By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Not far removed from the Academy, 40 graduates from the classes of 2006-2009 shared insights and challenges of life in the active-duty Air Force during the April 14-16 Falcon Heritage Forum.
The forum, themed “Officers of Character: Lieutenants in Action,” included a cadet squadron-hosted dinner, formal presentations and interactive mentoring.
“The main point is to emphasize character development as it relates to active duty,” said Maj. Sheilagh Carpenter, Falcon Heritage Forum deputy program director and a member of the Class of 1986. She said the lieutenants were a good fit because memories of being cadets themselves are still fresh, which allowed them to relate well with current cadets.
It was the 13th year for Falcon Heritage Forum, held once per semester. Past Forums have been themed around everything from, heroes from Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, space, Korea, Airmen in the Fight and “50 Years of Excellence,” which featured guests from the Class of 1959 – the Academy’s first graduating class.
Lieutenants in this semester’s forum represented a wide range of career fields, including communications, nuclear deterrence, space and missiles, piloting, manpower, engineering, intelligence, health care, special investigations, logistics, financial management and force support.
First Lt. Peter Dyrud, a 2006 graduate, shared his own experiences during his presentation for cadets from his squadron: Cadet Squadron 09, “Viking 9 All the Time.” A physics and math major, he served as deputy Cadet Wing honor chairman during his years on the Hill, attended the Kennedy School of Government and is now undergoing training as a Combat Rescue Officer at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
“I’ve been very blessed, but I’ve had my share of difficulties,” he told cadets. He advised the future leaders to set down character-based expectations of those they lead and to be aware that troops are always watching them, both on and off duty.
While working to become a CRO, Lieutenant Dyrud has undergone intensive training, with exercises in water being the most one of the challenging portions. Staying motivated under those circumstances was a huge challenge. He counseled cadets to write down their reasons for wanting something and review it occasionally.
“It’s always good to have a reminder,” he said.
He also told them that teamwork is essential.
“It’s the guy at your right and left that will keep you going,” he said.
Lieutenant Dyrud pointed out that while standards for character are strict and consistent at the Academy, they may not always be clear in other circumstances. Future leaders should err on the side of integrity when decisions need to be made.
“The Air Force is looking for ethical and noble leaders,” he said.
He also urged the Vikings to learn from setbacks. While a cadet, he was forced to repeat Airmanship 490, and while in CRO training, he missed the required shooting score by one point, postponing training for six months.
“Sometimes there is no room for error,” he said. “I want you to do your best wherever you’re put.”
Lieutenant Dyrud also recommended learning from mistakes and moving on and that failure is not always a negative.
“If you don’t fail, you may not be pushing yourself as hard as you could be,” he said. Of his own failures, he added, “I just refused to quit.”
The lieutenant said he enjoyed the opportunity to come back to the Academy and visit with cadets.
“It feels great to be back. It’s just been fun,” he said.
Cadets 2nd Class Marcus Tenenbaum and Hatton Updike, CS 26, served as escorts for their squadron speaker, 1st Lt. Karl Bolt, Class of 2007, now a fuels management flight commander at MacDill AFB, Fla. Cadet Tenenbaum said he appreciated the small forum and the ample opportunities to share concerns and questions with the lieutenants, the ins and outs of Air Force levels of command, and even advice on do-it-yourself moves for permanent changes of station. He also took in Lieutenant Bolt’s advice to volunteer for tasks and work for awards.
Cadet Updike said he liked the Forum better than the National Character and Leadership Symposium.
“This is more down-to-Earth, and you get a big taste of the Air Force,” he said. “I can’t wait for next year so I can escort again.”
The Falcon Heritage Forum is hosted by the Center for Character and Leadership Development and sponsored by the Association of Graduates and the Science Applications International Corporation.