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United States Air Force Academy

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United States Air Force Academy
Established 1 April 1954
Type Federal military academy
Endowment $23.7 Million[1]
Superintendent Lt Gen Michael C. Gould
Admin. staff 600 (approx.) faculty
75% military, 25% civilian
Undergraduates 4,417 cadets
(max. set by Congress)
Location North of
Colorado Springs
, Colorado, United States of America
Campus Air Force base,
18,000 acres (73 km2)
Nickname Fighting Falcons
Colors Blue and Silver
Mascot The Bird

The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA or Air Force)[Note 1] is an American military college. It was created in 1954. The Acadey is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of people who want to be officers for the United States Air Force. The college is north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County. The Academy's goal is "to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation."[2] It is the youngest of the five United States service academies. The Academy had its first graduation in 1959. Graduates of the Academy's four-year program get a Bachelor of Science degree. Most become second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.[3]

The Academy is one of the largest tourist attractions in Colorado. More than a million people visit it each year.[2] Students are called "cadets".

The Air Force Academy is one of the most selective colleges in the United States. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked it tied for 5th place in the category Undergraduate Engineering Programs.[4] Forbes magazine, in 2009, ranked the Academy the #2 public college in the United States and the #7 college overall in its "America's Best Colleges 2009" publication.[5] People wanting to study at the Academy are judged on their academic achievement, leadership, athletics and character. They must pass a fitness test, pass a medical examination, and be nominated by the member of Congress where they live. Recent classes have had about 1,400 cadets. Normally, under 1,000 of the cadets will graduate.[6] The cost of going to the Academy, Housing and food are paid for by the U.S. government. Cadets are paid monthly while at the Academy but they must be a part of the military for a number of years after they graduate.[7]

The program at the Academy is based on the Air Force's core values. These are "Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do".[2] They are also based on four "pillars of excellence": military training, academics, athletics and character development.[2] Cadets study military training and large curriculum in engineering, humanities, social sciences, basic sciences, military studies and physical education. All cadets take part in athletics. The academy has a character development and leadership curriculum.


The National Security Act of 1947 started the Air Force within the United States military. Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington made an agreement where up to 25% of West Point and Annapolis graduates could ask to become officers in the new Air Force. This was only meant to happen for a short time. Disagreements between the parts of the military led to the creation of the Service Academy Board. It was created by Secretary of Defense James Forrestal. In January 1950, the Service Academy Board was controlled by Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the president of Columbia University at the time. The board said that the two U.S. service academies were not able to train enough officers for the Air Force. They decided that an air force academy was needed.[8] President Eisenhower signed a law on 1 April 1954 to begin building the Air Force Academy.

On 7 October 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed a law that let women study at the United States service academies. On 26 June 1976, 157 women went to the Air Force Academy. . On 28 May 1980, 97 of them finished the program and graduated from the Academy. They made up about 10% of the graduating class. Women now make up about 20% of the classes.[6]

The first Honor scandal happened in 1965. A cadet who was leaving the Academy said that more than 100 cadets had been part of a cheating ring. One hundred and nine cadets had to leave the Academy. Cheating scandals were at the Academy again in 1967, 1972, 1984, 2004.[9] and 2007. After each scandal, the Academy tried to learn why the cheating took place. They also looked at complaints that the academic system put too much pressure on the cadets. Changes were made to try to reduce the events from happening again.

In 2005, there were complaints that some Evangelical Christian cadets and staff were trying to convert others to their religion at the Academy.[10] Because of this and how the Air Force deals other religious issues, Academy graduate Michael L. Weinstein filed a lawsuit against the Air Force.[11][12]


  1. Unlike the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, which are often referred to by their respective city names, the Air Force Academy is not normally referred to as "Colorado Springs."


  1. Financial Statements
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "A Quick Look at the U.S. Air Force Academy, , "USAFA Fact Sheet, May 2008
  3. Since 1959, cadets have also been able to "cross-commission" into the Army, Navy or Marine Corps, and each year a small number of graduates does so, usually in a one-for-one "trade" with similarly inclined cadets at the other service academies. Foreign cadets and graduates who have lost their medical qualification for commissioning while at the Academy (a small number each year) may receive a degree but are not commissioned.
  4. USNWR web site.
  5., America's Best Colleges (2009), Retrieved Aug. 19, 2009.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Air Force Academy Admissions Web site, last visited Mar. 22, 2007.
  7. The commitment is normally five years of active duty and three years of reserves, although it has varied. The obligation attaches on the first day of a cadet's second class (junior) year, and non-graduates after that point are expected to fulfill their obligations in enlisted service.
  8. Steven A. Simon, "A Half-Century of History," Fifty Years of Excellence: Building Leaders of Character for the Nation, 2004.
  9. Erin Emery, 19 AFA Cadets Admit Cheating, Denver Post, Feb. 8, 2007 In April 2004, cadets were given a military knowledge test over the computer in cadet dorms. An estimated 265 cadets were questioned for cheating then, when academy officials noticed it took only three minutes for cadets to take a 25-question test. Several cadets resigned during the investigation.
  10. Zealots at the Air Force Academy, editorial, New York Times, Jun. 11, 2005
  11. Weinstein's 2006 book With God on Our Side (ISBN 0-312-36143-2) details the alleged proselytization and harassment at the Academy.
  12. Air Force Sued over Religion, CBS News, Oct. 6, 2005.

Further reading

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Coordinates: 38°59′25″N 104°51′30″W / 38.99028°N 104.85833°W / 38.99028; -104.85833