Megan O'Neil | Wednesday, February 22, 2006
So you think waking up to your radio alarm at 8 a.m. is tough? Try being roused out of your sleep at 6:30 a.m. by reveille blaring on the school PA system.
After promising to visit my friend at school for four years, I finally made it to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs over the weekend.
I knew I was going to be about as far removed from Saint Mary’s as I could get. The Academy is 80 percent men, and after receiving many an e-mail about the miseries of hazing I half expected to be ordered to drop and give 20 as soon as I walked through the door.
The mood of campus was very professional and the dÃ©cor rather somber. Instead of a nice fountain or a beautiful bell tower, the Academy has retired fighter jets parked on its main quad. As my friend and I approached the library door, I suddenly realized every student around me had his or her hand raised to their forehead in a salute to some high-ranking officer who was walking by.
Despite my general suspicion of the military, I decided I had to attend at least one military science class during my visit just for the experience of it. I sat in a room of cadets – decked out in fatigues and boots – in my jeans and sweater looking very conspicuous. The lesson of the day? Give a detailed briefing on how to invade North Korea, attack its defenses and destroy weapons of mass destruction.
Anyone up for a nice Jane Austen novel? Anyone?
The fourth years (freshmen) at the academy are easy to spot. They have the shortest haircuts and the most haggard look in their eyes. Fourth years are not allowed to carry their book bags over their shoulders but instead have to lug them around by hand.
Exhaustion seems to be the norm at the Academy. Not an I-stayed-up-until-4-in-the-morning-writing-a-paper tired, but an I-stayed-up-until-4-in-the-morning-and-woke-up-at-6-and-failed-my-uniform-inspection-and-got-screamed-at-and-then-had-to-run-5 miles type of tired.
One cadet, looking like a zombie, lowered his cheek to the table in front of him. “No heads on the desks,” the professor called out.
While I myself would never choose to attend a military school, it was impossible not to admire the work that was being done there. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming toward me. Even in the brief weekend I spent with cadets, it was clear they had a strong sense of duty and a desire to serve their country.
Friday was “Hundreds” day at the Air Force Academy, the day on which firsties (seniors) are handed an envelope with their base assignment at a fancy dinner. As they trickled back into the dorm after the ceremony chatting with friends and calling parents, I found myself excited for their futures and confident that those fighter jets are in good hands.