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Newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Lexi De Villiers, right, embraces a fellow graduate following the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2023 Winter Graduation ceremony, Dec. 15, 2023, in Colorado Springs, Colo. In total, USAFA commissioned 32 seniors into the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin R. Pacheco)

Colorado Springs, Colorado. (January 21, 2024): “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” John Kennedy. In this photo by Justin R. Pacheco, newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Lexi De Villiers, right, embraces a fellow graduate at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 2023 Winter Graduation ceremony. The 2023 Class commissioned 806 officers into the Air Force and another ninety-three to the Space Force. Twelve international cadets graduated with their U.S. classmates.

The Air Force Academy is not easy to get into with only 13% of the 11,500 applications accepted each year. Cadets must have a minimum of a 3.78 GPA along with numerous other requirements. The Academy is ranked seventh in the 2024 edition of U.S. News Best Colleges and has a graduation rate of rate of 87 percent.

The most common bachelor’s degree concentration at the academy is General Business Administration & Management followed by Aerospace, Aeronautical, & Astronautical Engineering and General Biological Sciences. The school is highly valued for its small classes and the individual attention cadets receive. With a faculty to student ratio of seven to one, most classes have fewer than twenty students.

Once they graduate, these cadets are obliged to serve between five and ten years of active service. Pilots, for example, owe Uncle Sam ten years the day they put their wings on.