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Friday, June 29, 2012

Swearing In

This morning dawned clear, and after a scrumptious breakfast with the Grahams I pulled out to the north to attend the Basic Cadet Swearing-In Ceremony.  A helpful person at the In-Processing told me to come early.  She was certainly right.  I arrived a full hour early and got one of the last front-row spots and parking places.  The Basic Cadets (known as Doolies, I have to look up the origin of that still) were already out at 7:30 practicing their marching.  As we parents gathered on the balcony-like high overlook by the chapel, they formed up in the quad below, obeying orders over the loudspeaker as they practiced for the ceremony.  I brought binoculars and could identify the G squadron, but with the distance, the angle, the wind, the packed-in nature of the formation of a thousand kids, it was very very very difficult to pick Caleb out.  I'm pretty sure I saw him once, and I waved enthusiastically even though he couldn't possibly see me.

What is most shocking is the transformation in 24 hours.  Yesterday these kids looked like most high schoolers (well, a bit more fit and clean cut, but still in shorts and T shirts, with families and smiles and hair).  Today there were a thousand of them marching in ten groups of a hundred, in rows, in step, all wearing the same uniform, same boots, same hat, same shaved head.  In Kenya and Uganda I can pick my kids out a mile away, but there are an awful lot of white people here.

They all swore not to lie, cheat or steal, to uphold the constitution, to defend the country, to fulfill their duties.  The band played, the National Anthem was sung as the flag went up, and the Air Force song which I was pleasantly surprised (thanks to my mom) to find that I knew ("Here we go, into the wild blue yonder . . .").  There was an inspirational speech referencing Saving Private Ryan (the movie).  And then they all marched away.  To more drills, and abuse.  

I read today that the "altitude index" which takes heat and summer humidity into account makes their atmosphere more like 11,000 plus feet.  It is hot.  About five Basic Cadets swooned or fainted during the ceremony, and had to be escorted to the rear to sit or lie in the grass and drink water and revive.  It's going to be a rough six weeks.

These kids are all smart and successful, but the summer is designed to break them.  To make them humble.  To build esprit de corps.  To weed out any that can't function under extreme pressure, and give them the practice and skills of focus in adversity that will enable them to think clearly and react wisely in combat, or if they become POW's.  To demand the attention to detail (the dreaded room inspections evidently take hours and hours to prepare for) that will carry over into their aviation, when details count for life or death.  To give them confidence eventually that they are able to survive and accomplish.  To turn them into leaders.  Pray for Caleb to persevere through the intense physical and mental strain of this boot camp and emerge with personal strength and a team-spirit outlook.

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