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Cadet graduation returns to Falcon Stadium for Class of 2021

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron "Thunderbirds" perform a fly-over at the Air Force Academy graduation at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 26, 2021. In all, 1,019 cadets graduated in front of a select crowd due to safety and health precautions set in place for the ceremony as the Academy continues to operate during the pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt Laurel M. Richards)

The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron "Thunderbirds" perform a fly-over at the Air Force Academy graduation at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 26, 2021. In all, 1,019 cadets graduated in front of a select crowd due to safety and health precautions set in place for the ceremony as the Academy continues to operate during the pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt Laurel M. Richards)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) --

Cadets graduated from the Air Force Academy for the first time in two years at Falcon Stadium, receiving their diplomas from the event’s keynote speaker, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, May 26.

In all, 1,019 cadets graduated in front of a select crowd in the stands containing no more than eight of their family members and friends, a safety and health precaution set in place for the ceremony as the Academy continues to operate during the pandemic within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Defense Department guidelines.

“That we are able to come together today in Falcon Stadium, even with some limitations and restrictions, is a testament to the tireless dedication, courage and expertise of our medical professional, researchers, first responders and everyone who has been on the front line battling the COVID-19 pandemic across our nation,” Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Academy’s superintendent, said from the stage. “I think we all owe them a round of applause.”

Last year’s graduation ceremony swapped Falcon Stadium for the terrazzo without family or friends, a move to keep cadets, staff and families at the base safe from the novel coronavirus.

Clark said the Academy has used the school’s “amazing brainpower” to stage this year’s graduation event in Falcon Stadium and keep the base population safe.

“Our pandemic math team has developed predictive modeling and testing protocols that have informed our response to this crisis and helped us confront one of the most difficult challenges in the history of our Academy,” Clark said.

The PMT is a team of mathematicians and science experts at the school who developed calculations to determine the school’s coronavirus testing schedule and how the health and safety guidelines it has installed across the campus have helped stave off the outbreak.

Clark said graduation day is a day cadets, the newly-minted officers, will remember for their rest of their lives.

“In the near future, you will face great challenges but you have shown us that you are ready, and we are counting on the diverse talents of each and every one of you to accelerate the change we need to win.”

Clark thanked the Academy’s faculty and staff.

“Each of these graduates here today represents the dedication of the numerous faculty, (cadet squadron commanders), academy military trainers and staff members who impacted their lives over these last four years and helped develop them into the leaders they are today, ready to cross the stage into our Air Force and Space Force,” he said.

In all, 114 of the just-commissioned officers will become officers in the Space Force.

“We have an incredible team and we owe a debt of gratitude to all who have gone above and beyond to ensure the Class of 2021 got to this important milestone today.”

Along with Milley, Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado Dianne Primavera, and Mayor of Colorado Springs John Suthers also attended the ceremony.

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