Daughter considering leaving USAFA

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by leo723, Jan 24, 2018.

  1. leo723

    leo723 New Member

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    My daughter is in the second semester of her second year at USAFA and informed us last week that she is considering leaving. She tells us she is not unhappy there now but she doesn't see any future for herself there. She says she is having no problems academically but her physical fitness test scores are poor and her class rank is about 700 of the 1000 or so in her class. She is majoring in Eastern European area studies and is taking Russian but says the with her class rank where it is, her commission at graduation will likely have nothing to do with her major, she'll end up doing something she has no interest in for five years. I told her I find it hard to believe your commission will be unrelated to your major and she told me that unless you are a pilot, you major doesn't matter; if you're not at the top of the class, you'll likely get a commission that has nothing to do with your major. I can sense that she is disenchanted with the Academy, which is a bad sign in itself, but this scenario she is describing, is it accurate? Is this generally how things work in assigning commissions after graduation?

    Thanks for any insight.
     
  2. Falcon A

    Falcon A Member

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    Leo -- so she is a "3 degree in her 2nd semester". Her commitment to the AF becomes real when and if she reports next Fall to start her 2nd Class/Junior year. Life is still hard at USAFA in the 3 degree year. Back from Christmas break at USAFA in the dark gray cold windy days of January/February. The saying in my time while at USAFA was that it wasn't that the wind blew so much as USAFA sucked! 3 degree is better than being a doolie, but the grind is still hard. She was at the top of her class in high school (big fish in a small pond?) and has now found herself just one of the little fishes among a group of very high achievers? Not the first time, and not an uncommon reason expressing a desire to leave.

    My data on how AF assignments work is old, but if she is proficient in Russian, I doubt that would be ignored by the assignment folks.

    What does she want to do on active duty? Where does she see herself? What does she not want to do on active duty? There are so many opportunities . . .

    Many of the International Studies majors seem to think they are going to graduate and become the next "Mata Hari" or work at the State Department or work at some Embassy. It could happen, but it is unlikely, even with the best GPA.

    The goal is to definitely do the best you can do while at USAFA, but the ultimate goal is to graduate. The current Chief of Staff of the Air Force 4 Star General David Goldfein Class of '83 has tweeted about his low academic performance and ranking while a cadet. (I was right there with him academicly) It is also true the current Secretary of the Air Force Dr Heather Wilson Class of '82 graduated near the top of her class and was a Rhodes Scholar. How you perform once on active duty determines much more than your cadet ranking or your cadet GPA. The Academy is preparation. Not the end goal or the end game.

    What would she do if she left the Academy? What school and what career/job would she pursue?

    Yes ... She needs to work on her physical fitness and that is not fun, but it is a good thing to do anyway.

    If her goals have changed such that she no longer desires to serve as an AF officer, then perhaps she should not report for Fall semester ... But, I recommend she write down all the reasons why she wanted to go to the Academy in the first place, and then write down why she wants to leave. Leaving might be the right answer if the original goals/desires have changed . . . If not, then it might just be time to buckle down and work harder to achieve those original goals. The Academy is supposed to be difficult ... But the opportunities while there are exceptional, and the opportunties on active duty can be what you make of them.

    Best wishes to you and to her with this struggle. With your encouragement and guidance she will come to the right decision.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2018
  3. wildblueyonder57

    wildblueyonder57 Member

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    I’m only a high school senior so don’t take my opinion too seriously- but from my point of view if she left the academy there are still many graduates at regular colleges who don’t end up having a job replayed to their major.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...elated-to-their-major/?utm_term=.94dbaee3af2c

    I think what Falcon A said was good- she should definitely write down both the positive and negatives of staying and then make her decision from there
     
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  4. Dadx4

    Dadx4 Member

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    It's fairly common for midshipmen and cadets to have doubts during first year, especially after the holidays. My DD did. She stuck it out and is now a 3/C. Just listen to her and be supportive!
     
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  5. AFrpaso

    AFrpaso USAFA Alumnus 5-Year Member

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    Google 'AF Officer Classification Directory'.

    That document details every AFSC and the educational accessions targets for each. There are a number of jobs which relate directly to an academic major (for example, Foreign Area Studies relates directly to Intel).
     
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  6. Maplerock

    Maplerock Proud to be an American 5-Year Member

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    That's why they have the 2 for 7 commitment at the beginning of 2nd class year. If the cadet wants out, do it before then. No penalty.

    If someone considers getting out after almost two years in, they should probably not return after 3rd class year. Of course you may be able to talk them into staying, but that's not advisable. It has to be their decision.

    There is no shame in leaving. The shame would be staying without wanting to be there.
     
  7. USAFA10s

    USAFA10s USAFA Class of 2012 Kirtland, AFB 10-Year Member

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    There is definitely some good advice from @Falcon A above. While many assignments don't necessarily relate to a specific major, a lot of them do. It all really depends on what she wants to do. While I never seriously considered leaving USAFA, I did have to do some serious thinking when it came to putting in my assignment dream sheet. If things haven't changed too much, you are supposed to put in your top 6 choices (assuming non-rated). My advice to your daughter would be first to ask herself what her goals for her career are, civilian or military. If she has clear career plans that do not involve the AF, then that is a pretty good reason to leave, however, if there is still a large degree of uncertainty and she is willing to serve in the AF, staying is probably worth it. If the latter is the case but her fear is she will get an assignment she hates, my recommendation is to look at all the AF jobs out there, come up with her top 6, then try to talk to some young officers with those jobs to get a better understanding of what they entail. A lot of my perspectives and plans shifted once I graduated and the experiences I have gained in the AF have been incredibly helpful, if not always directly relevant to my future plans. I believe the saying goes something like "there are no bad AF assignments, only bad attitudes ;)"

    Feel free to send me a PM, I'd be happy to talk more (with her directly) or help make connections if there is a specific job she wants to know more about.
     
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  8. DesertCaliMom

    DesertCaliMom Member

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    Russian is still on the strategic languages list, so even with class rank, the needs of the Air Force are always changing. Language work won't be glamorous like Falcon said and officers are those that oversee the grunt language work, but the 5 year experience in leadership and that degree with clearance will open so many doors!

    If your DS feels comfortable, have her talk to a chaplain. They've been there done that with oh so many cadets and will have solid advice.
     
  9. yuxi

    yuxi Member

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    It’s a tough decision. I see a lot of good advice here, but in the end your daughter has to make the decision. She might be just a little depressed at the moment, post holiday syndrome may I say, I hope she feel better eventually and stay on!

    I have a formal colleague who dropped out of USAFA by his choice before year 3, he is my age and my daughter is applying now, so it was a long time ago lol. He went on finishing his education in his state university and became a professional in accounting. So life goes on.

    Be supportive and encouraging, that’s all we can do. Best wishes!
     
  10. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

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    If you are running, make sure you are running to something rather than just away.

    She needs to look at her goals and decide if they are better served in the AF or going into the civilian world.
     
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  11. Humey

    Humey Member

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    I would like to add that the article was from 2013 when the job market wasnt so hot. I think it has a lot to do with majors also. I have an accounting degree so i became an accountant. There are plenty of degrees that are open to many jobs. My brother in law has a degree in mathametics but owns a compnay that that tests big time water sprinkler systems for buildings. My friend has a a degree with speech communications and works inthe video game industry. I am 55 and in my day, all you needed was a degree in something and you could work in any majory industry unless of course a specific degree was needed (me and accounting) However, in all those cases, the person gets to choose what he wants to do. Sometimes its related to the major and sometimes not. Having someone who majored in Russians may not do well if they are placed in finance (for example). Honestly I sometimes wonder about the majors being choose because I dont see how it will lend itself to a job especially since 2008. I hire an assidtant ever year. They make less than 20 per hour, way less. Previous to 2008, most of my applicants were college students. Between 2008 - 2013, I would say all of my applicants had degrees, some with masters with one having a PHD in Philosophy. Their degrees ranged from journalism, dance, philosphy, Liberal
    Arts and anything else you can thing of. Things have changed in the last 3 years, these applicants are gone and are looking for well paying jobs.
     
  12. leo723

    leo723 New Member

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    Falcon A,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    She says she is interested in languages, specifically in translating, interpreting, possibly teaching, and says there is no major at the Academy in that field. She says if she leaves, she plans to apply to civilian universities that have a specific major in translating and interpreting. Here I feel that she's an insider and knows more than I do, but I thought the military was famous for its proficiency in training foreign language learners. She seems to think that at the Academy there's no path to where she wants to go. I think your "small fish in a big pond" image has to be playing a part too. She says that on active duty she doesn't want some generic job "managing people". She seems to think that at her class rank, she'll end up getting the "leftovers" for an assignment, end up doing something she hates for five years, then be 26 years old, and have lost the opportunity to train for a job she really wanted. I think she has a fairly clear idea of what she wants and is fairly certain that she can't get it through the Academy. I wonder if her assessment is based on good information or on hearsay and maybe cynicism from her fellow cadets. I was in the military myself, I know how rumors and worst-case scenarios can spread like a virus. As I said, she says she's happy there now and she seemed happy during Christmas break, but it's the uncertain future that's making her waver.
     
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  13. USMCGrunt

    USMCGrunt 5-Year Member

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    leo723: I am reminded of the age old saying: "what do they call the person who finished last in his class at the Academy? Lieutenant!"

    But.. if your DD really feels "that on active duty she doesn't want some generic job "managing people" then the academy (and the USAF) is probably not the right place for her.

    Best wishes for your DS in her decision.
     
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  14. Christcorp

    Christcorp 10-Year Member

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    Just a point of clarification. I'm sure it was already mentioned, but I noticed in the original post that the daughter stated:

    Actually it's the OPPOSITE. To become a pilot, it DOESN'T MATTER what your major is. You can major in history, engineering, political science, behavioral science, or anything else.

    As for other jobs and your major, it DEPENDS on what the job is. There are many jobs in the air force that you need a back ground in. I.e. You're not going to be any type of engineer or that type of career field, if you didn't get a major it it. On the other hand, some jobs, like in Special Operations, there isn't a "Major" in college for. Also, there are plenty of jobs like logistics officer, procurement, etc. that the major is not that relevant. But obviously, if you want to be a linguistics officer, you probably needed to know the language. If you want a job in law enforcement, OSI, etc. it probably would be helpful, not mandatory, but helpful if you had your major in something associated with.

    But again; pilot is definitely the one job where your major is totally irrelevant. (Unless you want to be a Test Pilot or Astronaut)

    Not much help on the subject. But you received a lot of other good input. Your daughter is at that point where she's been there long enough to know if you really wants the military or not. She's also at the point where if you decided not to commit, she doesn't owe anything back. On the other hand; she only has 2 more years to go to get a degree. If she leaves, it will be at least 3 more years to get a degree. Any school she transfers credits too, WON'T TAKE ALL of them. Plus, they'll have their own minimum requirements for a degree from their school. And while it may seem like a long time for her, 5 years of active duty will fly by. Especially compared to 4 years at the academy. So basically; it's the "Einstein Theory". "Law of Relativity". It's all relative to her perspective. As long as she realizes that if she decided to leave the academy, it's FINITE. There's no coming back. ROTC is practically out of the question. (Practically; not 100%). But as long as she understands her decision, then good for her. More power to her, and the best of luck to her.

    Mike
     
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  15. Hoodlum15

    Hoodlum15 Member

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    I took Russian my freshman year, and while I no longer take it, I know that the Russian dept has some awesome people in it. Has she talked to the instructors in that dept about her misgivings? They might even be able to provide statistics on recent graduates and their class rank in comparison to the jobs they received. Has she talked to her AOC or another officer she trusts? IMO talking to multiple officers will give her the best possible information with which to make an informed, rational decision.
     
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  16. Falcon A

    Falcon A Member

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    Leo -- my heart goes out to you as a fellow father. We only want the best for our child. It is so hard. I have 2. One DS that is doing the military path via AROTC at VMI. And a DD that is at a civilian university. Has no plans to ever do anything remotely related to the military. They couldn't be more different ... but are also alike.

    The military has foreign language training post Academy. If she goes Intel, and has proficiency in a foreign language there should be a path for her to do what she has indicated she wants to do. The "management of personnel" is key. As as LT she may actually get to do both. Manage enlisted interpreters and do some interpretation as well! The AF component of NSA and/or DIA will no doubt be very interested in her, not to mention AF Intel. She should talk to her Eastern European Studies instructors or her academic advisor and find an Intel officer she can talk to about career paths.

    "Leftovers" for some can be a "goldmine" for others.

    My experience is not "Intel" per se. I wanted to be a pilot, but my eyesight was too bad. Couldn't even qualify for navigator by the the time I graduated. Got my engineering degree from the Academy (barely) and went into Program Management at Wright Patt. Not my first choice. My cadet GPA and class rank was not great. Well bellow 3.0 GPA, class rank well bellow top 50%. After a year on "probation" on active duty at Wright-Patt was identified as a "fast burner" due to "initiative" I guess ... and was offered a job as a 2LT to put "packages" on the SR-71. After doing that for 3 years, was offered a job in the NRO. (Classified spooky org that didn't exist at the time.). Spent most of my career there in various locations doing "special jobs" related to developing, building, interacting, operating, launching our nation's spy satellites. The Academy prepared me well. My performance and initiative on active duty was rewarded. Distinguished Graduate from Squadron Officer School, 2 yr early promotion to Major, selection for in-residence attendance at Air Command and Staff College, selection as an Air Force Fellow for senior service school, retired as a full "Bird Colonel". What's my point? I could not have guessed what my career was going to be when I graduated from the Academy. It can be what you make of it.

    Sounds like she is tired. It is never good to make big decisions (unless you have to) when you are tired. She needs to find a mentor in her Academic major that can advise her on career opportunities given her situation.

    Best wishes to you and you DD.
     
  17. parktrack

    parktrack "Hoov!" "Target In Sight"

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    I think one thing that is happening, and it happens frequently to young people at this age, is that the world starts opening up. They start seeing things differently now that they are no longer in the comforts of home and the structure of high school. Because of many factors this awareness is amplified at USAFA (and the other SA's) when compared to other places of higher education. I suggest that what your DD is going through and the questions she is asking are perfectly normal. What am I doing here? Where am I going? What path of life lays before me? I see it as a good thing that she is exploring these questions and doubts.

    Along that line of thinking, look ahead to ten years from now. With a degree from USAFA and guaranteed job after graduation DD is set up pretty well for work outside of the Air Force (assuming the service is for the minimum commitment).
     
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  18. swatdude

    swatdude Member

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    You took the words right out of my mouth. I have a similar problem with my DS (C4C) but on the opposite end of the spectrum. He is struggling a bit with academics and talks about picking the easiest major possible so he can have a decent GPA. He said it doesn't matter the major, he only wants to be a pilot. Dear ole dad is trying to tell him not to count on getting a pilot slot and to prepare accordingly with a major that is applicable to a field he is interested in (other than pilot). But.......he says he knows what he's doing so I just encourage these days.
     
  19. Wishful

    Wishful "Land of the free, because of the brave..." 5-Year Member

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    “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” ― Mark Twain
     
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  20. leo723

    leo723 New Member

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    Falcon A,

    First, though I'm responding to Falcon A's post, I want to thank everyone who is responding to my original post. I'm taking notes on all your thoughtful and helpful suggestions. This seems to me typical of the military family culture, to respond so generously when someone is in need of help, even if they're a stranger. I'll miss that if my daughter doesn't stay the Academy.

    I'm a little confused about how assignments after graduation work. I understand that you have a wish list but in the end the Air Force decides what you will do and where, based on their needs. It's not an offer but an order. Am I wrong? Can you negotiate or somehow influence the decision of your assignment, except by your performance as a cadet? When you say you were "offered a job" one year into active duty, is that a change of assignment? Again, it that something decided from above or can you request a change? I'm asking because in speaking to my daughter, I get the impression that your assignment after graduation is a decision made by someone else and is your destiny for the next five years, for better or for worse. She is intimidated by that.

    I've asked her to talk to her academic adviser (who is also her Russian teacher), asking him if there is some path at the Academy that could lead to what she envisions as her future career. I also encouraged her to open up to her sponsor family and the chaplain, whom she knows well, not for practical advice, but just as a safety valve. I'd just like her to make a wise decision based on the best information she can get.
     
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