Brig. Gen. Susan Y. Desjardins mentors a cadet July 25 at the Air Force Academy in Colo. General Desjardins has been serving as the commandant of cadets, but will depart the Academy in October to become the Headquarters Air Mobility Command Strategic Plans, Requirements and Programs deputy director at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Rogers)
7/25/2008 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFPN) -- A leader during one of the most dynamic times in U.S. Air Force Academy history is moving on. Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Susan Y. Desjardins will depart the Academy in October to become the Headquarters Air Mobility Command Strategic Plans, Requirements and Programs deputy director at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
"Moving on is bitter sweet. I am excited about the challenges of serving at AMC, the 'home office' of air mobility," General Desjardins said. "At the same time, being at the Academy has been an amazing opportunity and experience. Nothing can compare with being part of shaping and molding our Air Force's future leaders."
General Desjardins has served as the commandant of cadets since December 2005, commanding the 4,400-member cadet wing and more than 300 permanent party Air Force and civilian personnel. She is responsible for all aspects of military training for the cadet wing, including leadership training, operational skills training and professional military education, character development, cadet discipline and administering the honor system.
As the Air Force flexed to meet the demands of winning the war on terrorism, General Desjardins played a key role in reshaping Academy military training to better prepare cadets for the challenges facing them in the operational, expeditionary Air Force.
"(Lt. Gen. John F. Regni,) our superintendent, had a vision for bringing the 'military' back to our military academy," she said, "and he gave me the charter and great support to implement significant changes to follow that vector.
"We have eliminated training that had only a tenuous connection to preparing cadets for active duty," she said. "And we reinstituted daily mandatory formations to emphasize accountability as members of an Air Force unit and personal accountability for upholding standards.
"We also have stressed accountability in our character and leadership development efforts, in bringing back the cadet discipline system, and in making the honor code the number-one priority in cadet life," she said. "The intent was for our cadets to feel ownership and hence play a bigger role in enforcing standards both in honor and discipline."
During General Desjardins' tenure, there has been a 58 percent decrease in cadet alcohol related incidents, and a nationally recognized sexual assault response program has been significantly strengthened.
Basic cadet training was revamped to better prepare basic cadets physically, mentally and militarily for their Academy experience. This included increasing BCT physical training from seven sessions to 27 sessions, which resulted in better fitness, morale and overall performance by basic cadets.
General Desjardins was tasked with instituting combat survival training at the Academy, one of the first Air Force locations to implement this newly emphasized requirement.
"Air Force personnel are increasingly taking on roles that could leave them vulnerable on the battlefield," the general said. "Airmen are outside the wire daily performing jobs that had been assigned to Soldiers and Marines. CST teaches our cadets critical skills that may save their lives in today's expeditionary environment."
General Desjardins also focused on enhancing the professional development of her permanent party Air Officers Commanding, who command the cadet squadrons, and the Academy Military Trainers, the non-commissioned officers who help lead each cadet squadron.
Finally, working with the dean of the faculty, Brig. Gen. Dana H. Born, and the athletic director, Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Hans J. Mueh, General Desjardins attacked the "Terrazzo Gap" that sometimes exists between the academic and military components of Academy life and between the intercollegiate athletes and their fellow cadets.
"It has been an incredibly busy and rewarding almost-three years," General Desjardins said. "Whatever successes the commandant's organization has achieved are due to the amazingly talented AOCs, AMTs, staff and civilian personnel who make up our team, to the support from General Regni and the other mission elements, and to the enthusiasm and commitment of our cadets."
General Desjardins earned her commission in 1980 in the first class of women at the Academy and is the first female commandant. Being an Academy graduate, she relates to the challenges and triumphs the cadets face daily.
"Being a cadet is not an easy road, but it is worth every bit of the effort," she said. "Our nation requires intelligent, well-rounded young men and women of character to lead our military. Every day there are cadets who demonstrate they are up to the challenges ahead, and you know that the future of our Air Force and our nation will be in good hands."
The general has held staff positions at the major command, Joint Staff, and Headquarters U.S. Air Force levels, including deputy military assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force. Her commands include an air refueling squadron, a mobility operations group, and the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. She is a command pilot with more than 3,800 flying hours in the KC-10 Extender, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, KC-135 Stratotanker and the T-37 Tweet.
The incoming commandant is Col. Samuel D. Cox who is currently serving at the Pentagon as the director of Air Force general officer management for the Deputy Chief of Staff, Manpower, Personnel and Services. Colonel Cox, a 1984 Academy graduate, has been selected for promotion to brigadier general.