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‘In-processing Day’ at Air Force Academy welcomes more than 1,000 new cadets Thursday

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KRDO) -- In-processing Day at the U.S. Air Force Academy welcomed the new class of 2026.

Thursday officially marked the start of basic training for the new basic cadets.

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The Academy said that it expects more than 1,000 new appointees on campus; they became basic cadets after reciting the oath of duty.

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Parents were able to drop their children at the airport or Clune Arena on campus Thursday morning, but weren't allowed to attend most of the induction activities.

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In-processing day, also called I-Day, is known for the tough love given to the new cadets by their upperclassmates; the verbal onslaught begins within minutes after the cadets say goodbye to their parents.

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At Clune Arena, the first check-in point for the new arrivals, a senior cadet confronted each one.

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"“Hurry up!" he yelled. "Out the door to your left! Wipe that smile off your face and go to the left! Hurry up! Walk faster! Move your legs faster!"

Basic cadets riding buses or walking to various check-in points received similar treatment."

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"Get off my bus! Don't look at me!" Two senior cadets shouted.

Some of the basic cadets seemed bewildered, even overwhelmed by the treatment; one petite cadet struggled to carry her gear and keep up as a senior cadet hovered over her.

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But others, like Marcus Marrette, of Fort Myers, Florida, knew what to expect.

“I think the (Air Force Academy's) prep school was the biggest step, getting into the prep school," he explained. "I feel like it’s something that everyone should go through. It gives you an idea of what to expect. But you also get a year to figure out if you really want to do this or not.” 

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Some senior cadets said that even on I-Day, a handful of appointees drop out for various reasons -- medical issues, failing drug tests or deciding that the academy lifestyle is more than they bargained for.

Academy officials said that this class is the first to resume normal procedures since the start of the Covid-10 pandemic -- although the senior cadets were cautioned to avoid getting too "in-your-face" with their new classmates.

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“The expectation and requirement is that they will show up fully vaccinated — which allows us to do what we’re doing today, and throughout basic training," said Brig. Gen. Paul Moga, the academy's commandant of cadets. "We had a very few medical exceptions to that."

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With cadets becoming second lieutenants at graduation, having jobs waiting for them afterward and preparing for leadership roles later on, some of the new cadets reflected on the sacrifices they made to be at the academy.

Bethany Firooz, of Richmond, Virginia, is excited about the opportunity.

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"The application process took me years, and during that time I became paralyzed and hospitalized because of an autoimmune disorder," she said. "So I have a lot of excitement and relief that I made it here."

Carter Hudson, of Peach Tree, Georgia, said that his father is an academy class of 1999 graduate.

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"I hope to fly the F-15 Strike Eagle after I'm done here," he said. "The big thing for me is to just be confident."

There was one remaining sacrifice for many of the new male cadets Thursday... having their heads shaved.

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Enduring their first say at the academy will likely increase the confidence of many new cadets.

I-Day started around 9 a.m. and was scheduled to end at 11 p.m., when the new cadets were assigned to their rooms and were ready for a good night's sleep -- at least until the 5 a.m. wakeup time.

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Riley Carroll

Riley is a weekend anchor and reporter for KRDO. Learn more about her here.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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