By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Say goodbye to carrying book bags, morning minutes of knowledge recitation, restricted paths on the Terrazzo and wearing uniforms off-base. Say hello to wearing hard-earned prop and wings and acceptance as upperclass cadets for the Class of 2013 during closing ceremonies for this year’s Recognition, March 11 through Sunday.
Recognition is a culmination of the four-degree training process, a capstone challenge event of physical fitness and knowledge, said Maj. John Orchard, air officer commanding for Cadet Squadron 16, the “Proud Chickenhawks.” Recognition reflects the Basic Cadet Training experiences and challenges; it summarizes and wraps up those challenges and the knowledge the freshmen have gained throughout the year.
“It’s an emotional milestone, and they know they have done something important in their life,” he added.
He also gave high praise to the upperclassmen that ran the training event.
“They were very professional, and they put the job before all else,” he said.
Master Sgt. Brady McCoy, CS 16’s Academy military training NCO, said some in the squadron were dreading Recognition, while others looked forward to it.
“For me, it’s teamwork,” he said of the takeaway he hoped the they would have. “It’s looking out for people.”
Challenges began the evening of March 11 in the squadrons with a rigorous training session testing a combination of fitness and knowledge. March 12 was dedicated to physical fitness courses, leadership exercises and tours of the Terrazzo, where upperclassmen explained the rich heritage of the Academy present there and, of course, threw in more fitness training for good measure.
That evening, freshmen took time to reflect in squadron “theme rooms.” Each squadron puts their own spin on a variety of themed rooms purposed to imitate real-world scenarios. For CS 16, the first was a mock deployment briefing, followed by a flight simulation, capture, a prisoner of war interrogation and a funeral for a squad mate. Major training events officer Cadet 1st Class Brian Thorn said it was the highlight of his own Recognition.
“It is the most meaningful reminder of what my profession is,” he said. “This is serious business.”
On Saturday, freshmen’s dorm rooms and uniforms went under upperclassmen’s rigorous inspection, then frist and fourth class cadets ran to Cathedral Rock.
Afterward, in the darkened hallways of the dorms, lined with upperclassmen rendering salutes, each fourth-classman at last heard the long-awaited words, “Recognition granted.”
Dinner followed in Mitchell Hall, where the newly recognized class received congratulations as new upperclass members of the Cadet Wing.
“Wearing my backpack is sweet,” said Cadet 4th Class Rory Montgomery, CS 29, from Sammamish, Wash.
He expressed appreciation for the privilege of wearing comfortable clothes and not having to recite military knowledge first thing in the morning. He also said he felt, despite the rigorous challenges, he was treated with a great deal of respect.
“I’m thankful they pushed me – pushed me for two and a half days like no time before,” he said. “I could always do another push up.”
Cadet 4th Class Matt Demichiei from CS 37 said he also appreciates wearing his backpack and the privilege of walking anywhere on the Terrazzo, a combination he called “great.”
“The best part is not having to worry about doing something wrong, like not greeting properly,” he said and added the worst part of Recognition was the anticipation.
Cadet 4th Class Mary Hansard, an Atlanta native also assigned to CS 37, said the hardest part for her was staying motivated during the exercises but Recognition was definitely worth it, including the privileges of listening to music and having her own clothes back.
“I got to see how much I have grown up, having simple pleasures again and liking the Academy more,” she said.