Four years ago this month, when Paula and I learned I’d been nominated to be the Air Force Academy’s 18th superintendent, we were overcome with unbridled excitement and pride.
Now, after being immersed in the job for nearly four years, we remain even more enthused over the integrity, selfless service and excellence that permeates the cadets, faculty and staff at USAFA.
There are so many reasons for our optimism. For instance, just a few short weeks ago, your academy hosted the 20th National Character and Leadership Symposium, with “Courage Through Adversity” as its theme.
We were proud to present amazing speakers like famed aviation hero Chuck Yeager. We welcomed an all-star lineup from all walks of life, including industry leaders, paralympians, astronauts and military trailblazers.
Among our guests was retired Col. Lee Ellis, who survived 51/2 years as a Vietnam prisoner of war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He made a strong and lasting impression on everyone when he said, “We learn the best lessons from the pain and suffering of difficult experiences.”
His words couldn’t have been more relevant to what we teach our cadets as we equip them with the knowledge, skills and abilities to lead with character in our Air Force and beyond.
Here at USAFA, character and leadership development occurs daily in academics, military training, athletic competition and airmanship experiences, and it is enhanced through cadet community outreach to our neighbors and family in the Pikes Peak region.
Last summer, when the Waldo Canyon fire devastated our friends along the Front Range, our cadets, faculty and staff teamed with community leaders to lend support to those in need — and we continue to help clean up and perform mitigation projects in the affected neighborhoods.
Recently, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach joined cadets for lunch and thanked them for the hundreds of hours they dedicated around the Mountain Shadows subdivision in wildfire cleanup and flood mitigation.
The mayor’s words reinforced what Paula and I have known for so many years: that the mutual admiration we share between Colorado Springs and the academy is not a relationship we can ever take for granted.
Let’s all vow to continue our efforts to nurture and grow our relationships for the good of the entire Pikes Peak region!
As I approach the end my tenure here as superintendent, I couldn’t be more proud of the dedicated and talented men and women — active duty, Guard and Reserve — along with our Air Force civilians — who comprise the cadre charged with educating, training and inspiring our cadets.
Paula and I are equally proud and honored to have been a part of this remarkable community.
To the citizens of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the entire Front Range, we say thanks for your steadfast support of your U.S. Air Force Academy!
Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Gould is superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.