Sunday, November 21, 2010

The US Air Force Academy

The tablecloths are vinyl
One of my sidetrips during our recent visit to Colorado Springs was to the Air Force Academy. The outing was part of the conference I attended and focused on the operational side of the base, although we did visit the chapel, which is spectacular. We started the tour with a VIP briefing in the Visitors Center and then proceeded to Mitchell Hall, the location where the cadets eat their meals. The dining area is a massive room that allows all 4,500 cadets to eat at the same time. Breakfast and lunch are mandatory meals and dinner is optional.

All 50 state flags are displayed
Our tour guide pointed out that the meal periods last 20 minutes from the time the cadets are seated until they're dismissed. I'm not sure how the staff accommodates cadets with special dietary needs or even if they do. Seems like that would be an additional challenge that would be difficult to meet. The building was undergoing a serious renovation during our visit in an effort to revamp the kitchen and make the entire complex ADA accessible. We were told that they were in year three of a six year project. Oy.

The weather that afternoon deteriorated rapidly into something not desireable. What they said was, "This is the worst day this year to visit the Air Force Academy." Oh well. I kinda felt like Eeyore and hoped it wasn't evident on my face. I had been looking forward to this time for weeks and wasn't going to be discouraged. We just had to duck in and out of cover during the first snow storm of the season.

The Air Force Academy Chapel is striking in its design and place against the foothills. It was designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill of Chicago during the 1960s. The main floor houses the Protestant Chapel, but the lower level houses a Roman Catholic Chapel, a Jewish Synagogue and a Buddhist Meditation Chapel. All of them are unique and striking.

I seem to be having trouble with the slideshow above. If it fails to start for you, go to my Picasa album to view it.

As we were leaving the Chapel and being urged to "get on the bus", I came upon a memorial to the Academy graduates who have been killed in action. This is a surprisingly short list given the tens of thousands of cadets who have matriculated since 1956. However, one of the names is intimately familiar to me. Lt. Stephen H. Gravrock was like an uncle to my sister and I when we were in high school and hearing of his death in 1972 was a surreal experience. Still is.

On the flip side, my cousin, Tom, entered the Academy several years later and has had a stellar career as a pilot and base commander. I tip my hat to both of these fine men.

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