I have some fond memories of things during my family’s stay at the Air Force Academy. Playing in the woods was a big part of that, but hearing about the various and sundry “Spirit Missions” that the cadets did makes for the highlights as I look back on those years (late 1980’s-1990’s)
Most USAFA Spirit Missions that I hear of these days are kinda lame.
What is a “Spirit Mission” you ask?
Cadets are organized in their dorms into groups sort of forming squadrons. Sort of. Anyway, every once in a while, your squadron will decide to do a “Spirit Mission” in order to build morale, show school spirit and blow off a little steam (Trust me, blowing off steam was a big part of it. The USAFA I remember was a grind – these were kids busting their asses with full course-loads, two semesters plus a summer session for 4 years solid, x number weekly hours of PT, surprise inspections, and oh-by-the-way you are required to take active part in x number of weekly hours of extra-curricular activities/clubs offered by the Academy, that doesn’t do shit for your GPA, but makes your resume look good. By the time these people graduate, you’re dealing with 21-23 year olds who have the social skills of 18 year olds because they have no time to learn adulty social things, which makes for a rough real-world breaking-in period for these guys when they finally go active duty.) .
These Missions would often take place right before a big football game, but sometimes it was “just because.” The entire squadron participates – you are not allowed to bow out. And they usually took place at 2am, because you have to set it up for maximum shock value, while still maintaining good attendance at all functions and classes.
The favorite was the physical moving of an actual fighter jet that was on static display from well OUTSIDE the Terrazzo quad into the Terrazzo quad (Either an F-15 or 16, I believe. I’m not sure. Screw you, I was a military brat, not aspiring military personnel. Knowing where your square peg will not fit is key in life.).
The movement of this aircraft required everyone in the squadron get up at about 1am and bust their asses to push this fighter by hand along the main drag running between the North and South Gates (the display was set up to be seen from the South gate approach), up friggin’ hills, and then into the Terrazzo.
By the time it’s done it’s also almost dawn, so shower up and get ready to form up before breakfast.
Big deal, you say.
Well, it was. Because the Air Force HATED IT when they did that.
There is no real vehicle access to the Terrazzo. The Bring Me Men ramp (which has been renamed with some PC crap) was the only access point and it was meant for marching cadets to cross under the bridge in formation. The ramp has a VERY steep slope, so you could get a vehicle in there if you REALLY wanted to, but an F-16? Nope.
Every time the Academy woke to the sight of an F-16 parked on the Terrazzo, the Air Force had to work with an outside contractor to bring in a huge crane, parked outside the The Bring Me Men Ramp, to lift the plane from the Terrazzo and transport it back safely to its display pad, which takes time. And money. So for at least a week, you had this friggin’ F-16 in the middle of the damn Terrazzo.
Well, if there’s no vehicle access to the Terrazzo, then how the hell did mere cadets get this damn thing in there? I mean, pushing an F-16 is one thing, but you can’t expect these guys to completely disassemble and reassemble it in one night or lift the bastard whole…
My father, a math professor at the time, cornered a cadet that he knew had something to do with the latest F-16 prank. “Look,” Major Smith said, “I won’t give away names or get anyone in trouble, but how the hell are you guys getting this thing in place? I have to know.”
“We push it up through the “Bring Me Men” ramp, sir.”
“That’s impossible,” Major Smith said. “That ramp is built too low and too steep. There’s no way an F-16 would have the clearance to pass under that thing. Not to mention the wing span measurement is WIDER than the ramp is.”
“That’s true, sir. But when we approach the ramp, we have guys get on the wings until the extra weight gives us about 6 inches head space and bends to wingtips down just enough to squeeze through. It’s a pain in the ass to push it with all the extra weight and half the manpower, but it’s worth it.” The cadet is doing his best to NOT crack a grin. “Sir.”
There have since been modifications to the static plane displays so that they can’t be moved.