by Col. Bart Weiss
Academy Preparatory School Commander
The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs
In the November/December 2009 issue of Profiles in Diversity Journal, Shinder Dhillon writes, “(Diversity) is about getting the right mix of people, with the right mix of skills and competencies.” That has been my vision as a commander at every opportunity I’ve had to command in the Air Force, and it is my vision for the Air Force Academy Preparatory School.
Our diversity grows from our population of cadet candidates with prior service in the Air Force, as well as cadet candidates who come here directly after graduating from high school. Some of the cadet candidates have deployed. Some may know brothers or sisters in arms who never came home. Our priorservice cadet candidates are usually among the first to step into leadership positions, and we capitalize on their experience to develop high school graduates into leaders.
Cadet candidates who come directly from high school may not have the experiences of those with prior service, but they, too, have leadership potential. Anyone who positively stands out will receive recognition and opportunities to achieve greater goals in the service of the Academy and Country.
[sws_pullquote_right]“Basic training brings them together as a class by forcing them to depend on one another.” [/sws_pullquote_right]
All of our cadet candidates need a little work academically to get them ready for four years at the Academy. The Prep School lifts all participants academically and makes sure those who come from weaker schools or who have been away from academics while deployed are prepared for the rigors of an Academy education.
Part of the reason we conduct basic military training at the Prep School is to build relationships and esprit de corps among the 240 cadet candidates. Basic training brings them together as a class by forcing them to depend on one another.
At the start of the academic year, when cadet candidates no longer have to sit with their flights, they tend to gravitate towards the groups of candidates with whom they most identify: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, football players, basketball players. But because we focus on the concept of brothers and sisters in arms, the dynamic changes within a few months from sitting together based on similarities to sitting together based on shared interests. These shared interests rapidly evolve into forged bonds that transcend ethnic and cultural barriers and make the Prep School an inclusive environment.
At the end of their 10-month stay, our class no longer consists of high school graduates, recruited athletes or prior-enlisted airmen. Instead, they are one team, one class of cadet candidates—Preppies. The inclusion bridge is gapped, measured and seamed within the 10-month timeframe, to begin anew during Basic Cadet Training at the Academy.
Col. Bartholomew “Bart” Weiss is the commander of the Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, Colo. He directs a one-year academic, military and athletic program – whose main focus is to prepare young men and women to succeed at the United States Air Force Academy. He is a 1986 graduate of the Air Force Academy and a native of Muskegon, Mich. He holds a Master of Science degree in strategic studies from the Army War College and a Bachelor of Science degree in financial management from the Academy.