By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
New preppies started on their course for the Hill as they in-processed the Academy Preparatory school Wednesday.
It was also the first day of their 18-day basic military training.
The first stop was the Academy Community Center ballroom. The 239 cadet candidates and their families received briefings, paid fees and browsed displays of support services.
Then it was on to the Milazzo Club for medical screenings, hair cuts, swearing in, uniform issue and dorm assignments.
Procedures for this year’s in-processing differed from years past when all activities were held at the club. This year the new cadet candidates bade their good-byes to family member, then boarded buses to the club and the Preparatory School.
Col. Todd Zachary, Prep School commander, spoke to the new students and family members and keyed on the necessity of producing leaders of character, especially in light of the possibility they may go into harm’s way.
He also emphasized academics is but only one aspect of the Prep School’s mission. Athletics, military training, character and leadership building are also part of the curriculum.
This year the Prep School has a staff of 76, with a ratio of three cadet candidates per staff member. Colonel Zachary reminded cadets that family support is critical.
“You are part of the staff,” he told parents. “We’re counting on you to support them in the valleys and peaks.”
Dean of Academics Lt. Col. Dave Bell said new this year to the Prep School will be the presence of an after-hours adviser for academics. He also said although English, math and chemistry are the primary classroom subjects, it is possible to take physics and other advanced classes on the Hill.
Also new this year is a shift to instilling inspiration into character and development, said Lt. Col. Bryan Huntley, the program’s director. With the focus on character, integrity service and excellence, learning in the year ahead will involve an abundance of dialogue.
“It begins on the bus,” Commander of Military Training Lt. Col. Tim Burke said of BMT, which he cautioned would be physically and mentally demanding.
“Eighteen days is very temporary,” he said and added the short period of time will not be a definite indicator of how cadet candidates will perform throughout the coming year.
“Every cadet candidate is an athlete,” said Lt. Col. Ken Korpak, athletic director, and noted this year’s class members are arriving with specialties in 15 different sports.
Cadet Candidate Jarrod Cox, from Alabama, has returned to the Academy where he began his life-when he was born at the Academy Hospital. He is interested in flying and in aeronautical engineering.
The son of retired Air Force member Michael Cox, Class of 1981, has been lifting weights and running.
“I feel pretty prepared,” he said.
Cadet Candidate Thomas Redfield had planned on attending Indiana University until his acceptance letter from the Prep School arrived.
“I’ve wanted to join the Air Force since I was 10,” he said. “It has always been my dream to serve my country, and the Air Force gives me the opportunity.”
He has been running to prepare. “It’s going to be even harder with the altitude, but I know I’m ready.”
Cadet Candidate Indigo Blakely is interested in flying or becoming a flight surgeon.
“I like the structure of the Academy, and I get to serve in the Air Force,” she said of her reasons for applying.
To prepare, she worked out swimming and doing track. “I also definitely worked hard in school,” the Arizona resident said.
Cadet Candidate Kyle Antoszewski from Toledo, Ohio, heard of the opportunities available to prior enlisted members and applied. The National Guard member for three years has prepared well for the days and weeks ahead.
“I’ve been working out non-stop for two months, and I’ve been eating well,” he said.
He believes flying is a definite possibility but added, “I just want to get through the first year.”
Family members showed pride in the newest additions to the Prep School.
“We’re very, very proud of him and tell everybody,” said Janice Redfield of her grandson Thomas. “It’s quite an honor to be accepted here.”
Saying good-bye to her daughter Jacqueline wasn’t easy for mom Lynda Salas.
“It’s hard letting go,” she said. Cadet Candidate Salas is one of three sisters and the first one to move far away from home in southern California.
“She adapts very well to new situations,” she said of her daughter. “I’m the one who has to get over it.”
Prep School grad Cadet 1st Class Adam Wickley volunteered to help train the new Preppies.
“I wanted to have an impact on the incoming class,” he said.
Cadet Wickley pointed out that for him the Prep School BMT training was in some ways harder than Basic Cadet Training, calling it more intense, because of its intensity, short time frame and compactness.
He also said it was his best year at the Academy.
“I made friends who have stuck with me throughout the Academy and have gotten me through it,” he said.
During her presentation, Director of Student Services Cleo Griffith told parents and cadet candidates of the closeness and camaraderie of the school, even after the year ends.
“You are now family members,” she said. “Once a Preppie, always a Preppie.”