Memories of...Our Last Night as Civilans and First Days as Basic Cadets

Jim Carlson







Happy Anniversary '75ers, 34 years ago, I checked out of my room at the Rodeway Inn in Colorado Springs and boarded a bus for the Academy for in-processing as a Basic Cadet, 5 July 1971. Between the fireworks the night before, my soon-to-be classmates playing ice-cube hockey in the halls, and being gone from my family for the first time, I got maybe an hour's worth of sleep.

I remember that first day as a little bewildering, but all-in-all not too bad. Lunch at Mitch's was actually pretty good. I ate what I thought were the biggest and best tasting hamburgers ever. And the upperclassman that was leading my group around seemed really nice. We sat at our table and gazed all over the place as we had our first meal together. I thought to myself, "This doesn't seem too hard. I think I could really like this place!"

A few days later, after the M-80 round went off and the-world-as-I-knew-it turned upside down, I wanted more than anything else to curl up into a tiny ball and be as far away from that place as physically possible! Why was everybody shouting? And why at me?

It was another 3 weeks (when we marched into Jack's Valley) before I got over the initial shock of being a doolie and knowing why we were called “squats” (because our physical training consisted mainly of squat thrusts) and “smacks.”

I've often fantasized over the years what my life would've been like if I had never gone to the Academy. Who knows? But one thing I'm sure of – if I had never stepped off the bus at the BOR 34 years ago, I would never have met the finest, most decent people that I have ever known. People who carried my rifle when I started to fall back during a run; people who always checked "my six" in-flight; people who chose to serve when the rest of the nation was indifferent; people in whose company made me want to be a better human being and excel in everything I do; people who have remained my friends for life – my classmates. May the next 34 years be enriching and fulfilling for each of you!

'75 Best Alive! (July 2005)

Scott Smith

"smacks" – the sound a WAD made each time he hit the wall when an upperclassman walked by (followed by "By your leave, Sir!")  

"WAD" – Wise-Ass-Doolie  

"Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down" (July 2005)

Branford McAllister

Interesting — several of us from So Cal stayed in the Rodeway Inn with you. We ate dinner at some exclusive restaurant on Academy Blvd on the 4th. Then, we boarded the bus the next morning. There were 4 of us: Henney, McGirr, Fedderson, and me. (July 2005)

John Sims

I remember my first roommate in BCT. The draft lottery was held a day or so after we arrived. With a high number, he resigned immediately. The only price he paid was getting the haircut. I tried to talk him out of it, but he made it clear that evading the draft was the only reason he was there. (July 2005)

Mike Gudmundson

I think Jim remembers more than I do about those first days. I was in shock for much longer. (Traumatic Stress Disorder?) One memory I had of those early times was about how crazy it seemed that young men wanting to fly were shooting pop bottle rockets at each other in the hotel parking lot the day before they entered the AFA. (July 2005)

Chip Kirby

Well said Jim, and I have similar fond (and terrifying) memories. (July 2005)

Curt Osterheld




Well said! I share the sentiments exactly. Truthfully, a lot of the Wisconsin cadets stayed in the less-than-glamorous small motels on Nevada Avenue. Three of us hitch-hiked in, and got a ride with a Staff Sergeant who worked in Harmon Hall. But the larger question of: "What if we hadn't gotten off at the BOR?" really hits home. I shudder to think of the alternative. Probably a lackluster college life at the University of Wisconsin...True, our school wasn't for everybody. Thank God. Thanks for reinvigorating those memories of the day my life changed. (July 2005)

Perry Lamy




Your email provides a great reminder of that Monday morning in Colorado. Of all the important dates, memories, and milestones that come with a 30 year career in the military – only two dates with respect to my time in the military stay forever etched in my conscious: 5 Jul 71 and 4 Jun 75. 

None of the other 363 days of any year evokes a second consideration – not for Promotions, First Solo, Change of Commands – no other! These dates will forever be special until that final trip back to the Academy.

Waking up this morning, my first thought (I am at home on 2 weeks leave which gives me plenty of time to reflect) was, "Today is the 5th of July." Followed immediately by memories of my last night as a civilian at the Ramada Inn, the bus ride to the BOR, the haircut, getting and carrying all that stuff around in two laundry bags, and those hamburgers for lunch, the courtesy of the upper class. . . and the start of a personal epic!

No words can adequately describe this 34-year ride . . . except perhaps Augustus McCrae's dying words to Woodrow Call from Lonesome Dove: "Doggone Woodrow, it's been quite a party."

I will forever feel that Woodrow Call's allegiance to his word, by carrying out the wishes of his best friend (to be buried back in Texas), is the attitude that permeates our class and this special bunch of guys who shared that initiation into a great adventure.

See you at the reunion! Happy anniversary and "75 Best Alive." (July 2005)

Bill Lyerly




Your reminiscing about our first days at the Zoo has also brought back memories for me, but some not so positive as yours. Not until after graduating from high school in June 1971, did I finally find out that I had received an appointment to USAFA, and was ordered to report on 5 July 1971.

Therefore, in mid-June, I flew out to Seattle to visit an old girlfriend whose father had been transferred out to Seattle during my senior year. I had an absolutely great next 2 weeks – boating on the Puget Sound and just enjoying being with my "old flame" ("the calm before the storm").

Then, on the evening of 3 July, I had to tear myself away from the great times in Seattle to fly down to C-Springs. However, within just a few hours of landing in C-Springs and checking into my hotel to get some sleep, I began getting extremely ill. As it turned out, I had received a really bad case of food poisoning on the plane to C-Springs.

On the early morning of the 4th, I was rushed to the Academy, where they pumped my stomach at the "Cadet Clinic" (down by the Bring Me Men ramp).

Thus, I had the distinction of being the VERY FIRST member of the Class of 1975 to "use" the USAFA Cadet Clinic – less than 24 hours before we were scheduled to report at o'dark-thirty on July the 5th. IT WAS AN OMEN. I was so dehydrated on the 5th that I could hardly walk, but I was still one of the very first members of the Class of 1975 to report in around 6am on July the 5th.

I still often wonder what my life would have been like had I heeded "the OMEN" – and I always come up with both very strong pros and cons. But as you state – the pros always include the great group of people, like yourself, that I had the pleasure to meet and bond with during our 4 years at the Zoo.

I enjoyed spending the evening of the 4th with you yesterday and assisting you, Al, and Pogo to celebrate our INDEPENDENCE DAY together. We often tend to forget how so fortunate we are to be able to do so – I have seen so many people around the world who are unable to claim any degree of independence from corrupt and/or homicidal regimes. We actually do have so much to be thankful for.

Cheers and best wishes. (July 2005)

David Clough




You [Jim Carlson] and I are like bookends. I think I had more military experience prior to 5 Jul 1971 than you – and yet you have had one hell of a lot more genuine, for-real "lock and load, rock and roll" military experience after 4 Jun 1975 than me. I had 5 years of Civil Air Patrol to learn about the Air Force and its history – how to wear a uniform, salute, march (parade ground and long multi-day road marches), participate in search-and-rescue in the field, attend numerous leadership schools and encampments at AF Bases, fly (private pilot in high school), and so forth. A year at University of Nebraska gave me a head start on academics. Air Force ROTC and Pershing Rifles there taught me manual of arms, drill team, unarmed combat, patrolling and more importantly, day-to-day interaction with real, live active duty troops. All that, and even knowing that the boom would drop sooner or later, when:

A few days later, after the M-80 round went off and the world as I knew it turned upside down, I wanted more than anything else to curl up into a tiny ball and be as far away from that place as physically possible! Why was everybody shouting? And why at me? I knew why. I knew what to do. It was still a huge experience.

Others, like Sam Edgar and Bill Stich in CS-14, had prior active duty experience. Bill was even an SP in the missile field. It didn't look any easier for them in BCT than for the rest of us.

The BCT experience was personalized and customized to make sure we all hit bottom emotionally. Someone far smarter than me said that "when you fall off a cliff it doesn't matter how far you fall – you will be at terminal velocity when you hit the ground." Back then, we were allowed to mentally rebuild ourselves under stress.

Just as forging or tempering steel produces a stronger alloy, we became more durable and capable, after 1 to 4 years, than before. Classmates like John Sims show how effective, and permanent, the BCT experience was.

If I could do it over again, I would at the drop (or toss) of a hat. Indeed, '75 Best Alive! (July 2005)

Scott Smith




Thanks for the reminder of when it all started. In fact, I wouldn't have the lovely family I have today if not for the Academy. (Yep...met her at a cadet party, married at the Chapel two days after graduation). Jul 5, 1971: Dink Yurko, myself and one other guy [old timer's moment] from the Col Ferrari (ALO) group arrived on the 4th together on the Old Continental and rode a cab along a gravel road (later Academy Boulevard and Powell Road) to the Ramada next to the Hungry Farmer.

Spent the Fourth of July at the Old Dublin House shooting off bottle rockets (at each other!?!) and eating ice cream from the Old Shamrock gas station. Sadly only the Ramada and Hungry Farmer remain as was [Hungry Farmer closed Nov 2003]. Thankfully, we haven't. God bless miracles. (July 2001)

Perry Lamy





I was reading the email messages you received on the web site and seeing Goody Gudmundson's reference to bottle rockets. I couldn't help recalling this story from 4 years ago when Scott Smith mentioned taking part in the bottle rocket fight. Ours began in the parking lot of the Old Dublin House and migrated back to the parking lot of the Ramada. Anyway, the story below from the Lamy archives. '75 Best Alive (July 2005)

Reading through my large batch of email and updates from Jim Carlson, I came across your recollection of those first days in C-Springs . . . the Ramada and Dublin House caught my eye. I've told the story about shooting bottle rockets many times but could never remember who was there. I arrive with the NH "delegation" on Saturday, 3 Jul . . . we flew from Boston's Logan Airport. In the group (about 7 of us as I recall) were Dale Smith, Mark Stickney, John Ladieu, a guy named Wadsack (boy, did he catch hell!), a couple of other guys, and me. The NH parents group had arranged for us to stay at the Ramada Inn until Monday. As I recall, there were bunch of other guys staying there as well.

On Sunday afternoon, a couple of us hitchhiked to the Academy . . . a 2-degree and his "girlfriend" picked us up on I-25 and drove us to the cadet area. The 2-degree had to report back in from his privilege (we would see him again in a couple of days) and left us in the able hands of his "girlfriend" (bad call!). The "girlfriend" showed us the sights and then drove us back to the Ramada Inn. She decided to hang around with us . . . one of our classmates was already playing out the definition of "bird dog" . . . although since we were not yet cadets, I guess it wasn't technically a "bird dog."

Somehow we must have hooked up with you guys, because that night (4th of July) we were at the Old Dublin House in the bottle rocket fight! I think the "girlfriend" was the source of transportation. Anyway, I'll always remember the bottle rocket war in the parking lot because I got hit in the head with one of the bottle rockets . . . just above my right eye. Unbelievable how close I came to getting hurt and ending my AF career before it even started . . . but we were young (17 for me!) and carefree. I remember getting back to the Ramada and someone having some beer or liquor with the suggestion of an all-night party . . . or last night of freedom, so to speak . . . but I turned in. The next morning, aghast, we found out that one in our travel group and the "girlfriend" had spent the night together!!!! We were horrified at the consequences of running into the cadet boyfriend and being fingered as one of the group. We did see him during 1st BCT several times, as a matter of fact, but nothing ever came of it. I hope this sparks some additional memories about our last night as young civilians! (August 2001)

Scott Smith

Perry, thanks a zillion for "filling in the gaps." One of the unfortunate things I have realized over time is how focused I was on the future and not on the present. That has involved me with numerous foibles over time; most specifically, not being able to remember when and where I met friends along the way. Perry, I always knew you were one of the first "other" smacks I met, but could never remember when and how. My apologies to all those along the way I met and could not remember. I'm past embarrassment now and simply ask when we meet. (Even Roy Rice, one of the first drummers I met in the "Beaters and Blowers," has been kind enough to reconnect that synapse (sp?) for me. I do remember all the rest.) I can only hope this is not the early signs of "old-timers," but instead a final maturation. Perhaps it's really the realization of how important it is to "stop and smell the roses along the way." Each one of you has helped me to be the person I am. For that, I am eternally thankful. Thank YOU for the memory. (August 2001)

Kelley Bishop




Ah, yes, July 5, 1971. What a day! I remember it like it was yesterday.

I remember flying into C-Springs, solo I might add. [I did not know that would be a big deal in the future]. Stayed in the hotel on south Academy Drive, the Galaxy or Solar System or something. I was pretty nervous, except my oldest brother had attended Annapolis and I knew I was smarter and tougher than he was. He struggled through all four years and almost got kicked out in April of his firstie year.

Anyway, I digress. Did not know anyone or meet any other classmates until the bus ride to the "zoo." I remember thinking the place looked like an old medieval castle as we drove up the winding road around the south side of the parade field. Got out at the good old "BOTR" with the "Bring Me Men" sign and started the day. [What does it say today?]

Do not remember the name but after all the in processing garbage my first roommate never showed. Bright golden name tag and all by the door and he never shows. Geeeeeezzzzz. Bad omen.

I remember Arnold Hall and reforming on the terrazzo. Suddenly, there was a mass of blue suits underneath the old dorm (read Vandenberg Hall) who marched smartly out at us. With the loud signal they started the hazing and yelling. I was never so glad to be in the middle of the doolie squadron (CS-18). Hardly got touched.

But by the end of the night I was sick to my stomach. Reported smartly and sharply to the cadet muckity muck in charge of me. They arranged for me to go to the hospital where I was examined by the DOD's best medical staff ..... the result....nothing wrong, just send him back.

AAAhhhhhhhhh. No!!!! At least find a hang-nail or something. Needless to say, from Command Post back to CS-18 I was harassed by every upper classman that I ran into. God finally saved me as I had a sudden urge to hurl. Best news is I lived right by the latrine. It was a manly sight and I felt much better and rejoined the rest of the "Best Alivers" for the remainder of four glorious years.

Thank God for snow and skiing. (July 2001)

John Quattrocki




I flew in on the Continental Chicago to LA flt #72 (with a stop in Colorado Springs) with Tom Finn, my high school classmate. The plane landed on runway 35 (or so) and so when they opened the door to the stairs (no jet-way then) we were looking right at Pikes Peak and were greeted by the hottest/driest wind a kid from Chicago who had only ever traveled to Iowa and Arkansas, had ever known/felt.

We ate at Pizza Hut or some such that night and as promised/directed by our LO, stepped out on the street the next morning and found an Academy bus within minutes; through the South gate and up to the ramp ... "Bring Me Men ..." took my one piece of luggage and placed it by a placard with the letter "Q" under Vandenberg (in just about the same spot I would "earn" 7 tours for PDA two years later) and then headed off to a line for the infirmary and some in-processing check-up where the upper-class were hanging off the terrazzo and telling us – in clear and unambiguous terms – it was "not too late" to turn around and go home.

More in-processing ... could not believe my good fortune with the slide rule and the CRCs they gave us ... underwear, underwear, and more underwear ... lots of green ... haircut; Six barbers; NO WAITING.

Jaguar Squadron, hmmm, that works ... and then, in turn, introduced to Dave Niebes (BCT roommate) Mike Winck ("haaaa, Mike Winck ... ya know, like the soft drink! ...") and Bob Hickox and Garshelis and Glushko (have you HEARD the new Bob Dylan album? ... uh, NO) and Bruce (get some balls in your voice!) Hopkins and Dave Livingston from "...near Wright-Pat ..." (do tell, what does THAT mean?) and Bruce Murphy (let's talk about Arkansas ... or not) and Rob Morgan (I was thinking of going to William and Mary to play lacrosse; well which is it William or Mary? not in the Big Ten so who knew from William or Mary) and Chip Ward (my brother plays football for Army; I am here to golf) and Bill Davis (let me get this right, you were two years away from graduating at USC ROTC and you did WHAT?) and Rich Dulin (GOOD, someone taller than me and HE can march/walk at the head of the Flt.) and Don Snelgrove and Joey and Barry (hmmm, about that P school ...) ... and ... Jack, Jack Shine; good I can just hide in HIS considerable shadow ... and on and on and ... just a bunch of great guys ... all of them.

Wow, just that quickly it turned to night ... so far so good; no restrictions that I could tell on how to walk ... tooling across the terrazzo seemed acceptable ... low ground lights framed the windowed SARs on the terrazzo level of Vandenberg ... upper class seemed friendly enough; so far so good ... who was this Galligan guy they were all talking about and could the stories about this guy 'Olds' from THEIR rookie years really be true?

Honor code briefing in one of those SARs on that first night ... or next....but by 37 years ago last night (the Wednesday night of first week), it all changed; William R. Looney III came out on that stage at Arnies and then sent out us out to terrazzo to meet 'his' upperclass ... hmmm ... no more 'toolin'; clearly ... jeez, those guys look serious .. and what is that high pitched sound coming from behind and well above the planetarium? ... and why is everyone now yelling so much ...Thursday, 08 July 71 ...

Dave Burford





I clearly remember falling-in in front of the Old Dorm and our being posed for the news service pic. I'm sure this was B Flt (doolies destined for 11th Squadron) but not sure who else from COUGAR was included. It looks to me like only 3 Flights are present.

I don't recall anything about the BCT Stardust flight other than the flight itself. I think that the cadet in the "Special Attention" photo is our esteemed Fred Weems but I could be mistaken.

Here is a quick COUGAR remembrance:

1. One of the cadre (either during in-processing or beginning of first detail) had a musical bent:

In the morning we were to sing (to the Kellogg jingle):

Good Morning
Good Morning
The best to you each morning
Cougars best to you

2. Somebody thought this was so good that we also were required to sing (to the Nestle's jingle)

Cougars are the very best
sssmack wads

What I don't recall is just what the cues were for us to sing these ditties.

Best Alive!

Dean Cox




When I first reported in to the Academy, I was sent to my BCT squadron. When I got to the dorm room door, I saw “Cox, M.E.” on the door tag. I thought, “They got my name tag wrong. I'm Cox, M.D.” Then I went in and met Michael E. Cox. I figured I was sent to the wrong squadron (I was) and had to find someone to point me in the right direction. I did and found I was really in Cougars and my roommate was Eddie Albright. Michael and I eventually discovered there was another Cox in the class – Gary Cox (big guy). We were always in separate squadrons, but kept our eyes out for each other as we went through the zoo. Mike later died on active duty in an F-4 crash.

I remember the first time I stood in formation for the lowering of the flag that summer of 1971. I saw the flag flying against a crystal clear sky, realized I was in a national institution, literally the best my country could produce, and felt such awe and respect and determination that I promised myself that I would do my very best to not let my country down. I had tears in my eyes from just being a part of that otherwise routine event.

Hoss Erving




I suddenly recalled an episode in the first meal during Beast after the M-80 demo one balmy evening in July of '71 . . . there I was . . . It was the evening meal, as I recall, and I was sitting quietly at the table with 7 classmates and 2 guidance counselors at the head of the table, enjoying the jocular banter amongst my comrades-in-arms, when it occurred to me that some of my fellow new recruits were desiring some of the sumptuous fare presented to us by the hard working chefs in Mitch's. Having arrived somewhat hurriedly at the table, I had somehow neglected to determine the senior cadet's national and ancient family heritage: this would shortly prove to have enormous consequences on my caloric consumption that night.

Being a quick learner, I had determined the proper method of attracting attention to myself was to extend one's fist out over the table and wait for an enthusiastic response from either of the aforementioned guidance counselors at the head of the table. Soon, my turn to state my request was granted. I must interject at this point that I was raised in south Texas in the 60's – not that Texas wasn't a great place to live and experience other cultures – it's just that most of the other culture I had experienced up this point in my life involved jalapeno peppers, tortillas, garlic, onions, and shooting dove from the back of a pickup truck on my way home from football practice. As the senior cadet acknowledged my presence and solicited my question, I initially failed to realize that Cadet First Class James V. Ojala (pronounced “O-juh-luh”) was not from a culture or family lineage associated with any of the above.

I quickly realized this oversight when most of the arteries in Cadet Ojala's forehead burst as I pronounced his name as I was accustomed, given my south Texas upbringing (the "j" in Spanish is pronounced as an "h"). I, well in tune with my Spanish lingo, addressed him as Cadet "Oh-halla." In the 3 nanoseconds it took me to realize that he was definitely NOT of Mexican heritage, I also realized he could very easily have passed for Thor's stunt double, complete with bleach-blonde hair, Norwegian blue eyes, steely jaw, and the hammer of thunder welded by lightning strike to his wrist, with which he promptly smote me mightily about the head and shoulders, thereby relieving all classmates at the table from further guidance counselor attention for the rest of the meal. Needless to say, I didn't get to sample much of Mitch's finest that night, but the episode did serve me well in starting down the path of cultural diversity appreciation.

Mark Volcheff





I’ll share my first memories of my arrival at the Academy, but they don’t match some of those that are almost hard to believe. Not being from a military background, my only contact with the Academy as I prepared for my arrival, was through my local Academy liaison officer.

At the last get together before heading off, I met another Academy bound member of the Class of 75 – Mark Donnelly. I did not have the privilege of having parents bring me to the Academy – so Mark, whom I didn’t really know at all, planned to arrive the evening of July 4th, split a room with me at a hotel somewhere on I-25 (that has probably changed owners 14 times since) and then head to the Academy first thing on the 5th. For some reason I decided to head for Colorado Springs (from Phoenix) later than Mark. I probably wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend whom I had no expectation would blow me off after Christmas doolie year, but many of us experienced that.

As I recall, the aircraft was also delayed in arriving but I got to the hotel probably about midnight, got my key at the desk (remember Mark Donnelly and I had agreed to split the cost of the room) and low and behold when I opened the door, the place was pitch black and there were bodies everywhere, including one sleeping in the tub as I recall. Mark always had a big heart (later a Presidential pilot for Air Force One as you know) and generously offered his (our) room to those of you who failed to plan ahead and get a room. So having gotten in so late, and my twin bed “given away” to a needy classmate, I grabbed a bath towel to lay on and spent a very short night on a very hard floor to start my ordeal the next day.

That next day was a blur – I remember the haircut, the shots, the placard hanging around my neck with all my sizes that were 2 sizes too small, duffle bags everywhere and meeting my new roomo, J.P. Violette, a California surfer dude whom I don’t think lasted through the summer. (July 2008)

Lee Demitry




Day before entering USAFA…Dad accompanied me to C-Springs from NJ. I think we stayed at the Antlers Plaza or Four Seasons. We wandered down to the bar to get a drink and stumbled onto a lone singer with no audience. After listening for awhile, I thought to myself, this guy with the funny name may have a future. The singer was Cat Stevens.

Day of entry…After getting my buzz cut and receiving instructions on where to proceed to the dorms, I walked passed the chapel, looked up and saw my father with a group of other concerned parents. I waved to my father but there was no recognition. I then cried out, "Dad, it's me your son."  He then smiled and kind of acknowledged, but didn't really recognize me. My only thought was, "Oh my God, what am I doing here?" (July 2008)

Bill Lyerly




Reading Dan McCorry's e-mail regarding his son’s color blindness situation at USAFA brought back some real vivid memories for me. 

I too am partially color blind – but I was totally unaware until after my Academy physical exam. However, it seems as though that particular malady affects all of us differently "depending upon the whims, I mean needs, of the service." 

In late May of 1971, two weeks before I was to report to Annapolis with my appointment to the US Naval Academy, I was called at my home in Frederick. MD and was instructed to report ASAP to the USNA medical Clinic "in order to complete some purely routine paperwork" so that they could finalize my USNA Class of 1975 entrance packet. It turned out that some of my medical test results were not in my USNA files. As a shock to me, (again, less that 2 weeks before my US Naval Academy reporting date, and after I had already turned down a USMA Class of 75 appointment and a scholarship to Georgia Tech) and having not known before that point that I had any color vision problem, I ended up failing all of the Navy's various color blindness tests. I then immediately had my appointment to USNA revoked. 

Standing in front of a large model of a (I think it was a) Navy destroyer (all that I recall was that it was real big and grey) I was told by the USNA Clinic Director, a Navy Captain, that "because all of our ships in the US Navy have green lights along their starboard sides and red lights along their port sides, if I were in the Navy and color blind at night while on watch that I would not be able to distinguish as to whether a ship was coming or going..." Well, that was not very comforting news to me (especially since I knew that Roger Staubach was color blind, but that minor technicality was apparently overlooked for him by USNA...) 

However, here comes the "destiny" part – I was then informed by the Master Chief at the USNA Clinic that there were recent changes and that our incoming USAFA Class of 1975 would be the very first class at USAFA to be allowed to admit a few select cadets, already knowing that they already were not medically qualified to become pilots – i.e., with previously disqualifying medical conditions, such as color blindness. (I had not even considered applying to USAFA as I had known that my eye sight was 20/40 and that I consequently had been told the year before that I "shouldn't even think about" an appointment to USAFA). 

Thus, after returning home from the USNA Clinic "experience," I immediately sent telegrams to each of my congressmen and senators describing my new situation. Luckily for me, just a couple days before our 5 July 1971 report date, I did receive my USAFA appointment... Ironically (and possibly an omen of things to come), I then immediately flew out to C-Springs on the evening of 3 July and contracted a real bad case of food poisoning on the Continental flight (it was the shrimp pasta) and ended up spending much of that 4th of July getting my stomach pumped out as the "very first member of our Class of 1975" to use the USAFA Cadet Clinic... Thus, my "journey to USAFA" in 1971 started at the USNA Clinic and ended up two weeks later at the USAFA Clinic. 

PS: Four years later, during our Firstie year when many of us were having our "USAF career choices" amended due to the "Academy female" issue, color blindness DID keep me out of "Missiles."  It is just amazing how things can usually turn out for the better... (February 2009)

Dave White




The thing I remember most was getting on the Academy bus at the C-Springs airport and walking down the aisle to the open seat in back.  I looked left and right at all the square-jawed, clean-cut examples of young America's finest – and it scared the hell out of me!  It suddenly dawned on me that this wasn't just a school; it was a very competitive situation and that I had better get my act together in a big hurry if I wanted to play.

By the way, later that year, I made the mistake of telling my AOC that I wasn't really interested in all that officer stuff, just wanted to be a pilot. The resulting 90-minute "counseling session" convinced me to never say that again to an officer! (July 2008)

Robert Hickcox

My parents just took me to the airport and said good bye. I remember some nice upper classmen yelling "Go back" as we lined up at the clinic for our first step – shots! (24 June 2015)

Brian Bouffard

John "Omar" Sherriff and I met each other before that dreaded first day at the Academy at Hungry Farmer (I think?). Then we ended up in the same squadron – I think that helped ease the shock of those first few days.

Joe Rogers




July 5, 1971 was a big day for me too – as for everybody in the class I am sure. I got on a Delta jet in Columbia, SC that morning to fly to Denver. On the way I changed planes in Chicago, and I ran into a guy who looked about as anxious as I felt. I went over to ask if he was going to the Academy and he said he was, so we made the rest of the trip together. The funniest part of this was that this guy was John Charlton, who was in my BCT squadron (Guts) and who ended up being my roommate (along with Mickey Clemons) in CS-26 first semester. We got to Denver and for some reason decided to take a taxi from there to the Academy. It cost a fortune and we were still late and it took me a while to pay John back for my half, since the money I had on me probably ran out about 1/4 of the way there. We got to the "Bring Me Men" ramp and lost our civilian clothes, our hair, got some great new USAFA t-shirts, and started the journey.

That night I was eating in Mitchell Hall with a bunch of other Guts guys and some "real" Cadets (I found out later they were the class of '74) stopped by the table to tell us to eat up, since it was probably our last meal. The next day was a blur to me, along with the week or so after that, but I had a good guy for a BCT roommate – Charlie Parsons – and somehow I managed not to get killed or sent to K squadron. 2nd BCT for me was a lot better than 1st. I enjoyed the Valley except for the tear gas. I enjoyed shooting at the rifle range, the obstacle courses, even the pugil sticks. I liked land navigation even though the night problem we did was during such a hard rain that it wasn't quite as much fun as it would have been on a nice dry night. Probably my best BCT memory was lying in the grass at night watching a movie (I have no idea what the movie was). At least at that point it was just a really great camping trip. I think often about being there and sometimes have wondered if it was real. It was so long ago, and for me ended after one year, and so much has happened since then. I really enjoy reading the email updates from classmates – whether I knew them or not. Thanks for keeping everybody together this way, and thanks for letting us non-grads be part of the group.

Bob Gambrell


I thought about 5 July 1971 earlier today when I heard a golden oldies radio program mention the top 5 songs on 5 July 1971 – I thought back to where I was that day and remembered how starry-eyed I was as I saw the Academy reservation and the Cadet Area for the first time. I remember thinking I would never want to leave such a magnificent place – then two days later I was ready to get the heck out of there!

Jim Carlson




37 years ago today, we took a momentous step that forever altered the direction or our lives. Only 1404 young American men were given the unique challenge and opportunity of entering the Air Force Academy with the Class of 1975. For all 1404 of us, those first few days are certainly ineluctably seared into our memories. I had absolutely no clue what was ahead of me this day 37 years ago. I was both scared and excited. I was proud to be the first in my family to make it to college – but the prospect of attending a military institution and undergoing a curriculum shared by only the service academies (and seen by me in bits and pieces in movies) had me bewildered and more than a little shaken – especially with the thought that being screamed at by total strangers was a strong possibility. But I figured that after the first day, the yelling would stop, life on campus would settle into a routine, and I'd wear the parade uniform that I saw in the high school propaganda film (minus the falcon resting on the arm) to classes, and to town in the evenings.

As I said, I had no clue. When that M-80 went off behind us, and the newly arrived BCT cadre (in shiny and impressive Service Alpha) ran through us in ranks, I could only hear the loud pulsing and thrumming of my bloodstream in my ears, and the muffled chaos of every upperclassman around us suddenly gone mad and fully intent on killing each and every one of us violently, in public, and in thoroughly horrible fashion. I knew at that point that I was in the wrong place – that I wanted to be somewhere else – and if it was possible to shrink and become invisible, I'd do it. I remember imagining nothing could be more frightening than waiting for an upperclassman to eventually get to me as they worked themselves down the line. For a minute, it seemed time had slowed down and everyone was in slow-motion. Until one of those upperclassmen reached me. I don't remember what it was he yelled at me – I remember I squeaked in response. That only seemed to make him angrier. I squeaked again – I was so scared, my voice was 2 octaves higher than normal. After an eternity of saying "Yes sir!" until I got my 19-year old voice back, I ended up running in place, getting my arms parallel to the ground, and being yelled at to get my knees up higher and higher. I thought my heart would burst out of terror. After a few minutes (which my time sense registered as forever), it was all over. We were called to attention, and we all fell back into ranks. I looked straight ahead and locked every bone in my body – there was no way I was going to catch another upperclassman's attention. Our BCT squadrons were finally dismissed and our new Element Leader and Element Sergeant either marched us to the meal or back to our rooms. That was the first day of a journey that for me at the time was both unrelentingly awful and incomprehensible. But that journey had its milestones – milestones that gave me a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration.

1. The transition from 1st BCT to 2nd BCT (where my squadron, GUTS, was top squadron, just edging out F Troop).

2. The end of 2nd BCT with the civilized march back from Jack's Valley.

3. The Acceptance Parade when we became members of the Cadet Wing and got our shoulder boards.

4. Spirit Missions during football season.

5. Recognition, when we got our prop & wings (April 15, 1972, tax day, the earliest to date back then that doolies got recognized).

6. Watching '72 graduate, knowing I'd get 3-degree shoulder boards.

7. (2-degree year was a blur to me though . . . except for buying the car).

8. Getting my firstie shoulder boards after '74 graduated.

9. Sitting in Falcon Stadium and waiting for the order, "Gentlemen, you are dismissed!"

As I often say, when I think back on those days, I am thankful for the fine classmates who were with me in the phases of my journey through USAFA – without you, I would never have made it. This was always a group mission. No one makes it through solo. We entered as a class in name, but left there as a class in spirit and camaraderie. Here we are, 37 years later, still connected, still proud of each others' accomplishments, and unhesitatingly referring to one another, when talking to others outside the group, as the best friends we ever made. If time is a test of friendships, I think we're doing quite well. Here's to the Class of '75! Best Alive! (July 2008)

Rich Finke

I entered the Academy on this day in 1971 on my 19th birthday. What a birthday present!

Al Bready




Thanks for the memories! Since you asked ....... We've all heard of 4H Clubs but few have experienced (or perhaps even heard of) the 6H Club. The 6H Club would hold meetings on a dry, dusty patch of soil and rock in Jacks Valley usually about 5 minutes after the evening meal. I met there frequently during the summer of '71 with other charter members. The 6H Club you may ask ...... Happy Harry's Hellacious Horizontal Half Hour. The members of this elite club thought of adding a 7th "H" for "Hurling" but decided not to because, on occasion, not all of us had the pleasure of tasting our meal twice during the meeting!

Richard Kennard

Breaaaaaaaddddddyyyy! Hi, Al. I have great memories of you and the time I spent at USAFA. I still remember at BCT when your squadron trotted onto the "intramurder" field to play mine ("I" Squadron - Invaders), and hearing y'all chant in cadence, "Invalids squat to pee, Invalids squat to pee!"

Ted Thompson


Jim Carlson was not the last one accepted to USAFA for our class. I also received my appointment just two weeks prior to showing up July 4th in Colorado Springs. I cannot in good faith claim last appointed to our class though. I know there was at least one classmate (Fred Basin) who was enrolled, head shaved, etc., at West Point when his appointment to USAFA came through. He wasted no time getting to Colorado.

Fred Basin




Ted's version of my journey is mostly correct – I didn't get my head shaved at the Point – but the rest is true enough. The Point was starting before the 4th of July weekend and we started right after that. My parents had driven me there from Buffalo, NY and called home to check on things as my two older siblings had remained there. My brother informed her that the state police were looking for us and we'd also gotten a call from my state Representative asking if I wanted the USAFA appointment. My mom and I went (to the Point) to get my $300 deposit back instead of reporting in the next morning – and we promptly headed for Buffalo to make the trip to Colorado. It seems the primary had backed out at the last minute to attend a regular school. It took quite a while to get anything with my name on it. The 'rest of the story' involves my mom having a conversation with a major about why I wanted to go Air Force instead of Army – all the while he’s ignoring the long-hair (me) standing nearby. He was explaining that each person had their own preferences, when I chimed in that I wanted to fly. He looked at me with this tremendously incredulous look on his face and said "And you were going to come here???" I replied "Yeah, that's pretty far out, isn't it man?" He was speechless for a few seconds – and then bellowed "Sergeant, I need that check NOW!"

50th Anniversary Recollections

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-tale 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)

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. (7 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;)

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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