Posted by: annemartinfletcher | May 23, 2011

New AFA Grads: Top Ten To-Do List

The Class of 2011 graduates from USAFA this Wednesday, May 25th, at the football stadium. Gates open at 8:00 a.m. and guests are encouraged (military speak for  “. . . or you might not get in”) to arrive before 8:30 a.m. The ceremony starts at 10:00 a.m. My family amused themselves in the stands, 31 years ago, by folding newspaper into sun hats.

Cadets, here is my top ten list for things you need to do:

10. Buy a sabre and plaque for your parents and get it engraved, preferably with a phrase that will make your dad cry. Ask me what I wrote that made my dad cry.

9. Drive to Henderson, CO on I-76 to the 96th Street Exit, and borrow the Exit 11 sign. Do Not get caught. After the ceremony, take everybody’s photo in front of it. I deny having written you about this. Oh, yeah, return the sign.

8. After I saluted my squadron mate, we became the first “grads” to kiss each other in front of the whole stadium. Thanks, J-Square. I heartily recommend it.  I don’t have that photo, but I have a photo of me ending my career with another kiss (from my husband, not J-Square):

7. Throw your wheel cap. Don’t try to get it back. Start your new life uncluttered.

6. If you see a representative for Marc Henning’s family, be sure and tell them he will always be a part of your class and never forgotten.

5. Be sure to actually give your parents their plaque.

4. If you or your best buddy is getting married, or if you are getting married to each other, change into your mess dress and hurry up to the chapel–and wait. Do not be late. Your fiance is frantic enough.

3. Drive to your first assignment. When you hear the jet traffic overhead, or the rocket launch, pull over to the side of the road, look up, and ponder how lucky you are. Other people only do this in movies. This is your last chance to savor your new life.

2. When you report in, if you have a week or more until your training begins, immediately seek out the officer-in-charge of “casual status assignments.” The BEST job: Lifeguard at the base pool, while receiving 2nd Lieutenant’s pay.  The best/worst job: the Base Commander’s office. There you will work hard, learn about everything and everyone at your new base, and establish a quick reputation as either a stellar young officer or a major screw-up. Sometimes both.

1. Be humble and ask questions, especially of secretaries and enlisted personnel.


  1. …have one last yard at the Golden Bee and say goodbye to Colorado Springs!

  2. Ann, this picture brings back alot of great memories. We were young, reckless, and full of spit an vinegar. It was a great time. Thanks for the photo. I look forward to reading more of your blog. ed

  3. “The best/worst job: the Base Commander’s office. There you will work hard, learn about everything and everyone at your new base, and establish a quick reputation as either a stellar young officer or a major screw-up. Sometimes both…” Ann, truer words never written. When Jeff Wilson, Matt Schulter and I arrived at Willy, the OC had us draw straws. I lost. I had to wake up at 6AM for the next 2 and half months and Jeff and Matt slept in til 9:30 and worked for 2hrs at their job of counting all the signs on base. Then they went to lunch and the pool. I only answered the phones before the secretary got there, during lunch and after she went home. In between I read Robert Ludlums, Matarese Circle. When I told my dad this back on Trail Ridge Road, he lamished me with the words, “You just graduated from a great institution, don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do, find something to do.” Or did Patton say that (just kidding). Anyway, I decided to put together a “welcome/info package” for 2nd lewey’s about to enter UPT at Williams AFB. This was my idea because many of us had no idea where to start once we got to the front gate (at least Scholtz, Wilson and Schulter didn’t). So, I ended up staying around the office until 8PM every day working on my project and synchronizing it with all the other base functions and maps (no mapquest or GPS). A few weeks later I handed it into the the Base Commander and he said, “Whats this, nice, thanks…” In September we start UPT and I had an easier time adjusting to early week then some of my buddies. Then about 8mo later I see the the Base Executive Officer at the O-Club. He tells me to come by the office on Monday. When I go there he shows me the base’s ATC inspection report. The base received a nice “Satisfactory” but there was a special mention about my “Where’s Willy and what do I do when you get there” project. The inspectors said it was “Outstanding” and the base commander’s office got all the credit. I told my dad this and he asked if my name was on it. I said no. He said, “There’s a lesson for you.” The inspectors said they wanted all the UPT bases to come up with the same project and send the packages to future student pilots.

    About the “jet noise”. I have to mention how that is still one of the top 10 memories of my life as I thought me and my ‘vette were lost in the Arizona orange orchards. I lost Wilson somewhere around Flagstaff during a thunderstorm and it was 68 deg. Down in PHX it was 110 deg. I was about to turn around and go back to a gas station I saw about 15mi earlier when a T-38 came roaring over my head about 200’ still in afterburner. “YEEHHAAHH this is the place.”

    Thanks for drive down memory lane. Looks like I’ll be making many future trips to Trail Ridge to get my mom and dad’s house ready to sell. My mom is now in Montabello assisted living up near Tanoan Golf Club.


    John Scholtz
    (Re-routed in ATL)

  4. Thanks, John and Ed. What I love about doing this blog, is inspiring other people to tell their stories. I love John’s lessons learned from the Base Commander’s Office, and following the “jet noise” to Willie. I’m not planning to be at Trail Ridge soon, but please walk down the cull de sac to say hi to my folks.

  5. […] Best of luck to all of you. I hope you check in with me occasionally. Oh, and you might like to check out the post and comments on Top Ten To-Do’s for New Grads. […]

  6. Best one yet, Anne! We still cherish the sabre. Luv, M.

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