. Paul Moga ’95, Athletic Director Nathan Pine and Command Chief Master Sergeant Sarah Sparks.
- Gen. Clark outlined his top priorities for those in the crowd.
“The first one is our prime directive,” he said. “It’s the priority we have and always will have here at the Air Force Academy, and that’s to develop leaders of character for our Air Force and Space Force. If we don’t do that, we’re just like any other university … and we’re not.”
The second priority is to beat COVID-19, he continued. He applauded his team for its efforts to keep cadets and permanent party healthy over the past two years and to keep USAFA moving forward.
“We didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “We kept on pressing, but it was tough.”
The third priority is preparing the Cadet Wing for the future fight.
“This is an institutional effort,” Gen. Clark said, noting that the commandant, dean and athletics need to work together to prepare cadets for conflict that is considerably different from what previous generations faced.
The final priority, he said, is creating a culture of dignity and respect. He noted that the recently completed U.S. Census shows that the country is becoming more diverse, and cadets have to learn how to lead knowing that reality.
Gen. Clark assured the crowd that the Cadet Wing is in good shape, and cadets are on track to effectively lead the Air Force and Space Force into the future.
“I’m immensely proud and very impressed with the cadets that we have — and with the staff and faculty and the coaches that we have,” he said. “They are the best of the best, and you can take that to the bank.”
- Gen. Moga reported that USAFA is inching closer to normal operations. He noted that almost 90% of cadets are fully vaccinated, and in a few weeks that number should reach about 97%.
“That will allow us to — safely and expeditiously — get the cadets back to a sense of normalcy,” he said, adding that the Academy will be ready to reverse course if the pandemic roars back.
As the Academy awaits Air Force policy direction, vaccinations currently remain voluntary. Eventually, Moga says, the shot will be a requirement, unless a cadet receives a medical waiver or a religious accommodation.
Another commandant priority includes instilling the warfighter mentality in the Cadet Wing.
“That is something that is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “To get the cadets excited about joining the profession of arms and get them as prepared as we can.”
His final priority, Gen. Moga added, is to focus on conduct, standards and discipline, with a particular focus on institutional pride.
Due to the pandemic, the environment within the Cadet Wing has degraded, Gen. Moga suggested.
“We need to snap ourselves back to focus on the fact that this is a military institution,” he said. “I also want to get the cadets to embrace the fact that they should be proud to be here, and when they graduate, they should be proud to be from here.”
- Despite challenges of the pandemic, Gen. Letendre said her faculty has continued to educate and inspire warrior scholars, including preparing them for future conflict.
She reported that a higher number of Class of 2021 graduates — 200 in total — headed straight to graduate school following graduation. Gen. Letendre said the increased educational openings were designed to allow the second lieutenants to get their master’s degrees while they wait for pilot training.
- AD Pine talked about the challenges that COVID-19 presented for athletics. He said USAFA continues to follow NCAA pandemic protocals for testing, vaccinations and quarantining.
- During the question-and-answer section of the panel presentation, Gen. Clark responded to a question about the Cadet Chapel’s renovation progress. In the initial stages of the work, contractors discovered more asbestos than they expected.
The original timeline for completing the Chapel was 2023, Gen. Clark said, but it’s possible that the project could extend out as far as 2025.
“This is something we are all disappointed in, but our team is working really, really hard to get those timelines down as best as we can,” he said, “because it’s not only time, but it’s money.”
- Gen. Clark also responded to a question about the recent Honor Code review that was conducted at USAFA. He said there is now a three-pronged approach to elevate the importance of honor within the Cadet Wing. First, the staff and faculty will be more intimately involved in the honor system in the future. Second, the Honor Code will be more fully instilled in four-degree cadets in the future. Third, the upper classes recommitted themselves to following the established code.
- Responding to a different question, Gen. Moga talked about the overall attitude within the Cadet Wing as the pandemic continues.
“Cadets are in a really good place,” he said. “Morale has taken a huge turn for the better.”
Gen. Moga said he’s making a concerted effort to delegate leadership opportunities back to cadets, with oversight by permanent party members.
“I’ve seen a lot of cadets have embraced this and are happy,” he said. “They know we’re going in a really good direction.”
- Other questions revolved around summer research opportunities, cadet internships, young alum engagement, Olympic opportunities for athletes, the importance of the oath of office and more.
During other conference sessions, the attendees learned about fundraising efforts in support of the Cadet Wing. One such program, known as the Rando Fund, provides financial assistance to the Cadet Honor Guard for travel to funerals for cadets who have died. The fund also provides funds for cadets to attend funerals of loved ones or to visit an ailing relative or friend.
There also was some discussion about a new Morale Fund that the Air Force Academy Foundation is establishing to further support the Cadet Wing.