For members of the Air Force Academy’s Class of 2022, their transformation into warriors began Sunday as they marched out to Jack’s Valley for 10 days of basic training.
It’s a transformation for the cadre as well, from cadets to leaders.
Three weeks ago, the almost 1,200 basics arrived at the academy as civilians, ready to begin the arduous six weeks of training that transforms them into Air Force Academy cadets.
The first phase of that training consisted of learning Air Force history and customs, team building exercises and the military mainstay — marching.
That phase is over; now for the hard part.
On Sunday, the basic cadets left behind the comforts of the cadet area in exchange for the canvas tents and dusty or muddy confines of Jack’s Valley — a 3,300-acre training area on the north end of the academy.
“Welcome to Jack’s Valley,” said Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, the commandant of cadets. “We are going to teach you what it means to be a warrior.”
The basics stood in formation Sunday in front of Goodwin, wearing red hats to mark their class year. And at the head of the formations stood upper-class cadets, known as the cadre.
The cadre is responsible for training the basics, and returning to Jack’s Valley is just as much a test for them as it is for the newest class.
“They are going to make you better than us,” Goodwin said of the cadre. “Because that is our charge, to make the next generation better.”
Part of that process is the infamous assault course, where basics must crawl through mud while smoke grenades and sounds of explosions boom around them.
“We push them to their limits and make them turn to their teammates to lift each other up,” said Andy Germann, a senior, who commands the basic training cadre.
Returning to Jack’s Valley as a leader in charge of training the next generation of cadets is a large responsibility, Germann said.
“It is amazing because for a lot of the cadre it is the first time they will get up in front of cadets and lead them,” he said.
Leading the basics also forces the upper-class cadets to adhere to a hierarchy of command.
“We are peers, we are all classmates and buddies,” Germann said. “It is hard sometimes to give them (cadre) difficult things to do.”
But the difficult environment allows some of the cadre to prove themselves as leaders, just as the basics strive to earn a place at the academy. And the opportunity to continue growing alongside the basics is not lost on Germann.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to mold and teach cadets,” he said. “It is very humbling.