In-Processing Day for the Class of 2024 at the United States Air Force Academy


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In-Processing Day for the Class of 2024 at the United States Air Force Academy

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Imagine yourself going into your senior year of college... but at a service academy while COVID-19 has sunken its teeth into every aspect of our lives. While most colleges and universities around the globe pushed back the start dates of their fall semesters in 2020 or moved entirely online, Service academies in the U.S. needed to meet congress' demand of supplying a steady stream of future commissioned lieutenants to the military. As a result, I found myself at 23 years old as a flight commander of 30 young, recent high school graduates who needed the same level of indoctrination I received into the Air Force four years prior.

Rather than videos of years past with cadet cadre in the faces of soon-to-be freshmen screaming at the top of their lungs, this video provides the innocuous version of in-processing with unedited or dubbed audio. You might even see a few of my basics who didn't know what to expect of basic training during the pandemic. While the cadre in the film stand professionally and talk with a sense of authority towards the basics, I can tell you behind the scenes we were re-writing COVID-19 protocol and adjusting their syllabi as each day passed. Your authority as a military instructor weakens as its filtered through a wet, uncomfortable cloth mask (I strongly encourage you to look up "I-Day" videos of USAFA prior to the pandemic to compare). Can you imagine how much you have to yell through one of those masks to get 30 individuals to hear you over the other 39 flights sprinkled across the campus drill pads?

My 6 weeks as a flight commander were filled with frustration, sympathy, reward, and most of all focus. First, focusing visually, I had to maintain social distancing anywhere from when basics were wrapped around the hallways to wait to shower all the way to when they practiced marching non-military standard "double-arm interval" for their basic training graduation day. Also, focusing through sound, I had to understand my basics through sweat or dirt covered masks as they recited knowledge, asked questions during academic blocks, or were struggling and needed follow-up mentoring.

The measurable distance between trainers and trainees as well as the pauses of silence, normally filled with a constant cacophony of yelling, are what many graduates of my alma mater would call weak. Despite a lack of intensity, masks added a layer of confusion and frustration during a period that is already filled with fear, stress, and exhaustion for basics. For that reason, I want to ask those who weren't there to understand sensually why the class of 2024 still went through the same basic training experience as years past. Maybe a second listen to the audio can even reveal those same frustrations and fears from the basics reflected in the tone of their cadre.

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This item was submitted on February 4, 2022 by Maria G Gasparovich using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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