By Ray Bowden
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
U.S. AIR FORCE Academy, Colo. — Secretary of Defense James Mattis told nearly 1,000 graduating cadets to take charge of the Air Force during the Air Force Academy’s Class of 2018 graduation ceremony, May 23.
“The warrior ethos and the fierce character that you now inherit as your own character will now have to stand between us and some of the forces that would take our democracy and our liberty away,” Mattis said during the ceremony at Falcon Stadium.
Mattis said his expectations for the graduating class are simple.
“Always be ready to fight and to win,” he said. “There is no room for complacency as our adversaries will do everything in their power to erode our military’s competitive edge — and even less room for a sense of cynicism or victimhood.”
Mattis said the newly-commissioned officers must use their attitude as their main weapon.
“It’s now your responsibility that our adversaries know they should always prefer to talk to our Department of State rather than face the U.S. Air Force,” he said.
Lieutenant Gen. Jay Silveria, Academy superintendent, opened the ceremony and thanked the thousands of cadet families and friends in the stands, and the Academy’s faculty and staff for their care and concern for cadets.
“They make days like today possible,” he said. “Everyone at the Academy is devoted to developing some of our nation’s most promising young people into the innovative, creative and critical-thinking leaders our Air Force needs them to be. These professionals tirelessly dedicate their time, their passion and their talents to ensure that this next generation of officers is ready to lead on day one, and to go out into our Air Force and make it their own.”
Silveria told the new officers to remember their commencement.
“It’s the culmination of four years of teamwork, intellectual growth, character development and just plain hard work,” he said.
Two graduates attributed their success to the teamwork they shared with their peers.
“My classmates were everything,” said 2nd Lt. Sam Eckholm. “I can’t imagine getting to this point without them.”
Second Lt. Sarah Witzgall said receiving her commission was a “dream come true.”
“It’s something I’ve wanted for a very long time — it’s surreal,” she said. “Team work is crucial. It’s 100 percent of everything here.”