Snowflakes in the Wild Blue Yonder: The United States Air Force Academy Doesn’t Train Warriors Anymore


It had been a long time since I had visited my alma mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy, so I decided to bite the bullet and travel to my 30th reunion last October. I must admit, I did so with trepidation. I have a love/hate relationship with the place. Although I received a fantastic education and met some lifelong friends, it’s a nice place to visit, if you know what I mean.

I will say that I received top-notch military training and discipline when I went through three decades ago. In fact, the discipline that was drilled into me has served me well my entire life, giving me a leg up on my competition: once I start something, I just don’t quit, no matter the odds or barriers put in front of me. I credit USAFA for helping me to develop this ability. It is a learned skill acquired from four years of handling the academics and the professional military and athletic training.

During the Vietnam War, many prisoners of war shot down over North Vietnam credited their fourth class year at the Air Force Academy with giving them the fortitude to make it through years of confinement and torture. After all, isn’t that the basic skill of a warrior, to win against all odds?

Unfortunately, these skills are no longer being taught at USAFA. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and so have my classmates.

I realized something was horribly wrong when I arrived at the bottom of the ramp to the cadet area, which used to say “Bring Me Men” above the tunnel entrance. It was an iconic quote, and we were taught at the time that “men” meant the human race, not necessarily only the male sex of such. “I’ll meet you at the bottom of the ‘Bring Me Men’ ramp” was a routine line to girlfriends, boyfriends, parents, et cetera who came to visit their cadet at the academy. I never heard any animosity against this quote during the four years of my stay at the Blue Zoo.

Imagine my shock when I saw the quote had been changed to some PC gibberish about “Integrity First. Service Before Self. Excellence in All We Do.” Ten words! At first, I laughed at the thought of some cadet telling his civilian girlfriend to meet him at the bottom of the “Integrity First. Service Before Self. Excellence in All We Do” ramp. But after a quick laugh, I felt sadness at the loss of tradition and loss of the basic masculinity of warfare being taught at the academy. It was then I knew it was gone. I also felt alarm—if they changed this, what else have they changed? This can’t be good for the training of future Air Force warriors.

My next stop, and next horror, was walking around the cadet area with my fellow classmates from the Class of ‘86 and a few others. The place looked about the same. A monument or static aircraft display was changed here or there, and there was a strange-looking obelisk sticking out of the terrazzo near Arnold Hall, but overall, the place was the same. But there was something very, very wrong.

I couldn’t place it, but then it hit me. It was October. The fourth class cadets should not have been “recognized” yet. That meant being accepted in the ranks of the upper class and the associated privileges that come with it. This entailed walking at attention, squaring corners, greeting upperclassmen, and other general military training.

None of this was happening. They were walking at rest, not greeting anyone. Actually, they were ignoring the upperclassmen walking by. I stopped one of them and asked him, “Cadet, are you recognized yet?”

“No, we are not,” was his response. He kept walking. There was no “sir” in his response. He obviously knew I was an alumnus and former military officer. The problem was that he simply didn’t care. He didn’t care because he had been taught not to care. Military bearing was absent. Completely gone. Removed.

And then, the shock continued.

As the time started to get close to the Noon Meal Formation, where the cadets form up and march into Mitchell Hall for lunch, I again realized nothing was happening. Cadets were nonchalantly walking to the huge cafeteria where they are served all at once during the school week for lunch. I subsequently found out the formation had been cancelled due to high winds. I laughed to myself.  There wasn’t even a breeze. Wow, things really have changed.

Inside the noon meal, all former military decorum and training at the lunch table had been vaporized. There was nothing. The freshman cadets didn’t even have the civilian decency to serve their alumni guests first, not to mention any military bearing. They just took the food and ignored everyone else at the table.

It gets worse: after lunch, my colleagues walked into the academic building. Before my eyes, where there used to be formal lecture halls, was a Dunkin’ Donuts. My jaw hit the floor and I actually took a picture– I was that amazed. This was no longer a military academy; it was UCLA in uniforms.

(Courtesy L. Todd Wood)

We then visited the dorm rooms. We nonchalantly walked into one cadet’s room who had the door open, which was the custom. We asked them a few questions. They didn’t get up. They didn’t greet us formally. They just sat there. These were fourth classmen. I guarantee you that in the past, if an alum had walked into a fourth class room, the residents would be at attention within seconds and the “sirs” would be flying like birds on a high wire.

Finally, before the football game and other class-specific events, we headed to Arnold Hall to listen to a briefing from the Superintendent on what was going on at the academy. Literally, one of the first things we heard was, “Things are not as tough as they used to be.”

Really? Ya think? was my immediate reaction.

We were presented with an hour-long briefing about how cadets were being trained to be able to “function” within the bureaucracy of the regular Air Force. We heard all about the statistics of the institution—how many awards it had won, where it stood in the rankings against other colleges, how well the sports teams had done, et cetera, et cetera.

Not once did I hear the word warrior. In a flash, I got it. The academy was no longer training cadets to be Air Force warriors. They were no longer training to fight for our country and win wars. They were being trained to function in the bureaucracy. The academy was all about competing with civilian institutions in a variety of ways.

We heard about the new facilities that had been built. We heard all about the new honor chamber to discuss ethics. That happened to be the strange object poking out of the terrazzo.

When the briefing was over, I raised my hand. I had to ask the question. I simply said, “The discipline here no longer exists. Not once did I hear the word ‘warrior’ in your briefing. It seems the mission has changed. Were we no longer about ‘Fly, Fight, and Win?’”

The response I got was laced with derision at my wrong-headed thinking. “We are not here to haze people. They go to the lunch meal to eat, not get trained,” said the Superintendent, who was, by the way, in the first class of females to graduate from the academy. “We have theme rooms to talk about war,” said the commandant of cadets. Yes, he really said that. “We have mock funerals to talk about war.”

Excuse me, but what right do these new leaders of the institution have to throw away decades of training that had worked so splendidly to create warriors like Medal of Honor winner Lance Sijan, who crawled through a rock-filled landscape after being shot down in Vietnam for 46 days with compound fractures throughout his broken body until his bones protruded through his skin, only to escape twice before being killed by the enemy, all the while never giving up any classified information under torture? Do you think he learned that from a theme room? No, he learned that from a full year of military training and discipline, learning attention to detail, how not to quit, how to perform under pressure, day after day after day. That’s where he learned that.

It is obvious the Air Force Academy is no longer training warriors to lead men, or women, into battle. They are no longer into the type of training that created the greatest air force ever known to man. In fact, they are more interested in a military version of safe spaces and trigger warnings, so it seems.

As far as the other academies are concerned, I can’t speak for them. However, I have seen evidence of the same with pictures of black female cadets giving the black power salute, images of female cadets on their cell phone while marching, et cetera, et cetera.

President Obama did a very good job of weakening the institutions that made our military and country great. Military academies are not made to “compete” with other civilian universities. They have a special purpose. I very much hope President-Elect Trump and his appointees can reverse this pathetic trend. Our children’s future depends on it.

L. Todd Wood is an OpsLens contributor, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, flew special operations helicopters supporting SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and others. After leaving the military, he pursued his other passion, finance, spending 18 years on Wall Street trading emerging market debt, and later, writing. The first of his many thrillers is “Currency.” Todd is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and has contributed to Fox Business, Newsmax TV, Moscow Times, the New York Post, the National Review, Zero Hedge, The Jerusalem Post, and others. For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit

35 comments to “Snowflakes in the Wild Blue Yonder: The United States Air Force Academy Doesn’t Train Warriors Anymore”
  1. I know the exact feeling. The sad thing is, it’s the entire US military. I served in the army from March of ’95 – March of ’08, and even then you could almost literally watch the decline of standards. The military has become one big social experiment in reality – that’s the problem.

    Our leaders are more concerned with political correctness and “equality” rather than a actual readiness. One of my old battles has a son enlisted in the army now, and he has to take mandatory classroom training on “issues” such as transgenderism and similar topics. It’s absurd! Why haven’t these things been issues in the past? Women in combat units, too? Despite numerous studies via the USMC about how performance drops significantly in co-ed combat units? Let’s not even get into the potential sexual harassment complaints that will most certainly jump to the head of the line.

    • This is shocking. I didn’t attend USAFA but I was in the USAF from 1971-75 and served as a missileer.
      Every Academy graduate I ever met was very disciplined in every way. No nonsense. I am not around military people all that much since the base closed but I still have many military friends. Many are still friends whom I served with in the 70’s.
      Lets toughen up things!

  2. I’m a retired enlisted man and this sickens me and breaks my heart.
    Hopefully the backbone of my AF has not been destroyed as well. The NCOs.

  3. I was in the USAF from 1957-1961. I was in the 509th Bomb Wing at Walker AFB in Roswell,NM and Pease AFB in NH. I met Airmen that were on Tinian at the end of WWll. I was a mechanic on B-47’s. It is sad what Obama and the One Worlders have done to our country the past 28 years.
    Shalom to all those that love America.

    Below I was given a dream form my Heavenly Father.Please read and try to understand what was given to me. I spent 16 years on the Los Angeles Fire Department. Please read and understand what has happened to our country.It is not pretty. Please PREPARE.
    Thank you.


    Richard Riding, June 16, 1985

    I had a dream, I don’t know if I was in the spirit or body. I was at a fire station in Los Angeles, CA, early in the morning hours. It’s as if I was transferred there for a temporary stay. I had my uniform and fire gear in my car. I reported to the captain and was trying to find a bed to sleep in for the balance of the night. I went to the dormitory, upstairs, and it was full of beds with men sleeping in them. It was crowded and I found a bed without a mattress. So I decided to go down stairs, and when I got there, there were other firemen milling around out in the front of the station. I could see their faces and I knew some of them from my earlier days as a fireman (1962-1978). While outside I was talking to three chiefs of different rank. While we were talking, a particular high ranking chief (I don’t know who he was) came running out of the fire house towards his chiefs car in his turnout clothes, in a panic and I mean Panic. He tried to get in his chief’s car and drive away, but his aide (a fireman who drives for him) stopped him from doing so. He kept hollering, “I have to get out of here, I have to get out of here.”

    The next thing I heard was a wailing noise (siren). I looked up and heard a noise and saw, it seemed like thousands of jet aircraft traveling fast with their afterburners blasting. (I was in the Air Force for four years.) There were literally thousands of them. It was dark in the early morning and I could see the flames coming out of their engines’ tail pipes. I made a comment to one of the chiefs, “There are thousands of them.” (They were fighter aircraft.) The chief was looking at me with a scared look and I said to him, “Jesus is coming.” When I said this there was a bright flash in the sky and the heavens glowed with a bright light. I fell to the ground and heard screaming of the men around me. I could feel the heat of the light around me (it was an atomic bomb) exploding in the Los Angeles area. I then woke up and had the strangest feeling of emptiness that this is going to happen in Los Angeles, IT WAS SO REAL.

    Dream on 6/16/85

    Richard D. Riding Sr.

    • If it helps Richard……..your dream/vision is in line with a Prophetic word given by an elderly woman from Norway in 1968…declaring that immediately after the Rapture….. the Russians would Nuke the wealthy Western Nations… and LA is certainly on their attack charts….I am a Radio Bible Teacher and former USAF Fireman…….Shalom

  4. As an Air Force Retiree (’71 to ’91), I am sadden to hear what the Academy has become and that does not speak well for the rest of the service. That lack of discipline and training has made its way down through the ranks. A glaring example I noticed while watching the Inaugural Parade was that the Air Force units did not have straight lines nor were they all in step. That would have been unthinkable in my day especially at such a parade as they were walking in (I can’t call what they were doing marching). Some of the high school bands were marching far better.

    • Yes ma’am, I noticed the same thing. Pitiful display of what, supposedly, protects America.

    • I noticed the same thing when the USAFA Cadets were “marching”, it was a gaggle. I thought one of the best units marching past were the Merchant Marines, go figure.

  5. Beyond pathetic, God forbid that any of them would come face to face with a 6 year old ISIS trained killer, they’ll lose their head before they could say double latte.

    God is giving us one last chance with President Donald J. Trump, if we don’t man up and turn this nation around now we are finished and we will face God’s Wrath.
    God forgive us for what we have allowed to happen to what you blessed us with.

  6. Thank you sir! As much as I am saddened to learn of the state of our once GREAT Air Force Academy – the message has to be delivered. My soul is bruised by this revelation; the future of this nation is in the hands of these spineless snowflakes.

    Again, I thank you sir. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your candor. Thank you for efficiently, yet eloquently describing the diseased state of our nation. I wish I could offer a solution, or some offer of hope, but those don’t exist. The best we can do is to influence those around us.

    John F. Archuleta Jr., SSGT
    Honored to serve 1981-1988
    Holloman AFB
    RAF Lakenheath

  7. The new leader of the Air Force is a paper pushing Non Combat No real air fighter experience Woman whose claim to fame is X-Box ability drone flying. She is probably Lesbian. Is she gonna Squirt All over the enemy?

  8. Yesterday did you see the two marines guarding the Whitehouse door the President entered. One at parade rest the other just standing there? Drove me crazy.

  9. Having women in the military at all is just insanity of a nation that is intoxicated and drugged out of its mind.

    It’s almost as insane as allowing women to have the right to vote.

  10. I was active duty AF from ’86-’11 and I have been working for the AF as a civilian for the last 6 years. The changes in the last decade have been huge, and not in a good way. Very disheartening.

  11. AMERICA HAS BEEN DESTROYED,and theres no men to stand up to defend her,QUEERS,PUSSIES AND GIRLYMEN ,can’t save this nation,and NEIGHTER CAN DONALD TRUMP,your police gangs are in charge now ,AND THEY HATE YOU,you’ll learn this the hard way,when you see the dome of the rock in ISRAEL blown up,get on your knees and pray your found worthy to enter heaven,WW3 is coming to america NUCLEAR WAR will have arrived,america will be wipped off the map,and STILL their won’t be but a few men left to stand up,and the RUSSIANS and CHINESE will slaughter them…its what america wanted when you turned over your nation to the whores and queers…now,you will reap what your stupitily has sown…….

  12. So you walked around like you own the place and acted like an asshole. Well done. Keep on cherry picking your arguments and pushing the russia agenda. Go write for the moscow times. America is stronger than ever and you insecure bitches have nothing to do but whine in your old age. All part of the baby boomer generation where your money had 30% more buying power but youre thankless for that.

  13. I have faith that Trump through Maddog will bring back the old military in all the branches in relatively quick fashion. To me there is no doubt that God is working through Trump to give America a 2nd chance and we have to help as much as we can.

  14. Having being stationed and living at the US Air Force Academy from 1978 – 82, this was a very sad story to read.
    I hope with the change of administrations, their will be change in administration of the military as a whole. Such as happened during the change from Carter to Reagan. The Carter years had made the US Military into a “Paper Tiger” and Reagan years made a US Military second to none.
    Hopefully, Trump will do the same. The old goal was to be able to fight two major wars at the same time. Right now, we are having problems finding the equipment and personnel to fight in sandbox of the Middle East.
    However, making our military academies and enlisted training centers a reflection of civilian colleges and schools will prove to be a fatal mistake for the country in the long run.
    Leaders military or civilian are made by constant challenges, not in “Safe Places”.

    Robert Burns, MSgt USAF Retired

  15. The USAFA should be disbanded as a college institution and used for OTS exclusively.

    It’s been a hive of elitists and ring-knockers, and the USAF would do well to level the field.

    In a perfect world, there would be only one path for earning a line commission in the Air Force for active duty and the Reserve component – get a college degree, then a 12 week stint at the Academy.

    The uniformed instructors there need to be pushed back into the operational Air Force, or be discharged. There’s been lots of news articles about how liberal and twisted some of these “teachers” are – and they are the ones teaching our new 2nd Lts.

    Don’t believe me? Ask a senior NCO on the quality of new Lts being pumped out by the Academy!

  16. This is true.
    I went to BMT in 2013 and it was getting progressively easier. We had options to turn in anonymous surveys if our feelings got too hurt, also new job ‘power bar monitor’ makes sure everyone gets a treat IN BED IN THE DORMS right before bed. Also transgender getting PT waivers so they can do the female requirements.
    There’s more but I’m just glad my contract is almost up.

  17. I spent four years in the Air Force, the last year in Thailand. Believe me officers were never warriors. I don’t know where in the hell you got that idea. The warriors were the ones like me working down in the trenches as it were.

    That article above by L. Tod Wood is screaming Sour Grapes. Let me tell you something mister, standing at attention and spewing “Sir” every other sentence is such BS because it has created men who believe sociopathy is next to Godliness.

    Tell me how many cadets actually become pilots out of each class. Pilots may be the only thing even closely resembling a warrior.

    When I went through basic training we didn’t even have firearms training or have to go through the training of the obstacle course because we were needed over seas by the thousands and the Air Force didn’t have time to train us with BS.

    So stop with that Sour Grapes and sniveling because snapping to attention when your stupid ass walks through the door does not create men. IT CREATES SUBSERVIANT SYCOPHANT PLAYERS IN YOUR WARS. You seriously need to get a grip before you blow a gasket my friend.

  18. I think the same kind of thing is now common in all U.S. military services to some degree… with some historic pride, respect, fundamental courtesy, and tradition perhaps remaining with the Marines. Why would we expect difference with Commanders-In-Chief like Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama… some of these center-left flag officers, COs, etc. Very happy we have Secretary James “Mad-Dog” Mattis (General USMC [ret.]) confirmation, and waiting to see if he can or will turn some of this P.C./feminist-slant social experimentation stuff around.

  19. Great article! The lack of SERE after 4th class year for all ads validity to your point. Changes need to be made to bring back the warrior mentality.

  20. My 8 yr old son has dreams of attending the AF Academy. The comment on the Academy being like UCLA only in uniforms really shocked me. Military Academys are only suppose to take the best of the best and turn them into Warriors and Heros. So why this drastic change in teachings? You say the students being taught to have the I d1ont care attitude frightens me quite a bit. If I 1awant my son to get his education at a regular University I would send him down the Freeway to USC or UCLA. I want him to have the honor of attending one of the most prestigious Colleges in the US. Not to mention that the AF Academy will support his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot. WE CAN NOT afford to sacrafice the future of our military training due to the lack of proper teachings.

  21. It is my personal belief that the lack of discipline in the service academies is just another symptom of a much larger problem which currently faces our military and citizenry as a whole… a gradual and wholesale abandonment of God and things spiritual over the last 50 odd years, which has resulted in a severe drifting away from our historical values and norms. We won’t be able to fix these issues until we, as a people, turn back to those tried and true ways of honoring God Almighty, our country, and our fellow man. This drift and degradation has been greatly accelerated over the last eight years under a treasonous president. Let’s pray we can get our spiritual house in order under our new president, which will go far, with God’s help, in healing our land of all these crippling symptoms.

  22. Captain Wayne Burden has hit the nail squarely on the head… thank you Sir for these insightful comments.

    Best regards, Dave Paul, CWO4 (ret.),
    United States Navy

  23. The sitting service heads and flag rank officers rose to ascendancy during Obama’s years. That required political and PC skills on a higher level. It also required snuffing out moral courage in order to survive. Although they are the best at their game of bureaucratic warfare, these managers are probably not best for the institutions of warfare, nor for our troops. Fortunately, the rules on the battlefield have reverted to the pre-Obama reign. So should our flag rank population.

  24. Carissa,

    So true… the facts are one doesn’t get 3 or 4 stars without at least in part — being a good politician. I’ve often wondered if the non-military public and media really understand the senior flag officer selection process. Politicians in flag uniform are certainly a major part of the management problem in service academies.

    DJ Paul, CWO4 (ret.)

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