Sunday, June 22, 2014

USAFA Summer Seminar Wrap-up

So Nathan got back Friday from his week in Colorado Springs at the Air Force Academy summer seminar.  He was selected to attend--there are only 600 slots a year, with 3500 applicants, so we were really glad he was able to get in.
The candidates had to arrive at the visitors center between 9:00 and 12:00 Sunday morning, and it was impossible to get a flight out there at that time.  Fortunately, friends of ours in the Springs were kind enough to pick Nathan up at the airport Saturday night, let him spend the night there, took him to church Sunday morning, and then dropped him off at the Academy.  He had a great time at their house!  Eric is a VMI grad, so they were even able to have a little discussion about some of the merits of VMI versus the Academy.

When the candidates got there, they were issued a ton of stuff, all of which they were able to keep--3 sets of athletic clothes, 2 polo shirts, a backpack, water bottle, towel, sleep sack, and binder.  The main activity they did that day was an orientation briefing and dinner.
Monday was "doolie for a day", where they got treated like the 4th classmen ("doolies") do for most of their first year at the Academy.  So they were woken up at 5:00 by the cadre banging on their doors and shouting at them.  Then they had to do PT in the hallway until 7:00.  The candidates had been given knowledge sheets (with info about airplanes and some famous quotes) that they were drilled on, and they also were expected to know things about the other people in their element, like where they were from, favorite colors, etc.

Then they had breakfast at 7:00, where they had to eat like the doolies do, which is at attention--heads look forward, eyes only look down at the plate, feet are at a 45 degree angle, sit on the front 1/3 of the seat, hands are on the thighs.  You can move the hands to get one bite, which you have to move at a 90 degree angle (straight up and then straight over) to your mouth.  You have to put the fork back down, and your hands back on your legs, before you can start chewing.  You have to request things in a special way, even if it is right in front of you.  Not a relaxing way to eat, for sure!
Then they went to the parade field to do more athletics.  They did 8 stations, including running the bleachers, some pushups and ab stuff, sprints, and other game-type things.  Then they ate MREs for lunch, a highlight for Nathan since he had always wanted to try one.  He said it was pretty good (he had maple sausage), and that there was a ton of food in one.  Then they had a tug-of-war battle (Nathan's element won all his matches--above, they are celebrating one of them!), did a fireman's carry relay, and a push-up competition.  Lastly, they got to charge up the hill on the terrazzo, which is pretty symbolic for the Academy, because the cadets run up it when they are recognized (the end of their 1st year there), and when they graduate.

Monday night was an academic fair, where the candidates went around to different tables where the faculty for the different majors had set up.  They could ask questions and find out about the different options.  Before they walked around, there was an academic briefing, which Nathan found very helpful.  They talked about all the different opportunities available, like athletics, glider and jump teams, and so on, and they stressed how if you want to take advantage of these opportunities, then you should not pick a major which is going to be super difficult and suck up all your time.  Pick a major that you really like and are going to enjoy studying for, but not necessarily the most challenging one, especially if you want to go on and be a pilot.  It was a different perspective, and now Nathan is considering majoring in something like economics, which he had not really considered before, especially because at the Academy you already are taking so many classes including engineering classes as just basic requirements.
On Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, everyone had 4 classes.  Nathan took an economics one, one on officership, an intro to electronics one, and a laser and optics one.  His favorite one was the electronics one because they each built a circuit and soldered it to make a device that is sort of like a "magic 8 ball", where you could ask it a question, and it cycles through answers randomly.
Tuesday afternoon they did some various team-building exercises, including this spider web one, where you have to get each team member out of a different hole in the web, and if you touch the side while in the hole, you can't use that hole anymore.  There was also a v-line, where 2 candidates had to lean on each other as the 2 lines got further apart, and there was one where everyone in the element except 3 people were blind-folded, and the people who could see had to direct the blind-folded people, who were all holding ropes, in doing this complicated thing with a bucket.

The candidates also took a tour of the athletic facilities Tuesday afternoon, and then they took a practice candidate physical assessment test.  Nathan maxed out the sit-ups and push-ups, and he got 14 out of 18 possible pull-ups.  He wants to shave a little time off his shuttle run.  His mile was okay (6:30 but max is 5:20), but that is also at altitude.  He is faster here at sea level!  He really needs to work on the basketball throw, which is a totally useless real-world test in which you kneel down and then heave a basketball (from your knees) as far as you can.  The max is 102 feet, but the average is 70.  Nathan only got a 59, but it seems like the only way to improve is just to practice that one thing, since it's a weird move.

Tuesday evening, they divided into male and female groups.  The cadre also divided into male/female and were in 2 different rooms.  The girls all went in one room, and the boys in another, and you could ask any question you wanted about cadet life.  Nathan was not real impressed by this, as the bulk of the male questions either dealt with sex or were boring, dealing with either career questions, or admission and athletic questions that were going to be covered in later briefings everyone had to sit through.  Nathan was glad to have an element leader that was a cadet, because he talked about what cadet life was like, as far as scheduling and so on, and so that was helpful.
Wednesday morning was an outside PT session.  Here Nathan demonstrates his good push-up and squat form.  Then they had the other 2 classes, which were already mentioned.  Afterward, they went to the cadet store, and Nathan bought a watch cap.  At some point in there, they all toured the chapels.

Wednesday evening they had an ROTC briefing, but Nathan said that wasn't really helpful--it was mostly just stuff that is online or that we had already heard from people at VA Tech or VMI.
Thursday morning the candidates all toured the air field, but there were no pictures of Nathan, so sadly I didn't download anything to show here.  Nathan really enjoyed it though!  First they got to try on equipment from Wings of Blue, the Academy jump team.  They talked to the candidates about how you can get 5 free jumps, which Nathan was really excited about.  Next, they sat in an airplane and 2 different gliders, a trainer glider and a lighter one for cross-country competitions.  Then they had some glider pilots talk to them about that program.

After the air field tour, they had an athletic briefing.  Nathan is thinking that club sports are the way to go, as opposed to intramural sports (which everyone has to participate in), or intercollegiate sports (which have really grueling schedules).  But if you are on the starting team for a club sport, you can still get passes for some things, but you aren't missing as many weekends, and there aren't as many practices.  Nathan is thinking--rugby!

Then they had a character briefing with a really funny master sergeant who talked about your values, vision, purpose, and your influence on other people.  
Right after that briefing, still on Thursday afternoon, there was a career fair, set up like the academic fair, where they could walk around to different tables and talk to different active duty people about things like getting into a specific field, what the opportunities are there, and so on.  The guy above is a computer engineer, but Nathan also talk ed to pilots, security forces guys, and a drone pilot.

Thursday evening was a wrap-up final session, and some parents were there.  Not us, unfortunately!  Then all the candidates stayed up late talking.  Nathan had to get up super early to catch a 6:05 flight back home.  Some people stayed up all night and then caught the 3:00 AM bus, which is the one Nathan had to take. Nathan got home safely and had a great time.  I asked him what his favorite part was, and he said, "Everything.  It was fun just to be there for everything."  But after thinking more, he decided that the doolie day was the most useful experience.

Tomorrow Nathan leaves for another week of adventure.  This time he is flying to Albuquerque, where he will participate in a pararescue orientation course that is a Civil Air Patrol special activity.  He's been training really hard for this, as it will be physically tougher than the time at USAFA, but he is really excited about it!  I'll have the complete report when he returns next Tuesday . . .

Luke is also leaving tomorrow.  He's taking a tour of all the Norfolk-area military installations with a group from their Civil Air Patrol squadron, and he'll be gone until Thursday afternoon.  It is going to be so weird to have both of the biggest boys gone at the same time!  Caleb is quite excited about his chance to be the oldest kid!

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