United States Air Force Academy

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Preparing leaders of character in service to our nation

Center for Character and Leadership Development

character & leadership development
Evening View of Polaris Hall & the Academy Chapel

Polaris Hall is the newest iconic structure on the United States Air Force Academy. Opened in 2016, this facility houses the Center for Character & Leadership Development.

Wakin Lecture
World Class Forum for World Class Speakers

The Forum is a world-class venue for inspirational speakers to connect with cadets and permanent party.

Leadership Overview

Integrity, Service, Excellence

The Academy’s mission is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our Nation. The Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) is at the heart of accomplishing that mission. CCLD helps align academic, athletic and military efforts—for faculty and staff and across all four years of the Academy course of instruction—to develop leaders of character.

The U.S. Air Force Academy defines character as: “One’s moral compass; the sum of those qualities of moral excellence which move a person to do the right thing despite pressures to the contrary.” In addition, we define a “Leader of Character” as one who:

  • Lives honorably; consistently practicing the virtues embodied by the Core Values
  • Lifts others to their best possible selves, and
  • Elevates performance toward a common and noble purpose

Therefore, the mission of CCLD is to help create an environment where people want to relentlessly pursue the identity of a Leader of Character. To this end, the Center is organized into three divisions:

Development Division, in partnership with the Cadet Wing, designs the education and training that create the fundamental knowledge, skills and abilities to be a commissioned officer that lives honorably. It provides professional development opportunities that advance the understanding and implementation of effective character and leadership development practices across military, academic and athletic settings, reaching cadets, faculty and staff. This transformational curriculum offers intentional and engaging events that assess, challenge, and support cadet and permanent party development. Furthermore, the division creates opportunities for cadets to put into practice and fortify habits of honorable thoughts and actions.

The Development Division also engages cadets and permanent party through Experiential Based Learning courses which include both high- and low-ropes course obstacles, to include the 50-foot “Alpine Tower” climbing obstacle. The Ropes Program offers opportunities that focus on critical thinking, resourcefulness, understanding one’s self and others, leadership and followership, creating clear communication, challenging judgement, respecting human dignity and building a warrior ethos.

Additionally, the Development Division offers cadets an opportunity to pursue their own character and leadership development by offering a variety of exceptional conferences, forums, and other character building events. Finally, this division facilitates cadet service learning (community service) programs, alternative spring break opportunities, veteran/heritage events, and integration of the Service Academy and AFROTC Exchange.

Research & Scholarship Division conducts research on the most effective methods for developing character and leadership in the cadets and also assesses the current character development programs at the Academy to ensure we’re meeting the mission of developing leaders of character. It produces rigorous and thought-provoking publications in the area of character and leadership, to include the nationally recognized Journal of Character and Leadership Development.

Support Division provides focus on the alignment of CCLD efforts within the Center, across the Academy and beyond.  This focus on strategic partnerships and efficiencies enhances the reach and impact of CCLD initiatives, and brings external perspectives and best practices to our processes and programs.  The primary audience for character and leadership development efforts is our cadet community.  The CCLD ensures each cadet has the opportunity to engage in developmental activities throughout the year, culminating annually at the Academy’s National Character & Leadership Symposium where cadets, Academy staff, and participants from around the world engage with renowned speakers and experts relevant to the Air Force Academy’s outcomes and objectives.

In sum, character and leadership development is a crucial, all-encompassing part of the Academy experience. From the time cadets enter until graduation, they can expect to see various character and leadership development programs in every aspect of cadet life with the ultimate goal of imbuing cadets with the inner desire to develop self and others as leaders of character.

To support the Academy-wide character and leadership mission, CCLD:

  • Advances understanding and implementation of effective character and leadership development practices across military, academic and athletic settings—for cadets, faculty and staff
  • Inspires cadets to embrace the Air Force Core Values as the foundation of their lifelong development as leaders of character
  • Provides experiences, tools and collaborative, inspirational settings to foster character and leadership development for cadets and Academy faculty/staff
  • Advises Academy leadership on character and leadership development issues

Organizations interested in learning more or working with CCLD in areas of common interest may contact us at ccld@usafa.edu.

CCLD Faculty and Staff

Developing Leaders of Character Framework




The Honorable Mike Rose, Class of 1969, presents his seminal work on the Honor system at the U.S. Air Force Academy, “A Prayer for Relief“. Watch the video to view his discussion about this scholarship and how it impacted and changed the Honor system.


These articles were published by the U.S. Air Force Academy Association of Graduates, Checkpoints Magazine, December 2019.

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CCLD restructures to better focus on critical missioning
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Polaris Hall, Suite 300
USAF Academy, Colorado 80840-6260
Phone: (719)-333-4904
Fax: (719) 333-4276

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