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For Air Force Academy freshman, 'Recognition' is a rite of passage

March 14, 2014 Updated: March 14, 2014 at 7:10 pm
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photo - Air Force Academy freshmen perform numerous of physically and mentally draining regimens for their recognition training at the Air Force Academy Friday, March 14, 2014. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette
Air Force Academy freshmen perform numerous of physically and mentally draining regimens for their recognition training at the Air Force Academy Friday, March 14, 2014. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette 

Pushups, screams. Run here. Answer that.

More screams.

Pushups.

"I've done so many pushups, I've lost track," said freshman cadet Shujie Yan.

Welcome to "recognition" at the Air Force Academy, a three-day rite of passage for freshmen. Once they've endured it, they'll have earned the right to move from "doolie" to a cadet, earn the coveted "prop and wings" pin for their caps and be awarded a set of privileges, including the right to wear civilian clothing when off-duty.

"The big thing for me is civilian clothes," said freshman Robert Meza during a break from physical challenges that started at 5 a.m. Friday.

Recognition includes a series of events that include crawling, running, jumping, shouting and answering questions were a common theme.

And at every stop, the freshmen were greeted by bellowing upperclassmen.

"I don't care if you are tired," senior cadet Madeline Atkinson screamed to a pair of freshmen crawling on a football training field.

"Let's go! As fast as you can! Earn it!,"' Atkinson yelled.

All that rage is carefully measured. Atkinson and the other upperclassmen say they really want the freshmen to tough it out and succeed.

The seniors who ordered pushups were required to do the exercise alongside the freshman.

"We hit some physical exhaustion," senior cadet Stephen Baker said. "It's nothing rest and Gatorade won't solve."

The freshmen entered the academy on June 28 and have been preparing for recognition from day one. Academy leaders say they want the experience to be grueling.

"You want to make this physically challenging; you don't want to make this impossible," said Master Sgt. Shannon Cagler, who oversaw a portion of the rites.

Making the freshmen sweat will make them better leaders in the future, said Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel, the academy's commandant of cadets.

"It's simply pride," Lengyel said. "They say the units with the highest morale are the ones with the highest standards."

According to freshmen, all those pushups came with a dose of that pride.

"If we can conquer this recognition, we can do anything," Yan said.

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