Tag Archives: Air Force Academy

Congrats USAFA class of 2015!

By Air Force Social Media

The energy was electric at Falcon Stadium as 840 cadets graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy May 28, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James presided over the ceremony, and told the new officers that they are the next generation of Air Force leaders, and they will play important roles in the future of the service.
Browse through the photo gallery below to get an inside look at many of the highlights from class of 2015’s graduation.










Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating the ‘American Mosaic’

By Cadet 2nd Class Frank Montes de Oca
U.S. Air Force Academy

What makes America great? Some say it’s the freedoms American citizens are guaranteed. Others may say it’s the opportunities available at our fingertips. If you ask me, this country is great because of its diversity.

140923-F-RB000-001My parents immigrated to New York City in the early ’80s. My father is Honduran and my mother Costa Rican. They came to the U.S. to establish a new life by seeking the opportunities America has to offer. Shortly after my birth, we moved to Florida. My parents worked from sunrise to sunset to provide for my sister and me, and took English classes at night. My father later attended technical schools, and my mother took a job at Walt Disney World, where she’s remained for 20 years. Continue reading Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating the ‘American Mosaic’

Warrior Games 2013: Cancer survivor tackles new challenge

Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa listens to her coach at the Academy indoor track.by Randy Roughton
Air Force News Service, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa found herself among a trio of female Air Force Warrior Games athletes with a special bond. Ishikawa, Tech. Sgt. Monica Figueroa and Master Sgt. Sherry Nel are all cancer survivors and relied on each other for support and conversation during the team’s selection camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Before the holidays in 2009, Ishikawa, then a diagnostic imaging technologist at Aviano Air Base, Italy, never imagined she would be running track and field events, not to mention in competition for wounded warrior athletes. She first felt a lump in her breast in December 2009, but her invasive mammary carcinoma wasn’t diagnosed until the following April.

“It’s heart-wrenching,” Ishikawa said. “Nobody expects to get cancer, and I had no family history of it. I’ve always been very healthy and active, and I tried to take care of myself. It was a shock, still a shock, but you learn to cope and move on.”

While Ishikawa, whose cancer is now in remission after multiple surgeries, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, didn’t want to compete because she didn’t have a combat-related injury, conversations with Figueroa and Nel, along with other wounded warriors, changed her mind. She was already particularly close with Nel, who she befriended near the end of her recovery from chemotherapy and radiation in the 59th Medical Wing’s Patient Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

“Lara and I are pretty much parallel with the complications we’ve had,” Nel said. “We’ve both had just about everything you can throw at us. We’d been doing it individually, thinking that we were both alone. It felt so good to find out that we were not alone. Lara really inspired me with her tenacity. She’s a little bear claw because she just grabs on to something and takes care of it. Her spirit really had me hooked.”

While the multiple surgeries sapped her energy in the past few years, she appears more than ready for the training and competition in the 100 and 200-meter and long jump track and field events.

“I feel more energetic today than I have in the past three years,” she said. “But in the past two and a half years, I had no energy because I had the surgeries, having to deal with the career, and the medications they put you on that make you tired. Last spring, I had a pretty serious surgery. After that, I could hardly walk, hardly make it up my stairs. I found it a challenge to go for a walk around the block, even though I knew it was good for me. I don’t like to sit around doing nothing, so I made myself take a walk and realized I could do that. The next thing I knew, two months later, I was running.

“With the Warrior Games, I’ve been pushed to my max. I’m really sore, but I’m working muscles I haven’t worked in 15 to 20 years, and emotionally, I’ve met some incredible people.”

After the Games, Ishikawa hopes she can continue on with her 10-year Air Force career, but if she’s not able to remain on duty, she will adjust to a new course.

“I’ve enjoyed the Air Force,” she said. “The Air Force has been wonderful to me in every way. I don’t have one complaint. On the other hand, if I get out, I can start a new life, maybe go to school. But the main goal is to stay healthy. If I’m healthy, I’m happy.”

For more information check out the 2013 Warrior Games bios.

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Lara Ishikawa listens to her coach speak before running laps at the Academy indoor track during the Wounded Warrior Games Training Camp held in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 17, 2013. Ishikawa is stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Desiree N. Palacios)

No regrets

Texas A&M cadets perform retreat

By 1st Lt Tori Hight
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

With every birthday that passes, I stop to think about the things I have done in my life. Among the most significant, I have been given the responsibility of shaping the lives and futures of young Airmen placed in my charge.

Looking back on life, no matter your age, you always linger on the things that you haven’t done yet. Some people might call that feeling regret, or consider those things missed opportunities, but I don’t really see it that way.

Six years ago, I was in my senior year of high school filling out college applications. I was pre-accepted to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. While messing around on the Internet one afternoon, I came across a website for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

After a little research, I realized the deadline for applying to my congressman for a nomination to the upcoming class was that same day. I hastily put my application together, and with a little help from the local office store, faxed my materials to be reviewed.

While the rest of the process is a blur, I’ll never forget the feelings I had stepping off the bus at USAFA to the yells and screams of upperclassmen as I scurried to the footsteps at the base of the Core Values Ramp.

The Academy would prove to be the best years of my life so far and some of the most difficult.  Instead of wearing normal clothes to school, we wore uniforms every day and marched to lunch three times a week. There was no such thing as skipping class or briefings–attendance to most events was mandatory. We had unique traditions like spirit cheese, taking the hill and a special way to open a jar of peanut butter. I was able to fly an airplane solo, while other classmates experienced skydiving or joined the honor guard. Even with all the unique opportunities, I’m sure everyone there at some point wondered what life would have been like at a “normal” school.

I was recently offered the opportunity to visit Texas A&M and speak to the Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets about my job in the military for their annual career day.

Texas A&M cadetsI drove onto the campus and right into the main parking garage, marveling the entire way at the vastness of the school and its lack of fences and guarded entry gates. Our group walked right into a building and among the students, making our way to the cadet corps area. It was surreal to take in the sights and sounds of students around us strolling to class in normal clothes, fast food lunches in hand.

The cadet area of the campus was a more familiar environment. Freshmen were hastily making their way around the quad, greeting upperclassmen and offering our group salutes and a big “howdy!” Upperclassmen quickly corrected those who were unfortunate enough not to notice our group pass by.

We toured the dormitories and watched the freshmen stand at attention, calling minutes until the evening events and reciting memorized knowledge about the military.

Speaking with the cadets was a wonderful experience. They had numerous questions about the Air Force and my career field, and they listened with enthusiasm. I remember having similar questions about the military before I joined, and it felt so strange to be on the other side of the experience. During the last session, several cadets returned to our area for further discussion. It warmed my heart to see how sincere they were about devoting their lives to the military. The visit wrapped up with an evening retreat ceremony and the cadets scrambling to dinner—another experience altogether.

As we drove away from the campus, I couldn’t help but consider: what would my life be like had I attended a “normal” school?

The answer is that it would be…different. I made some of the best friends I will ever have during my time at the Academy. I was assigned to an amazing base after graduation. The people there helped mentor me and teach me things about my job that technical school didn’t cover.  I even met my husband at that base.

It can sound so cliché, but my point is that it all came together the way it needed to. Had I not gone to USAFA, I might not have gone to my first base. If I hadn’t been stationed there, I would not be the same person able to offer the same mentorship and wisdom to my Airmen and to those cadets. 

So the next time you catch yourself wondering how things could have been different—don’t look back with regret. Every moment, every experience and every person you meet along the way helps shape you into exactly the person you are meant to be. That’s exactly what I told the cadets. The best advice I could share: make the most of the opportunities that come along.

PHOTO TOP:  The Texas A&M Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, Detachment 805, perform retreat April 9 at Texas A&M University. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Tori Hight)

PHOTO BOTTOM: The Texas A&M Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, Detachment 805, listen to an officer professional development presentation April 9 at Texas A&M University. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Tori Hight)

The most beautiful song, Nov. 21, 2012

By Retired Gen. Steve Lorenz
U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment

By all measures, it was a typical football game day at Falcon Stadium. Many people were tailgating, there was a slight chill in the air, the sky was a brilliant bright blue, and the crowd was excited as the game time approached. With great precision, the Cadet Wing had marched into the stadium. With great fanfare, the Wings of Blue parachute team had jumped onto the football field, and the flyover by several Air Force aircraft had created much excitement.

As the cadet band began to play our national anthem, the audience around us rose up to show respect for our flag and the music Francis Scott Key wrote 200 years ago. In unison, we placed our right hands over our hearts to show the proper respect as the Star Spangled Banner was played.

As the ceremony began, the entire stadium went silent as they turned to face the American flag and listen to the music. It was then that I heard what initially sounded like a person yelling at the top of his lungs and making loud, incoherent sounds. I did not know what it was, but my initial reaction was one of disbelief and irritation that this person could be so insensitive and disrespectful while an entire stadium full of people were saluting our nation’s flag.

But as I listened closely to this disruptive sound, I began to make out what appeared to be words. I could not understand every word, but every third or fourth word seemed to fit into the melody of our national anthem. Someone, in his own painful way, was singing the Star Spangled Banner.

I looked where the sounds were coming from. In front of me was the ramp reserved for handicapped fans, and there he was. A young man was sitting in a wheelchair, in an Air Force T-shirt, with an Air Force baseball cap perched on his head. He was swaying back and forth to the sounds of the music despite suffering from the obvious physical effects of a serious long term debilitating illness.

As I listened more carefully, I could make out more and more of the words he was singing. This handicapped Air Force Academy football fan had a huge smile on his face as he sang with great gusto our national anthem.

My initial irritation immediately turned to great pride as I watched this young man sing his heart out. Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened to the finest rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I had ever heard. This young man touched my heart and the hearts of everyone around him who really heard what he was singing. I walked up to 31 year old Kenny Frith, who was born with cerebral palsy, and thanked him for reminding me what really is important. I told him I would never forget him or his singing of our national anthem.