Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by whiskey05, Nov 20, 2015.
Just graduated last May, can give my honest opinions/advice on the academy and how to get in.
Could you give me a brief overview of your resume? Also, where are you from?
Grew up in Minnesota, graduated ranked around the middle of my class, went ALO (Air Liaison Officer, not Academy Liaison Officer) so I'm stationed at an Army post.
How was your experience at the academy?
Is ALO a rated position.? I saw that 368 from your class went pilot and 18-19 went RPA. Would you know if all that requested pilot received a slot ? And did the 18 RPAs request this assignment? Thank you....
Any things you would do differently knowing what you know now?
I enjoyed it. I came for the challenge, stayed for the people. Don't get me wrong though, there is a lot of stuff there that could be done better. My overall take on it is that if you show up with a humble attitude wanting to become a better person, there are a myriad of opportunities to do so. If you show up cocky and try to work your way into power positions just to be in power positions, you won't have a good time.
ALO is non-rated, and you have to go through a week long selection. Not everyone that requested pilot received a pilot slot from my class. There was actually a lot of contention about that, because we got a lot less slots than previous classes. The AFSC selection process now works off "quartiles." Basically, the entire graduating class is ranked and then divided into four groups. If you are at the top of your quartile, you will likely get your first choice. If you are at the bottom, there is a chance you won't. This means that if a class numbers one thousand, if you are number 250 you might not get your first choice, even though 250 is a relatively good class ranking. It also means that if you are 750 you likely will get your first choice. The purpose of this is to ensure undesired career fields (such as missiles) still get high performing cadets going into those career fields. I understand what they are trying to do, but it needs refinement. As far as RPAs, there are some that wanted that as their first choice, and many that had it as a second or third choice.
In high school, I would have focused on sports such as wrestling, track, and swimming. All of those would put you in great physical shape for the academy. Your workouts in high school should focus on repeats of 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile and 1 mile distances, working to be quicker and quicker. They should also focus on calisthenics. You can get big and jacked once youre at the academy and in your freshman year. Also know that what you consider a good workout in high school, is not enough. Your workouts should last an hour to an hour and a half every day and should make you a little nervous. If those points are met, you'll be in very good shape for BCT. I had good grades in high school, but shoot for straight A's, and get used to sitting down after school and not doing anything until your homework is done.
If you have questions about what I would have done differently at the academy, that's a whole different list.
Thank you! I was inquiring if in hindsight you would have done anything different at the academy. Study more - study less - that type of thing.
Ok so several things here. If you know you are an academic stud, go all out and pick something like aeronautical engineering, minor in a foreign language, and do well. Just know that if that is the route you take, you are not going to have much of a life. I had several friends that graduated in the top ten of my class, and their lives varied massively based on what majors they chose. Those that graduated in the top ten with a major such as management or english still managed to get out and have fun. Those that graduated in the top ten (or even 100) and majored in things such as math, aero/astro engineering, etc. did very little other than homework. Everyone wants to be awesome at everything at the academy, but you have to be realistic. Pick a major you enjoy and for which you can get the work done in a reasonable amount of time, and then get out and have fun on the weekends. The things you will miss are not the GRs, but the nights out with your best buds in the world.
Overall, pick something you want to excel at early, focus on that, and do decent in every other area. For me it was the physical/military side; excelling in those areas was somewhat of a prerequisite for wanting to go ALO. If you are looking at going STO/CRO/ALO, join the Sandhurst team freshman year and during sophomore and junior years do the Battlefield Airman Course, Phase Zero, and Army Programs. I focused on those things and then simply did the work I needed to get done for my classes, but didn't stress about it and didn't make it absolutely perfect. Graduated overall with a 3.0.
If you want academics to be your thing, expect to devote 3 to 4 hours really doing your homework well at night, and work in your workouts where you can. Just don't slack, because a score below 325 or so on the PFT is not looked on favorably by your peers.
Currently a nursing student pursuing an appointment to the academy. I am interested in becoming a Combat Rescue Officer or do something health related in combat. I am aware that there is no nursing curriculum at the academy. If I were to get accepted, would I be better of with pursuing biology? Or does it matter.
Do you want to go CRO or something in the medical part of the AF?
BIG differences in culture there. The medical side of things tend to be more your primary care physicians, optometrists, surgeons, etc. Full MD programs or equivalent are required for most of those (I don't know enough about each specialty to make absolute statements). CRO is a "battlefield airman" job, with a medical component. You don't need an MD to be a CRO, and going to medical school would likely make you less competitive timeline-wise.
I do not know how much you know about the CRO AFSC, but your major would be irrelevant to whether or not you were accepted for CRO. You would need to attend a week long selection held by pararescue squadrons, where they would assess your leadership and physical aptitude. This selection is extremely difficult and the majority of people that attend are not selected. About 50% will quit before the week is over. To that end, the Academy, in my opinion, has the best opportunities of any commissioning source for preparing you for this selection (look into battlefield airman course, army programs, and phase zero).
If you want to attend med school, I would not recommend the academy. While a few do get to go to med school, it is extremely competitive and not guaranteed as it would have to be on the Air Force's dime.
What tips/advice could you give to a high school junior preparing to apply to the Academy? What to expect?
I mean there's the typical response: get straight A's, be a leader in extracurricular activities and be in good shape. If you follow those three rules you have a very good chance of being accepted; it's honestly that simple based on the high school experiences of most of my friends from the academy.
As far as what to expect, in what specific area? BCT, academics, freshman year?
What to expect freshman year?
Freshman year you will probably be taking around 5 classes, all of which will be introductory core classes (physics, chemistry, intro to engineering, foreign language, history, etc). You will have the opportunity to "validate" (test out) for some of those classes. Some AP classes will count as credit, but very few. That being said, take as many AP classes as you can, because not having to take even one of those core classes will make your life way better.
Your quality of life will depend heavily on the training staff for the squadron you are in, specifically your training officer (senior cadet in charge of training the freshmen). Keeping in mind that what your schedule looks like as far as freshman training will vary from squadron to squadron, a typical freshman year weekday will look like this:
0545: wake up
0600: Form up in the squadron hallways, call "minutes" (yelling the uniform of the day, meals of the day, other random info for the benefit of the upperclassmen). This experience can vary from literally just standing out there yelling updates every 5 or 10 minutes, to not doing much yelling at all and instead doing physical training. Again, depends on the style of your training officer.
0645: head to mandatory breakfast
0700-0723: breakfast with your element
0730-1123: morning classes
1130-1223: some sort of noon meal formation, lunch
1223-1630ish: afternoon classes
1630-1800ish: depending on the day, you will either have intramurals down on the athletic fields, or a training session with your training staff. How hard that training session is will again depend on your training staff.
1800-as early as possible: dinner, homework, sleep.
I think I averaged around 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep every night. Best way I've heard it described is "the days are long, the weeks are short." You'll have days that absolutely suck and feel like they'll never end but then before you know it it'll be march and you'll be going through recognition. Realize that your training staff may very well have been selected for training staff because they are in very good shape and may be trying to go into a battlefield airman career field. To that end, the more in shape you are and the harder you workout now, the easier you will find the training sessions. Some training officers suck, some are outstanding. You don't know what you'll have until you get to your squadron.
Any other specific questions I might have missed?
Can you explain the 1) general progression of free time that cadets get after each year and 2) what you specifically did for fun/relaxing in those years? For example, as a C4C how often do you get free time /leave privileges? How does that compare to other years. And what did you find to be the most fun about the academy/what did you choose to do with your free time (which of course was limited)? Thanks
A couple things have changed since Whiskey has graduated. As of this year, minutes are abbreviated. They start at 6:30 and end at 6:45. Also, there is no mandatory breakfast. Instead the entire squadron forms up in the hallways at 6:45 for accountability and personal appearance inspection.
The current pass policy is also very relaxed. All classes have unlimited weekend passes. That being said, the Wing Training Officer and Commander exercise the right to close sign-out logs. Sign-out logs are naturally often closed for freshman. In the event that they are open wing wide, most squadrons require that their freshman pass the previous weeks knowledge test to be unrestricted. The bottom line is that even though you'll technically have unlimited passes, in reality there are substantial limiting factors. Policies change all the time. What is in place now likely will not be in place for future years.
In my free time I enjoy watching netflix/movies, rock climbing, running, playing guitar, playing card games, playing video games, snowboarding/skiing, bowling, mini golf, bar-hopping, etc. Sometimes it is good to have an activity which complements a USAFA mission area. Rock climbing is not only fun but also helps me maintain physical fitness (especially pull ups). That being said, sometimes it is nice to just do nothing.
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