United States Air Force Academy

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Prepare for Take Off


image of Cadets celebrating at the end of the graduation ceremony


Graduation Week is traditionally comprised of many activities and events across the U.S. Air Force Academy. Cadets and their guests take part in receptions, awards ceremonies, baccalaureate services, concerts, parades, air demonstrations, and commissioning ceremonies. The week culminates at Falcon Stadium with the iconic graduation ceremony. Commencement speakers often include the President of the United States, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the close of the ceremony, cadets are dismissed and ceremoniously toss their caps into the air. Cheers and celebration are quickly silenced by the roar of the legendary Thunderbirds flying overhead to honor the graduating class.

Important Graduation Week Information

  • Commissioning Ceremony Times and Locations

    Primary venues will be used for commissioning ceremonies unless weather or other circumstances require back-up locations.

    CS #  Indicates back-up location
    Venue 12:30-2:15 pm 3:00-4:45 pm 5:30-7:15 pm 8:00-9:45 pm
    B-52 CS 01 CS 40
    Thunderbird Overlook CS 27
    Honor Court CS 18
    Plaza of Heroes CS 36 CS 31 CS 39
    Air Gardens CS 14 CS 08 CS 13
    Carlton House CS 26 CS 15 CS 07
    Otis House CS 04 CS 17 CS 24
    Dean’s House CS 32 CS 33 CS 10
    McDermott Library CS 01 CS 36 CS 27
    Falcon Club Ballroom CS 37 CS 11 CS 38 CS 21
    Doolittle Hall CS 29 CS 16 CS 20 CS 02
    Arnold Hall Ballroom CS 22 CS 40 CS 12 CS 23
    Polaris Hall CS 34 CS 06 CS 28 CS 19
    Arnold Hall Theater CS 30 CS 09 CS 05 CS 03
    Holaday Athletic Center CS 14 CS 08 CS 18
    Ground Training Facility CS 26 CS 35 CS 31 CS 39
    F1, Fairchild Hall CS 25 CS 15 CS 13 CS 24
    FAC, AD Auditorium CS 32 CS 33 CS 10
    Exemplar Hall CS 26 CS 15 CS 07
  • Graduation Week Maps
    Graduation Parade Map

    Map of Graduation Parade

    Commissioning Ceremony Maps

    Ceremonies using North Gate Access: Parking near the Cadet area is extremely limited. Plan to park in one of the lower parking lots and ride the shuttle into the cadet area.
    Map of commissioning ceremonies

    1. B-52 Display
    2. Holaday Athletic Center
    3. FAC, AD Auditorium
    4. Arnold Hall Ballroom
    5. Arnold Hall Theater
    6. Polaris Hall
    7. Honor Court
    8. Air Gardens
    9. McDermott Library
    10. Fairchild Hall, F-1
    11. Exemplar Hall
    12. Plaza of Heroes
    13. Doolittle Hall
    14. Falcon Club Ballroom
    Ceremonies using South Gate Access:
    Map of commissioning ceremonies

    15. Dean’s House
    16. Carlton House
    17. Otis House
    18. Ground Training Facility
    19. Thunderbird Overlook
    Falcon Stadium Parking

    Map of Falcon Stadium Parking

    Falcon Stadium Map

    Diagram of Falcon Stadium

  • Security Procedures for Grad Week

    BASE ENTRY: Throughout Grad Week, guests 18 years of age or older may enter the base via the North or South Gate by showing a valid driver’s license or a military ID. Minors under the age of 18 will not be required to present a valid form of ID. Standard base visitor hours are from 5:30am to 10:00pm daily. However, during Grad Week, the North and South Gate will be open to allow guests to enter the base for early or late events. Gate times are as follows: 22 May through 28 May: 5:00am-10:00pm. All vehicles entering the base are subject to inspection/search by security personnel and you may be asked to show proof of insurance, a valid vehicle registration and a rental car agreement. Guests should refrain from bringing large bags, coolers, backpacks, or other items that will require additional scrutiny or searches from security personnel. The North and South Gate will be open for guests on graduation day for travel to the stadium.

    PARKING: Parking for events on Wednesday of Graduation Week is at the Cadet Field House, Parade Field, and Cadet Parking Lots. Shuttle buses will run from these parking areas to locations throughout Cadet Area. All parking for the Graduation Ceremony on Thursday is at Falcon Stadium.

    CADET AREA ACCESS: Guests must be escorted by a cadet or Academy staff with a Cadet Area Badge while in the Cadet Area. Guests should not bring large bags or backpacks into the Cadet Area; bags will be searched at the bus stops and at the parade, potentially delaying your arrival at your destination.

    EVENTS IN SECURE AREAS OF THE BASE: For Graduation Week events taking place outside of the immediate Cadet Area or after visitor hours, all non-DOD guests must be escorted through entry control points by a DOD ID card holder. These events include any held at The Carlton House (e.g., Commissioning Ceremonies). We recommend cadets meet their non-DOD guests either off base or at the Field House in order to carpool and/or caravan to their destination. DOD ID cardholders, including civilians, military, cadets, and base contractors, can vouch for up to 10 non-DOD affiliated people in the car which they are traveling. Plan to arrive early for Grad Week activities in order to give yourself sufficient time to get through security to your event location.

    PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: The Academy does not issue disabled or special parking passes, so please bring your own placard in order to access the Cadet Area disabled lot (immediately north of Stillman Parade Field) and disabled parking at the stadium on Graduation Day. Shuttles for people with disabilities will operate throughout the Cadet Area during Grad Week.

    GENERAL BASE DRIVING INFO: Please make sure to follow all posted speed limits when driving on the base. Note that seatbelts must be worn by all occupants at all times. Drivers may not use handheld cellular phones while the vehicle is in motion. If you need to make or take a call, please use a hands-free device or pull to the side of the road. Also, be aware that radar detectors are not permitted on base. Finally, keep in mind that wildlife such as deer, elk, and wild turkeys can be a hazard while driving at the Academy. Please be alert for them and drive carefully. Remember, they have the right-of-way!

    If Force Protection Conditions change due to world events or events closer to home, some scheduled events may change or require additional security precautions for the safety of all our guests. Any event changes will be widely publicized in local media, on our Graduation Website and throughout the base.

    EMERGENCIES: If you have a medical, fire, or police emergency, please call 911 immediately. There are several major medical facilities in Colorado Springs to handle medical situations: Memorial Hospital Central, (719) 365-5000, Memorial Hospital North, (719) 364-5000, Penrose-St. Francis, (719) 776-5000, and St. Francis Medical Center, (719) 571-1000. On base, you may contact Security Forces at (719) 333-2000 or 333-4100.

  • Allowed/Prohibited Items at Parade Field and Falcon Stadium

    All persons and their personal belongings are subject to an inspection, which may result in a search. The Academy is not responsible for items left at the gates or in the trash receptacles. Storage of prohibited items is not available and security personnel will ask visitors to store the item in their vehicle. On the day of graduation, entry into the stadium is not permitted once the ceremony begins, and guests may not depart the stadium until the Air Force Thunderbirds complete their aerial demonstration. Tailgate parties are not allowed on base.

    Items allowed at Stillman Parade Field and Falcon Stadium

    • Food is allowed but must be displayed in a transparent 1-gallon Ziploc bag. Each ticketholder may have only one 1-gallon Ziploc.
    • Sunscreen is permitted but restricted to a 6-ounce or-less tube. Bottles and aerosol spray are not allowed into the stadium.
    • Factory-sealed transparent soft plastic water bottles are restricted to 24 ounces in-size. Water is the only beverage permitted to be carried into the parade field or stadium. Exceptions may be made for visitors with medical conditions and for infants.
    • Infant diaper bags and carrier packs are permitted when an infant is present.
    • More information on approved handbags

    Prohibited Items

    • Oxygen bottles are prohibited. However, Oxygen bottles prescribed by a physician are authorized.
    • Illegal substances, including Marijuana, which is illegal on federal property.
    • Firearms, knives, box cutters, scissors, or any weapon.
    • Alcohol, glass containers, bottles, cans, aerosol sprays, hard-sided (or Nalgene) plastic bottles.
    • Handbags larger than 12 by 12 by 12 inches.
    • Backpacks, including bota bags, wineskins and camelbacks.
    • Laser pointers, fireworks, or any item deemed unsafe by security personnel.
    • Banners or signs.
    • Pets. Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant service animals are allowed.
    • Any artificial noisemaker.
    • Baby seats or large strollers. Collapsible strollers are allowed.
    • Seatbacks wider than 19 inches. No arm rests.
    • Umbrellas.
  • Graduation Week Dress Code for Family & Guests

    Superintendent’s Reception for Grads & Families
    Women: Slacks, Skirt or Dress
    Men: Business Suit or Coat and Tie
    Military: Service Dress with Flight Cap

    94th FTS Soaring G-Wings Ceremony
    Women: Slacks, Skirt, or Dress
    Men: Business Suit or Coat and Tie
    Military: Service Dress w/flight cap

    Bluebards Musical
    Women: Casual Wear
    Men: Casual Wear

    Baccalaureate Services
    Women: Business Casual
    Men: Business Casual
    Military: Service Dress w/flight cap

    Commandant’s Fiancé(e)s Reception
    Women: Business Casual–no jeans
    Men: Business Casual–no jeans

    Graduation Tapping Ceremony
    Graduation Awards & Reception
    Wings of Blue Awards & “Blue Suit” Ceremony
    Academy Scholars Program Ceremony
    Schulte Award Ceremony & Reception

    Women: Business Casual
    Men: Business Casual
    Military: Service Dress w/flight cap

    Graduation Concert
    Women: Business Casual
    Men: Business Casual
    Military: Business Casual

    Graduation Parade
    Women: Business Casual/Casual
    Men: Business Casual/Casual
    Military: Service Dress w/flight cap
    Reviewing Stand: Service Dress w/ wheel cap

    Commissioning Ceremonies
    Women: Formal/Semi-Formal Gown or Dress (short or long)
    Men: Evening Attire: Black Tie or Suit and Tie
    Military: Mess Dress

    Graduation Reception – Mitchell Hall
    Women: Business Casual/Casual Attire
    Men: Business Casual/Casual Attire
    Military: Parade/Service Dress

    Graduation Ceremony
    Women: Business Casual /Casual
    Men: Business Casual/Casual
    Military in Stands: Service Dress w/ Flight Cap
    Military On Stage and Stadium Floor: Service Dress w/wheel cap

Graduation Event Highlights

Welcome Letter from the Superintendent

Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark is honored to welcome the families and friends of the Class of 2023 to Falcon Stadium to celebrate the 65th graduating class of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Guests of graduating cadets can click here to read his welcome letter, which includes important information on the Graduation Parade, graduation ceremony tickets, and the Superintendent’s graduate reception at the Carlton House.

Commandant’s Future Spouses Reception

Curious about what married life is like in the military? The Future Spouses Reception is a casual event at the Commandant of Cadet’s residence, the Otis House, to mingle with other military couples to learn first-hand! The Reception provides graduates the opportunity to share their Air Force Academy experience with their future military or civilian spouses while preparing them for life in the U.S. Air and Space Forces. Active Duty personnel representing various spousal circumstances will provide their perspective and lessons learned over their career for making their union and careers successful. The event naturally provides mentorship and introduces resources such as Key Spouses groups, Heart Link, Chaplains, Airman and Family Readiness Center, Military & Family Life Consultants, etc.

Superintendent’s Graduation Reception

Reception honoring graduating cadets and their families hosted by the Superintendent and his spouse at the Carlton House, the Superintendent’s residence. Families will have an opportunity to get a picture and interact with Academy Senior Leaders, and enjoy light refreshments.

Bluebards Production of "Beauty and the Beast"

The Bluebards Cadet Theatre Troupe takes the stage in the Arnold Hall Auditorium with a presentation of “Beauty and the Beast.” The play is inspired by Disney’s animated hit movie. The show starts at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets are not required. The show is free and open to all guests. See the show flyer available here.

Tapping Ceremony

The Tapping Ceremony is a prestigious ceremony recognizing specific top performers in the graduating class. A portion of the ceremony commemorates award recipients by attaching their engraved name plate to the larger award plaque in the Ballroom (the “tapping”). The Superintendent, Commandant, donors and other distinguished visitors present awards to the recipients. A reception for participants will follow the ceremony.
By invitation to honored cadets and their guests.

Graduation Awards Ceremony

The largest Academy awards ceremony honoring the top cadets in the graduating class for their military, academic, and athletic performance. Award winners will receive the beautiful Eagle and Fledglings sculpture and meet the generous sponsors who made these awards possible. Award winners and their guests are invited to attend a reception immediately following the ceremony. Watch the awards ceremony video. A program of the ceremony is available here.
Presentation of organizational and individual awards.

Cadet Aerial Events (CAPEX) and Honor Guard Demonstration

Arriving early to the Graduation Parade not only guarantees you a good seat, but also gains you exclusive access to some amazing demonstrations! Come watch our glider program soar onto the parade field, our “Wings of Blue” parachute team freefall with colored smoke and flags, and our Honor Guard and Saber Drill Team demonstrate their exceptional precision maneuvers. It is fun-filled entertainment for the whole family!
This event is restricted to six guests per graduate; wristband required.

Graduation Parade

The Graduation Parade is a Cadet Wing parade that honors the graduating class and symbolizes the assumption of command by the second class. During the parade, the graduating class marches away from the Cadet Wing as they pass their command to the rising Firsties. Come take in our Cadet Wing’s drill and ceremony skills as they create a visual and symbolic demonstration of our graduating class joining the long blue line.
This event is restricted to six guests per graduate, wristband required.

Parents Graduation Reception

Join us in the Cadet Dining Hall after the parade for a sampling of the cadets’ favorite meals. Featuring chicken strips, mac and cheese, green beans, Mongolian meatballs, rice, key west vegetables, salad bar, dessert bar, and beverages. Tickets for non-cadets are $6.85 and are available here.

Commissioning Ceremonies

The Commissioning Ceremony is a highly meaningful and historic ceremony for graduates, families and friends. Although largely symbolic (the formal commissioning takes place at the Graduation Ceremony), it is both formal and personal. Due to the number of highly sought out venues, commissioning ceremonies are taking place during four waves of time after the Graduation Parade. Be sure to check with your graduate in which wave their ceremony will take place.

Pre-Graduation Performances

Gates at Falcon Stadium open at 6:30 am. Come out early to watch performances by some of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s elite clubs. Performances include the Honor Guard, Cadet Chorale, Sabre Drill Team, U.S. Air Force Academy Band, the all-female a cappella group, Aerodynamics, and the all-male a cappella group, In The Stairwell.

Graduation Ceremony

The Graduation Ceremony is held to honor each graduating cadet’s successful completion of the Academy’s program. It embodies both the academic ceremony of granting the Bachelor of Science degree as well as the awarding of a commission in the U.S. Air Force or Space Force. In the event of severe inclement weather, the ceremony may be delayed or moved to the Cadet Field House. This announcement will be made the morning of and shared across the Cadet Wing.
Tickets required, stadium gates open at 6:30 a.m., entry will not be allowed once the ceremony begins.

Thunderbirds Performance

Following the Graduation Ceremony (outdoor only), join us for a magnificent flyover by the Air Force’s aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds! Be prepared to witness airpower up close and through impressive precision maneuvers. The USAF Thunderbirds demonstration is conducted in honor of the Academy’s graduating class. All personnel must remain in the stadium until the aerial demonstration is completed. Announcements will be made in the stadium and gates will open following the last pass of the Thunderbirds.