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    Growing tomorrow's leaders today

    USAFA I-Day Class of 2027

    Photo By Rayna Grace | U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Basic cadets from the class of 2027 arrive at the...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Christopher Griffin 

    Airman Magazine   

    The U.S. Air Force Academy has had the same mission since 1954: to educate, train and inspire future officers of character. The academy remains steadfast in its commitment to masterfully mold the leaders of tomorrow who will face the ever-growing challenges of an evolving battlespace.
    Future leaders are prepared through a core curriculum of 29 required courses across a variety of academic disciplines, military training, character and leadership development and athletics.
    The Air Force Academy’s economics and geosciences, and Civil Engineering departments have key roles in proficiently preparing cadets for the complexities of tomorrow’s operational Air Force. Col. Justin Joffrion, economics and geosciences department head, emphasized the importance of collaboration and innovation that has been incorporated into the teaching model.
    “The academy actively collaborates with industry leaders, local governments and non-profit organizations to create a relevant and up-to-date curriculum,” Joffrion said. “Advanced technology, including Building Information Modeling software, data collection using sUAS and Geographic Information Systems software significantly empowers cadets to gain experience with modern design tools, preparing them for the rapidly evolving engineering landscape.”
    Joffrion elaborated.
    “We use geographic information system software to integrate data from a variety of sources. It could be mapping data so that we understand topography and different landscapes. It could be overlaying additional data elements onto that sort of data so that you can visually see it.” Joffion continued, “And just like everywhere else in the world where the sensors and the internet has connected more and more data, we are reaping the benefits from that additional data, but it comes at a cost because we have to process that data in a way that makes it useful for folks who are trying to understand the geography that they're working in.”
    In the face of constant environmental changes and geopolitical shifts, the Air Force Academy gracefully equips cadets with the knowledge and skills to effectively exploit topography and adapt to emerging challenges. Sustainability and resiliency principles are integrated to teach cadets about energy efficiency, renewable energy and other sustainable practices while preparing them to guard against potential infrastructure vulnerabilities.
    This development is undoubtedly instrumental in determining the success of the Air Force’s Climate Action Plan. The CAP is a comprehensive strategy aimed at enhancing the Air Force’s resilience to climate change while reducing its environmental impact. This encompasses three core objectives: fortifying operational effectiveness by investing in climate-ready infrastructure, developing resilient technologies to mitigate climate-related risks and educating the workforce and public about climate change. To underscore the Air Force’s commitment to addressing climate challenges, this plan could play a significant role in the broader global efforts to combat climate change.
    Dr. Steven Radil, U.S. Air Force Academy assistant professor of geosciences, specializes in political geography, focusing on the spatial dimensions of political violence and plays a key role in the development of academy cadets.
    “The Climate Action Plan is another crucial aspect at the academy, where reducing the carbon footprint and maximizing energy efficiencies is essential while maintaining industry-standard results that exceed the military’s needs,” Radil said. “Striking this balance is a challenge, but the Air Force Academy tackles it with innovative approaches, considering the implications of their decisions on the environment and the future of air and space dominance.”
    One practical application of this is illustrated in the Spring of 2023’s Geospatial Science capstone project of then cadets first class (now second lieutenants) Emily Lukowski, Maddie Williams and Ardent Almazan, entitled “Green Tour.” For this project, they researched and mapped the existing sustainability features across the academy and planned sustainability features for implementation.
    “Before we started this project, we didn’t realize that so many of our facilities had so many sustainability features; you just don’t see many of them,” said Almazan, who was commissioned into the U.S. Space Force.
    Before the cadets could begin mapping, they had to strategically set the parameters and boundaries for their analysis.
    “We learned how to effectively dig for information, decipher a ton of data and determine what was important as it related to our project,” Lukowski explained.
    After the cadets sifted through the data, they created Green Tour maps with the StoryMaps web tool, allowing them to bring together a lot of what they had learned throughout their geospatial sciences and core curriculum.
    “I feel like in the military, our priority is the mission, probably more so over sustainability, so this capstone was really eye-opening to see the Air Force Academy does prioritize sustainability, which, for me, is really awesome that it is one of their top priorities,” Lukowski said.
    The advantageous knowledge and skill set cadets gain while attending the academy is crucial in their development as officers and leaders, but what happens when it’s time for them to join the rest of the operational Air Force? How does the academy ensure talent is sent to the mission that needs their abilities the most?
    “Usually, at the beginning of their senior year, they receive their classification,” Joffrion explained. “In their three previous years, they’re learning about the different opportunities out there for them in the Air Force and Space Force.”
    “And while they’re doing this, we’re watching them to see where they’re strong, where their talents lie,” Joffrion emphasized. “We know what we want; we’re investing heavily in these cadets, so it’s important for us to ensure that we connect them to the right opportunities when they graduate. So, we’re looking for a very good match that will place them in the spot where the Air Force or the Space Force has needs, and that’s important because the Air Force and Space Force needs these cadets.”
    When an officer is placed within their new organization, regardless of the role they’re put into, the skills they’ve received during their time at the academy play a crucial part in their personal success and their contribution to the mission.
    Second Lt. Morgan Searcy, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2022 with a geospatial science degree, landed in a unique position she didn’t quite expect. She was assigned as a public affairs officer for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Her ability to adapt to an unexpected role reinforces the success of the skill sets the academy uses to grow leaders of character.
    “Outside of geo, the lessons I learned being a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet have helped me understand the organizations I am a part of,” Morgan said. “Any cadet can attest that when you’re at school, there are a thousand things going on. From the academic loads, athletics and random Saturday-morning inspections, not to mention trying to decompress and have a social life, it’s stressful, but you learn to skillfully manage your time and multitask. I am sorry to break it to current cadets: that doesn’t change once you commission, but the skills you learn will continue to benefit you through your time in the military.”
    Morgan further explained the usefulness of the skills taught throughout her time at the academy and expounded on their real-world applications.
    “With the utilization of the skills I gained at the Air Force Academy, I am able to spread the message of how hard AFLCMC members work every day to achieve the mission of the Air Force,” Morgan explained. “My research background significantly benefits me in determining the best channels to communicate on and helps me understand what each directorate is focused on so I can provide accurate and timely information to the public.”
    The U.S. Air Force Academy’s unwavering commitment to innovation, hands-on training, diversity and sustainability has created an environment that genuinely molds the leaders of tomorrow. By wholly providing cadets with a comprehensive education and practical experience, the academy ensures that these future officers are equipped to excel in their roles, defend the country and navigate the complexities of the battlespace with honor, integrity and excellence.



    Date Taken: 10.24.2023
    Date Posted: 10.24.2023 12:13
    Story ID: 456402
    Location: US

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