By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
The Preparatory School Class of 2010, 199 strong, said goodbye to 10 months of academic, military and physical training during commencement exercises in Arnold Hall Tuesday.
“It feels amazing,” Cadet Candidate Michelle Ivey from Stone Mountain, Ga., said of her graduation “It has been a long ten months. But I met a lot of good people, and it was a good experience.”
About 190 of the former Preppies will join other Basic Cadets on the Hill when Basic Cadet Training begins with in-processing June 24.
Before the graduates received diplomas and Academy appointments, the Prep School recognized top Cadet Candidate performers in academics, athletics, military training and character.
Cadet Candidate Christopher Keranen received the honor of overall top graduate. Cadet Candidates Austin Halle, Anthony Pyle and Lisa Halbach earned honors for their academic, athletic and military achievements, respectively.
Col. Thomas Griffith Jr., the Class of 2010 Exemplar, addressed the graduates, faculty, family and friends as the keynote speaker for the event. A 1975 Prep School graduate and member of the Academy Class of 1979, he is now the director of the National Security Studies Program and professor of the Practice of International Affairs at The George Washington University. During his Air Force flying assignments, he amassed more than 2,000 hours in the F-4 and F-15E aircraft and flew in the initial air strikes of Desert Storm before being shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Colonel Griffith was captured two days later and imprisoned in Baghdad, where he suffered beatings and starvation until his release after the war.
“Adversity will affect you no matter what you do,” he said, advising the class not to try and avoid it but learn to deal with it.
Even when he was in solitary confinement, Colonel Griffith said he felt the presence of teamwork he had learned to rely on in the Air Force.
“You are not going to do it alone,” he said of the new experiences awaiting the members of the Academy’s Class of 2014. “Rely on that team.” He further advised the graduates to always do their best, even when it is difficult to measure.
After graduation, Cadet Candidate Jesse Prine, an Army brat from Fort Irwin, Calif., plans to spend time with family and relax before Basic Cadet Training. He has his eye on a career as a pilot and appreciates the jumpstart the Prep School gave him, even though it required an extra year of school.
Cadet Candidate Ivey agreed the extra year helped her.
“(My first year) would have been a lot harder,” she said. “It was very well worth it.”
Cadet Candidate Roed Majia served as an enlisted Airman before entering the Prep School.
“I think everyone should go the Prep School first,” he said. His training as an Airman and at the Prep School helps, “especially with the military side of the house.” He was selected as a flight commander shortly after arriving at the Prep School, a position that gave him leadership experience.
“I asked ‘Why me?’ But I took it as a compliment,” he said.
Retiring Prep School Commander Col. Todd Zachary said this year’s class has proved itself outstanding, calling it spirited and a tightly knit group. Colonel Zachary retired Wednesday and said he is exploring an additional career in higher education.
“It’s fun to see cadet candidates grow and mature,” he said. “They come in here with wide eyes and not knowing anything. Over the 10 months it’s neat to see them make their dream possible. I will really, really miss them.”