Members of the Class of 2023 officially became cadets Tuesday, marking the end of basic training and officially joining the Cadet Wing at the Air Force Academy.

Hundreds of parents looked on as more than 1,000 new cadets took the academy Honor Oath at Stillman Parade Field. When the day began, the grass was lush; by midday, a prominent path 10-people wide ran the circumference of the large field, after the Cadet Wing — upperclassmen and new cadets alike — had finished parading around the field.

Nova and Hilomi Kitayama were among the parents in the bleachers. They made the 22-hour-long drive from Michigan to see their son Denali.

“It’s such a memorable event. We cannot miss it,” Nova Kitayama said.

The Kitayama parents were wearing crafty hats they made from Godiva Chocolate boxes: the only construction material they had at the hotel. Nova’s hat was a large, cutout A, and Hilomi had one that said “Day.” Together they said “A-day,” short for Acceptance Day.

Retired Lt. Gen. John Regni, academy superintendent from 2005 to 2009 and Class of 1973 grad, welcomed the new cadets.

He told cadets to make the most of their time at the academy and to take advantage of every opportunity.

“Best wishes on your most exciting and meaningful journey ahead,” Regni said.

A C130-J “Super Hercules” flew over the field, much more to the amusement of the parents than to the cadets.

The Cadet Wing took the Honor Oath in unison: “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.”

With the completion of the oath, the Class of 2023 officially joined the Cadet Wing.

Shortly after, upperclassmen pinned the fourth-class rank onto the new cadets’ shoulders.

For newly minted cadet fourth class Christopher Von Haasl, the ceremony marked the end of his third basic training. He was at the prep school last year, and enlisted before that, so Jacks Valley was his third time through basic. That experience was evident, as Von Haasl was named outstanding basic cadet for his squadron.

“Totally worth it so far,” Von Haasl said. “I’ve loved being part of the academy so far. Fly high.”

About 1,155 cadets started basic cadet training, and about 1,140 completed it. The academy doesn’t yet know the exact number because there are a few cadets who are pending release or might return next year after injury.

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@evanochsner

Evan is a 2019 intern at The Gazette. He is a Colorado Springs native who is currently a student at Northwestern University.

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