National Geographic : 1959 Jun
Where Falcons Wear Air Force Blue sors, although the Academy expects occasion ally to invite eminent outsiders to lecture. A small group of "AOC's"-air officers commanding-directly commands the Cadet Wing. Some members of the academic staff confess to envy of the AOC's. "No courses and lectures to prepare, no papers to correct," said one of them. "Living the military life with these wonderful cadets, helping them grow into men, getting to know them as friends-they have the best jobs in the Air Force." It is not that good, of course. The AOC has his long hours and his problems. More even than the chaplains, he shares the grief of the cadet who flunks out-or, worst of all, the heartbreak of the lad who, under the honor code, must report a comrade for cheating. The Wing is organized into three groups of four squadrons each. An AOC commands each group and squadron. The AOC's report to General Sullivan. A hierarchy of cadet officers, who are mostly first classmen from lowest noncom to colonel, assists the AOC's by handling routine fourth class discipline and Wing administration. Visiting parents always marvel at the effi ciency of the cadet-operated "security flight," which produces a student on five minutes' no tice or gives his whereabouts if duties detain him. The commandant of cadets appoints the student officers upon recommendation of the AOC's. The commissioned authorities, how ever, have no voice in the election of the cadet board that supervises the honor code. Shooting a Bear Is No Excuse I spent a pleasant afternoon learning about cadet life from the 4th Squadron's AOC, Capt. Todd Mallett, an Army officer. He told me a story, part legend and part fact, that well illustrates the firm, yet feeling way in which the Academy administers discipline. A cadet, said Captain Mallett, went bear hunting in the Ramparts. He had a hunting license, but he did not have permission to miss supper formation. Not until late in the day did he shoot a bear. Too good a woodsman to leave it for the coyotes, he dressed it out and cached it in a tree, which made him late for supper. I doubt if he offered an explanation, but his AOC learned the details. "Meet me at crack of dawn," the officer told the cadet, "and we'll bring your bear down." Next day the pair laboriously packed the animal in. "And now," said the AOC, painfully straightening his back, "consider yourself charged with a Class III violation, late for formation. Next time shoot your bear earlier in the day." Flyers at Home on Skis One day I saw an upperclassman whose manners and bearing so favorably impressed me that I remarked about it to the Academy officer accompanying me. "A fine cadet," the officer said. "And yet, but for the wisdom and decency of Academy discipline, he might have been sent back to his home town in disgrace. "He cut a wide swath in Colorado Springs one weekend. His AOC brought him back here. Instead of bouncing him summarily, the commandant and the superintendent took the trouble to look beyond the escapade for the underlying cause. "They found it, and they cured it, as you can see. Part of the cure was nine months' restriction, a record for the Academy, which this kid took like the man he is. Some other kind of discipline would have produced not a man but a sure delinquent." Later, in near-by civilian communities, I inquired of people what they thought of their cadet neighbors. I need quote only the an swer of a hotel man in Colorado Springs: "We had 400 of them here for a dance. We played host that night to 400 gentlemen." Captain Mallett doubles as coach of an Academy athletic team. Only after accept ing an invitation to watch it practice did I learn it was the ski team, and that it worked out in the Arapaho National Forest 70 miles to the northwest! I rented some skis and showed up on the appointed morning in Loveland Basin, two miles above sea level. The thermometer read four above zero. Searching for the cadets, I rode a chair lift above tall trees and sickening canyons nearly to the top of a near-by Rocky Mountain. The team wasn't there. A small boy stopped beside me. "Mister," he said, "how did you do those somersaults getting out of the chair lift without breaking your leg?" "That'll be enough," I said. "You just aim me for the bottom and give me a shove." Later I met one of Loveland's slender, bronzed instructresses.