The next wave of Air Force athletes has officially started the process of becoming cadets.
In-processing Thursday morning saw nearly 1,200 from the class of 2017 leave their civilian clothes behind and begin the nearly month-and-a-half struggle of basic training. Among those were dozens of athletes, with coaches from various sports there to see the new class off on the bus.
Football coach Troy Calhoun, himself an Air Force graduate, bordered on giddy as he watched the men and women begin what will be at least a nine-year military commitment.
No one from the outside will have contact with the basic cadets, aside from written letters, until August.
"The unknown," is what outside linebacker Jake Riley said he feared the most shortly before beginning.
That trepidation was mostly missing from the large group of athletes coming in from the prep school, as they have been through this process before - albeit on a smaller scale.
"If this was my first time through, I'd be scared, honestly," defensive end Ryan Watson said. "I'd be shaking."
The only thing weighing on Watson's mind was the lack of sleep that awaits him. He took that into consideration when opting for a low-key 35 days off between leaving the prep school in late May and Thursday's return to Colorado Springs from his native Atlanta.
"At first I was planning to go out and be crazy," Watson said. "Instead I just decided to save money and spend time with my family."
Watson, Riley and the other cadets where whisked away in staggered groups, starting at 7 a.m. Thursday. They were immediately introduced to military life and expectations on their short bus ride and from there went through the process of paperwork, immunizations and blood work and, of course, having their heads shaved.
It was like orientation at any new job or school, only with military precision and a lot more yelling.
Basic training runs through the Aug.?6 Acceptance Parade.