50th Anniversary Recollections

Day One     5 July 1971

Today marks the start of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Class of ’75’s Academy experience, which will culminate in the 50th reunion in 2025. It was 50 years ago today that we reported to the Academy, to begin a journey which undoubtedly changed the course of every one of our lives and set each one on a course unique with challenges, opportunities, and adventure. (5 July 2021)

Wayne Willis

So honored to be one of 1404 outstanding young men who started our journey 50 years ago today! 75! Best ever alive!

Chris Glaser

Friends for life; it's hard to believe it's been 50 years!

John Scherer

I remember pulling my comb out of my pocket before leaving my room. Then looked in the mirror and saw NO hair. Indelible memory of that day.

Michael Heil

Honored to be a member of the USAFA Class of 1975. Best Alive!

Jeff Chappell

Happy 50th Anniversary, Best Alive Band of Brothers!

Jim Marshall

I clearly remember being dropped off at the base of the ramp. I think the next four years molded all of us, hopefully into our better selves.

John Kambourian

Happy anniversary classmates!

Michael Gudmundson

Congratualtions! Bring me men! (And women!) 75 Best Alive!

Bob Feeney

Remember it very well. Although I didn't graduate, that day was one of the most meaningful of my life. I'll never forget it

Bill Carrothers

And so it began...Best Alive!

Dave Wallace

Best Alive, my Brothers!

William Caskey


Willie Cosby

"Here's a toast..."

Michael Dehart

50 years ago on this date I walked through USAFAs “Bring Me Men” portal to begin an exciting and rewarding career and life experience shared and bonded forever with the best guys I know. Seems like yesterday!

Max Della Pia

I remember sitting next to you (Della Pia and DeHart) at some assembly where they said "look to your left and right, at graduation one of you would likely not be here." Little did they know there would be 46% attrition, the highest of any class of any service academy in the history of the academies. I am not sure if that is still the case but it was a dubious distinction that led to a class with strong ties and great friendships. I feel very fortunate to have shared that experience. It was a great opportunity and a great group of remarkable classmates.

Mark Holmes

Does seem like yesterday.

Bob Akers

50 years ago today, I stood at the base of the ramp and gazed naively at the AF Academy. After those 4 years (and courtesy of a few "special inspections"), I have classmates I respect and cherish, and a life that a barefoot kid from WV didn't know how to imagine. Here's a toast to the host and the Class of 75! If you have an empire in your purpose, count me in.



Branford McAllister

50 years ago!!!! Took the first of many oaths, joining the United States Air Force, at the exalted rank of basic cadet. 5 July 1971. The start of an exciting and fulfilling career. Only a couple weeks earlier, I was in college at the wonderful Claremont Men’s College, having a pretty good time playing two sports, pitching in the NAIA regional baseball tournament in Oregon, and painfully trying to figure out that there was a considerably more intense effort required in academics at the college level.

So, unlike the big family turnouts for new cadets in the modern age, most of us were shipped off on a plane, with a small bag, one pair of low-quarter black shoes, and shaggy hair, heading to a place most of us had never seen with our own eyes, in a state we’d never been to, to an adventure most of us had no clue about.

I traveled with a couple of other appointees from Southern California, all Rep. Charles Wiggins nominees. Left LAX for Colorado Springs, then to the Rodeway Inn, where there were many other equally glassy eyed youngsters with small bags, one pair of low-quarter black shoes, and shaggy hair. We traveled on the 4th of July—somewhat fitting, it seemed. That night, we SoCal kids decided we ought to go to the nicest restaurant in town, somewhere on Academy Blvd, for a “last supper” of sorts. Then, back to the hotel for a good night sleep (not!).

When we got up, we headed by taxi to the Trailways Bus Depot in C-Springs, to catch an Academy bus up to the cadet area. It was a memorable trip. The sky was crystal clear, bright blue. The mountains were beautiful. The Academy is not really in sight the whole way up, but at some point we saw the Cadet Chapel’s 17 spires, and they grew in magnitude as the bus made its way up the long roads, heading west on the 17,000 acres of the Academy, toward our fate which would begin at the famed, Bring Me Men ramp.

Because of a short summer vacation for a couple weeks, courtesy of the US Marine Corps the summer before my senior year in high school, I expected there would be screaming people on the bus or when we got off the bus, having us do pushups and stand at attention or running in place for hours. But, upon arrival, there were some really nice cadets wearing Service Bravo—light blue short-sleeve shirts and wheel caps—helping us get our stuff and get to a place where we formed up at the base of the ramp. No yelling, no pushups, just a friendly welcome to our new home and school. How nice!

I had my suspicions, but not enough knowledge to know what to expect. It was enough suspicion to make me very nervous—for good reasons it turns out.

But, we were sorted out, given some kind of a nametag around our necks I think, and then taken by some other nice upperclassmen to our basic cadet training squadrons in Vandenberg Hall, the quarter mile long, six story dorm. In some places, you could look about 500 feet in either direction down the hall and see nothing but exactly the same alcoves with two cadet rooms in each. Every floor, every stairwell, every hallway, every alcove, and every room identical. This would prove to be problematic, to put it mildly, in the days ahead. But, nevertheless, we had great tour guides at this point and for the next couple of fun-filled, happy days.
I went to my room, met my roommate (Mark Birch from Minnesota—a hockey player). We were assigned to 37th flight in I-Squadron (Invaders—“All the way to the top!”). Over the next six weeks I met several guys I would become life-long friends with, still to this day. And, many others who left at some point for unknown reasons and no fanfare.

From that point, things were a blur (and blurrier now after 50 years). But, my memory plays snapshots of picking up gear, getting measured for more gear, haircuts, shots, a few meetings, and loosely marching around the cadet area in a carefree, friendly way. Life was good, though tense. 

Oddly enough, the days of the week are the same this year, 2021, as they were in 1971. The 4th of July was on a Sunday, and July 5th was on a Monday. Why is that important? I just remember that Wednesday of that first week was when life changed forever for 1408 of us who showed up on Monday. But, that is a topic for another story. For now, generally fond memories of our start in the Air Force, on the 5th of July 1971—50 years ago. (5 July 2021)

Paul Kent

My last night as a civilian was the day I turned age 18. Yankee Doodle Dandy born on the Fourth of July. I had left Houston, Texas the week prior, with my sisters, on my first Jet Airliner flight, and my second airline ride in my life; my first being in 1960 when my dad was transferred from California to Texas (where I "grew up"). I spent the week in California visiting and staying with relatives. At the LA airport on July 5, I eyed Steve Clark, with those same tell-tell black low-quarters. There's a lot of memories from July 5, but I think most of us were in a daze. I had never been to the Academy before. Had no idea what was coming. Lined up and getting immunizations with the needle gun was vivid. Having my head buzz-shaved was another. 50 years ago. What a ride since then; as it has been for all of my classmates. (July 2021)

Day Three     7 July 1971

This photo, courtesy of Steve Craig, Class of ’74, was taken on 7 July 1971 during the cadre change of command, the first of many “challenges” in store for the Class of ’75 that summer. (5 July 2021)

Don Byers

I remember those cannons going off, and immediate chaos from upper classmen!! What did I get myself into?? A GREAT CLASS, FOR SURE!! BEST ALIVE!!!

Joe Rogers

Yes, the canons were a tip-off that things were about to get tense.

Michael Anderson

I remember this day so well! I know which of those formations I stood in. And I have been blessed by each of the lives and experiences that resulted from that day forward. Thank you Classmates!

John Kambourian

We were the original PTSD victims!!!

Mark Holmes

Best Alive, brothers. I was privy to almost everything that was going to happen to us before Basic-except for the Cannon. That was a surprise;)

Wayne Willis

So honored to be one of the 1404 outstanding young men who started our journey 50 years ago today! 75! Best ever alive!

Bill Buchta

I was completely clueless what was to come next. Maybe best to have wallowed in ignorance. Thanks for stirring up my PTSD, Mike!

Michael Heil

Honored to be a member of the USAFA Class of 1975. Best Alive!

John Scherer

Boy do I remember that day!

Paul Kent

I’m the one with my chin in. Really in. The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.

Lance Grace

I'm right in the center of that photo - one of the taller guys in Invader Squadron. The boom had just occurred and upperclassmen are on the way to give us our first true experience of what would be going on for the next four years. Great shot!!!

Mark Holmes

Best Alive, brothers. I was privy to almost everything that was going to happen to us before Basic-except for the Cannon. That was a surprise;)

Richard Alan Finke

What a wonderful 19th birthday present for me. Being a Prep Schooler had a little idea what to expect.





Branford McAllister

50 years ago today, Wednesday, 7 July 71, was about like the previous two days after we arrived at the US Air Force Academy. Surprisingly, there was no serious harassment for the first 2 ½ days. We had upperclassmen helping us go here and there, a bit of training on forming up and marching, more measurements, more shots, more gear. But no yelling. Things were pretty calm, but there was a nagging tension in our minds, because it just felt like something else was about to happen—it just could not continue to be this pleasant. And, most of the prep schoolers knew the drill—that something cataclysmic in our lives was about to unfold, when basic cadet training (BCT) would really begin. Just, for most of us, no idea when and where.
On Wednesday, late afternoon or early evening, we were marched over to the cadet theater at Arnold Hall. As memory serves, there may have been a few speakers, but the only one I remember was Cadet Colonel William R. Looney III, the 1st BCT Cadet Commander, whom I would later get to know well in my AF career. He gave us a motivational speech, a bit about performing and motivation and challenges—the usual stuff.
I recall while sitting in the theater before and during the talks, there was the murmur of rumors about what was about to happen to us. I remember my classmate, John Loucks, whom I believe was a prep schooler, telling some of us sitting around me in the auditorium that the sh** was about to hit the fan and that hell was awaiting us out there on the Terrazzo. The anticipation, apprehension, and tension were rising.
At the end of his speech, Cadet Looney said, “Gentlemen, my detail awaits you!” Oh boy! We then got up, reformed in our squadrons outside Arnold Hall, and marched out to the Terrazzo to the usual place where our squadrons formed up in front of Vandenburg Hall, on the north side of the Terrazzo. I remember seeing an unusual number of civilians gathered up on the Chapel Wall, looking down on us, like patrons at the zoo looking at the wild animals. There was definitely a buzz in the air that evening.
We stopped, and remained formed up in our squadrons, in the same place as we did every time we formed up. But, except for the couple of upperclassmen who marched us over from Arnold Hall, there were no other cadets in sight. I thought that was a bit strange. Where was the cadre that “awaited us?” We stood there at attention for a while, and then an M-80 went off and we were given an about face. There, formed up and facing us for a split second, was the 1st BCT cadre facing us and all hell broke loose. They broke their formation and were on us like ticks on a hound. For the next hour or so we were yelled at, our posture corrected, and everything that could be said or done to us happened in that short time span that marked the true end of our soft civilian lives and the start of our careers as cadets and future AF officers. It was the “real” start of BCT and all of the rumors came true. I was not surprised by what was happening—it was about what I expected based on the rumors and my experience with the USMC two summers previously. So, I knew to just take the harassment and go with it, not to take it personally, and realize it was just part of the process. The nervous tension that existed for almost three days was replaced by the constant fear of screwing up and the expectations of max performance.
Well, that was day 3 of BCT. And, I remember thinking, “OMG, six more weeks of this in BCT and then another whole year of it—this is going to be a long stretch.” Which it was.




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