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AFA builds discipline from boots up

By: Michael S. Humphreys Special to The Gazette
July 13, 2014
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Junior cadet Jamal Johnson from Atlanta, Georgia leads an element of basic cadets in drill and ceremony July 2 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. (Michael S. Humphreys / Special to The Gazette)

Drill and ceremony may not be as critical a task to American military service today as it once was, but leaders say it is a vital way to instill discipline in the service member and teamwork in the military unit.

The mantra of marching: By training legs, they're training minds.

At the Air Force Academy, basic cadets entering as freshman are drilled daily to learn the commands, the steps and to listen to their element leaders to prepare them for the rigors of the next four years and their military career.

"Drill and ceremony is the basis of everything because that is where they are solely a follower," senior cadet Scott Cronin said. "They have to listen at all times."

Cronin, who grew up on Air Force bases following his father's career, said that while learning drill and ceremony is an entry requirement for basic cadets, it is also the first leadership opportunity for the junior cadets who serve as element leaders and instructors for cadet basic training.

He said it is a stair-stepped approach where basic cadets learn to be followers, while junior cadets learn leadership at the tactical level and senior cadets learn more on a strategic level.

"Basic cadet training is run by cadets because we are going to be officers and we need the leadership experience," Cronin said. "It's fairly easy to teach someone how to be a follower, but it's a little more difficult to teach someone to be a leader."

Junior cadet Roni Morthorpe from Eagle River, Alaska, said drill and ceremony teaches basic cadets discipline, how to follow instructions and how to work as a team.

"It's actually a teamwork event, and that ultimately is the goal for the entire basic training," Morthrope said. "Drill is a micro example of that. It's a good way to practice discipline and practice that lesson."

New cadets to the academy began basic training June 26 and will start their freshman year at the completion of their entry training with an induction ceremony Aug. 5.

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