Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Good afternoon, I hope that this message finds you well. Many of my professional responsibilities at the Air Force Academy were invested in the training of junior cadets, and during my sophomore year at the Air Force Academy I was invited to serve as a member of the Officer Development System Task Force.
This organization reported directly to the office of the Superintendent, who is the three-star general responsible for all operations at the Air Force Academy, to evaluate the growth and maturity of the academic, athletic, and military programs of the Air Force Academy. The following year, I was invited back to the team for a second term, however this time I was charged with the recruitment of all other cadets for the Officer Development System Task Force under the tutelage of retired Colonel Stephen Shambach to ensure that all training activities were conducive with the Officer Development System outcomes defined in the United States Air Force Academy Institutional Effectiveness Instruction 36-3527.
I inquired if several intercollegiate athletes, keepers of the Falconry program, satellite operators, aerial demonstration team members, glider instructors, and other cadet military trainers would be willing to offer their input in a formal report in order to make recommendations on the cadet development experience to Colonel Shambach and the Superintendent on behalf of the Cadet Wing.
The assembled group of fifteen cadet professionals from each functional area of the Air Force Academy Cadet Wing vigorously researched the strategic documents issued by the office of the Superintendent, and we noted several opportunities to implement training for young cadets in a manner which permitted their best growth in the absence of hazing.
For example, each team member never forgot the excitement that we held when entering the Air Force Academy. This enthusiasm was, in many cases, diffused after the first instance when an upperclass cadet leader made an insulting comment during basic cadet training. These experiences were near-universal and we found several research papers written by company-grade officers of the Squadron Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base which surveyed Air Force Academy cadets across many decades who reported similar experiences. Unfortunately, however, even given this accumulated data over several decades little formal policy changes had been introduced in order to address the continued toxic training environment.
An opposing view promulgated in these research reports asserted that the accepted hazing activities throughout the decades had successfully created a strong, hardy officer corps within the United States Air Force, and that these training practices were proven by years of ‘tradition.’
The team and I humbly responded to this argument that discrepancies between what was refenced in the guidebook for officer development, and the conduct that junior cadets were actually exposed to, strategically weakened the development of a cohesive fighting force due to the fact that resentment and distrust was built among the Cadet Wing as opposed to solidarity, trust, and mutual respect.
The Officer Development System Task Force team members and I offered tangible recommendations to help generations of cadets who would follow us create a challenging yet supportive training environment.
The Air Force Academy is an institution that we truly cared about as the students who volunteered to attend the Academy - some of the most intelligent and physically fit in the nation – were in our humble opinion a team of individuals worthy of respect. I wanted to honor their choice to defend their country by playing a role, however small it may have been, in protecting their dignity.
Thank you for your time in reading this post and please have a good day. Sincerely, Winston