Academy supt shares successes, challenges at annual ‘State of the Academy’ brief
(U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley)
Story by Ray Bowden, April 12, 2019
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force Academy’s top officer hosted his State of the U.S. Air Force Academy briefing in Polaris Hall, April 12.
Lieutenant Gen. Jay Silveria, the Academy’s superintendent, said the annual briefings are among the many ways the Academy communicates with its community and encouraged the audience and those viewing the event online to stay in touch.
“It’s certainly a pleasure for me to talk about my alma mater,” he said.
Among other topics, Silveria announced the Air Force had postponed repairs to the Cadet Chapel.
“The preservation of the Cadet Chapel is a construction priority at the Academy, but we also recognize overall readiness is a priority for the Air Force,” he said.
The Air Force deferred funding to refurbish the chapel as leaders look for ways to secure supplemental funding to repair Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and Offutt AFB, Nebraska, in the wake of natural disasters — two of 61 large-scale projects Air Force officials are trying to address.
The general said this and more to an audience of Airmen and civic leaders, and also announced to applause that the Academy’s airfield will be renamed in honor of Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Tuskegee Airman, World War II fighter pilot, and commander of the African-American “Red Tails.”
“We’re incredibly proud our airfield will now bear the name of an Airman, a warrior, and an exemplar without peer,” he said.
Silveria discussed the scheduled changes this year among the school’s top-level officials.
“The search is on,” he said, for a new dean to replace Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost who is scheduled to retire from the Air Force this summer.
Also, Brig. Gen. Michele Edmondson will replace Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin as commandant of cadets; Col. Brian Hartless will replace Col. Shawn Campbell as the 10th Air Base Wing commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Sparks will replace Chief Master Sgt. Rob Boyer, who is scheduled to retire from the Air Force in October.
“I’d like to thank every last one of them for their tireless efforts,” Silveria said.
After Silveria’s presentation, civic leader Stan Vanderwerf of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners said the Academy’s update is more than just an annual get-together.
“It represents the value we place in each other and in our shared communities,” he said.
Silveria discussed a challenge all service academies are grappling with: sexual assault. The Defense Department released its Sexual Harassment and Violence Report Jan. 31. Silveria told the group he was not pleased by the results, which indicate sexual harassment and violence remains prevalent at the academies. He called the account “a stark example of the need for leadership vigilance.”
“I’ll be very direct here,” he said. “I was disgusted by the report. It’s unacceptable.”
Early in February, Silveria and the other service academy leaders testified in front of Congress.
“We shared with Congress what we’re doing to confront these issues, such as the upcoming Pathways to Prevention summit,” he said.
Last year, the Academy held its first Pathways to Thriving Summit where senior leaders and sexual assault prevention and response experts took comments from current and past cadets, survivors of sexual assault and community leaders.
“The overall intent for the summit was not only to facilitate conversation but also to include sexual assault survivors in the discussion on where the Academy has been on this issue and how to move forward productively,” Silveria said.
The Academy will host its second summit, Pathways to Prevention, after the start of the academic year to discuss specific issues that may affect the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.
“The bottom line is that we have to do better,” he said.
Silveria also talked about the accomplishments of cadets.
“I’ve spent countless hours interacting with cadets,” he said. “Without fail, I’ll learn about some of the remarkable research they’re doing, or some far-flung locale they visited to learn a language, do an internship, or participate in any number of the amazing programs or opportunities that were not available when I was a cadet.”
Specifically, Silveria discussed Cadets 1st Class James Brahm, Kyle Haak and Madison Tung.
Haak is a physics major with a minor in nuclear weapons and strategy. He was named Cadet of the Year of 2018, the most outstanding cadet among all commissioning courses in the Air Force during the Academic year.
Brahm is a computer science major pursuing minors in Chinese and nuclear weapons and strategy, and Tung is a mathematics and humanities major pursuing a minor in Chinese. Both earned Rhodes scholarships.
“James and Madison were among the 32 of our nation’s top students to be chosen as Rhodes scholars and will begin their graduate studies at Oxford University this fall,” Silveria said.
Haak, Brahm and Tung also received the Stamps scholarship, funded by the Air Force Academy Endowment to promote summer research internships and cultural immersion.
“I can tell you, I’m constantly amazed by our cadets and I’m confident you will be too,” Silveria said. “I encourage you to take the opportunity to talk to [cadets] whenever you might get the chance. You won’t be disappointed.”