Jack B's Guide to Parent's Weekend
Some Parents’ Weekend Notes
Hotel Reservations: Hopefully you all have made your hotel reservations. If not, we suggest contacting the Travel Office located at the AFA that supports cadets, cadet parents and others stationed at the AFA.
Web site: http://www.coloradorandr.com/
Contact Info: Colorado R & R Ticket and Tour Center
USAF Academy, CO
Toll Free: (877) 517-3381
Just a reminder that there is a Travel Information section in the notebooks that we prepared for you. Lots of information and on- line resources are available – travel site search engines, airline web sites, rental car web sites, etc.
Must know and must haves for your PW visit to Colorado Springs:
- Awareness of Altitude Sickness. Sometimes visitors to Colorado Springs find that at 7,000’ above sea level that they MAY experience trouble adjusting to the somewhat lower levels of oxygen in the atmosphere. Typical symptoms are a mild headache, some lightheadedness, and shortness of breath following even slight physical exertion like climbing a flight of stairs. Generally, individuals acclimate over the first 24 hours or so. We suggest that if this is your first time visiting Colorado Springs that you might want to read the information about the symptoms of mild altitude sickness presented by WebMD. See for details: http://firstaid.webmd.com/mountain-sickness-treatment
- Some general tips are:
- Avoid strenuous activity for the first day or two
- Drink extra fluid
- Be careful if drinking alcohol. Its effect is magnified at high altitude
- If you have a heart or lung condition, consult your physician before going to high altitude. He or she can tell you whether your condition will let your body adjust to the lower oxygen in the atmosphere
- Camera, binoculars, etc.
- Lots of water
Things to keep in mind:
- Weather conditions can change quickly along the “Front Range” mountains of the Rockies. On many days this time of year, Colorado Springs is very susceptible to late afternoon thunder and lightening storms. They are brief in duration but the rain is heavy and the temp will cool off. Having a small umbrella with you is a good idea
- Please pack some PATIENCE for this trip ~ you will be one of about 4,000 + cadet families in Colorado Springs. Most families are three or more. That’s a lot of people and a lot of cars. Also keep in mind that this is Labor Day Weekend and Colorado Springs is a “tourist” destination for many vacationers who have no affiliation with the AF Academy. The Colorado State Fair is taking place in Pueblo, CO just south of Colorado Springs. Bottom line – LOTS of people.
- Traffic will be especially heavy on Friday morning when you and those other 4,000 cadet families, are trying to get to the AFA to attend classes. Normal rush hour traffic in Colorado Springs on Rte 25 is very heavy in the morning when there aren’t an additional 4,000 vehicles on the road. Patience and an early start that day are the key.
- Once you get to the AFA grounds on Friday morning there may be lines at the gates getting past security, and more traffic as you drive to the designated parking lots. You’ll park the car and then get in line again waiting to take the shuttle up to the Cadet area to meet your cadet and head to class.
- Be sure that you and your cadet have arranged a meeting place and time in morning. I would NOT recommend the Cadet Chapel steps. Thousands will choose that location. Opt for the less used Honor Court in the same area closer to Harmon Hall. There are many bronze replicas of AF aircraft so it’s hard to miss and it makes for a good meeting place.
- A Word of Caution: Follow the posted speed limits on AFA roadways despite what you may see others doing. The AFA Military Police strictly enforce speed limits. Tickets issued by AF Military Police on a US military base are enforceable across the USA. This is federal citation, not a State of Colorado citation. That means, if cited you will have to pay the fine.
- Restaurants in Colorado Springs will be full to capacity with long lines at meal times so plan appropriately, make reservations if you can. If you fight the fact that there are crowds everywhere, you’re not going to have an enjoyable time. Crowds of people are a fact of life over PW. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Introduce yourself to other cadets and cadet families as you wait. Take a different tact on meals - plan a late afternoon snack and head out to dinner at 8:30pm instead of during the usual 5 to 7pm crush of diners. Travel a bit further around from the immediate area around Academy Blvd.
- On Friday afternoon, the last event of the day is the Squadron Open Houses, where you will meet you cadet’s AOC, classmates, and upper class leaders in the squadron. You’ll also have an opportunity to visit your cadet’s room. When you leave for the evening, be sure that you take your cadet’s bag/luggage of clothes and items that s/he will need for the rest of the weekend. Then, following the football game, you and your cadet will be able to leave the Academy grounds right from the football game and not have to return to the Cadet Area to simply pick up a suitcase. There will lots of traffic and congestion on the roads following the game. Doing this helps to avoid some of that chaos. Falcon Stadium holds about 47,000 fans.
Please be understanding and patient when it comes to your cadet during PW
Generally one of two things will happen once you are able to leave the AFA with your cadet for the weekend:
- Once you get to your hotel, your cadet may not want to do much other than sleep, eat and hang at the pool and then sleep some more. Have to realize that your cadet has been going almost non-stop and under a lot of pressure since late June. Inprocessing, BCT, moving into their academic squadrons and rooms in the dorm. The entire Cadet Wing returned from summer Ops and vacations and now instead of the relatively small number of Cadre that have functioned as their trainers and leaders, they now find themselves having to deal with 3,000+ upper classmen, new cadet wing leadership, cadet group leadership and new squadron leadership within their own squadrons. The structure is much like the AF “Chain of Command.” They have started academic classes and have to adjust to professors and the work associated with academics. There is classroom work, homework, intramurals, military knowledge classes, inspections, etc, etc. Now all of a sudden, they have a few days off with you and all the pressure, stress, and tiredness visits itself upon you and all they may want to do is sleep. You can choose to hang with them at the hotel and perhaps you can do a few things on your own while they sleep. The most important thing is for you to enjoy being together for the first time in a long time. Remember, this is only the first of three PWs to come.
- Other cadets have the exact opposite experience as noted above. The last thing they want to do is go to a hotel and sleep. They want to get out into the “real” world again. Go to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, the Chapel Hills Mall, eat a Double Whopper with cheese, go to restaurants, ride the cog railway to Pike’s Peak, go to a movie – they simply have an overwhelming need and desire to reconnect with society beyond the AFA and they simply have little interest in staying in. If that sounds like your son or daughter – bring your sneakers!!
- Bottom line – this first PW will call for you to be “flexible.” The next few PWs when they are upperclassmen will be completely different from this first PW so be willing to play this one by ear.
- If your cadet feels like being up and about, sites like: http://www.visitcos.com/ are helpful or refer to the Colorado Visitor’s Guide that we placed in your notebooks.
A very important “To Do!”
Before you leave the AFA for the weekend with your cadet on Friday afternoon following the Squadron Open House, ask them if there are any cadets staying in the squadron (most especially a C4C) whose parents have either not arrived as yet, or, may not be coming to Parents’ Weekend. If there is, please take the initiative to have your cadet invite that dorm bound cadet out to dinner with you and perhaps to your hotel for a swim after dinner. Your cadet will appreciate what your doing for a squadron mate and you will certainly have a positive impact on a cadet who was about to spend a lonely night or perhaps the weekend on “The Hill.” Not every cadet family has the financial resources to get to PW and some are unable to attend. Some cadet parents may not be able to get time off on a weekday and will not arrive in Colorado until Saturday. If you think it’s fun being with one cadet – take two or three to dinner with you. I guarantee you will be entertained for the entire evening with stories of life at the AFA for the past 2 months and you will have a memory you won’t soon forget.
A brief word of caution re: C4C Cadets and wearing uniforms during PW:
All C4Cs are required to be in uniform when out in public during PW – be it day time or night time. There is no difference. PLEASE encourage your cadet to do what they are supposed to do. Please do not encourage them to do otherwise. A number of C4Cs will flaunt the rules and attempt to “go native” over the weekend. If they are caught they will be subject to disciplinary measures for being in violation of the requirement/order that they must be in uniform while out in public. This is an AFA requirement for all C4Cs. You may need to remind them that most civilians have the ability to pick out a C4C in any crowd in Colorado Springs over PW. They are all lean, tanned, not to mention that all the males share a common haircut. If a citizen or parent can pick them out in a crowd, you can guess how difficult it is for an upperclassman to do it. Whether that upperclassman will turn the Doolie in to his or her squadron’s cadet leadership is something the Doolie will worry about during PW and beyond if caught. This early in a cadet AFA career, starting off with this type of a violation is not the way for a doolie to endear his or her self to their upperclass leaders.
We remember the story of a C4C who was in civilian clothes with his family having a great time on the Cog Railway going up Pike’s Peak on the first train very early one morning. He turned to take a picture out the window of the train only to look into his viewfinder to see the face of a firstie from his squadron standing across from him. The firstie was with his own family on the railway. Just the look on the C1C’s face told the Doolie he had been “BUSTED !!” The wind chill at the top of Pike’s Peak was about 20° that morning, but this C4C was sweating bullets on the ride up and the ride down. The firstie chose to not to say a word to the C4C at that time so as not to embarrass him in front of his family. The C1C also knew that saying nothing, leaving the C4C to wonder what might happen, was far more torturous than simply saying something. He was right. The Doolie turned himself in to his squadron’s cadet commander on Monday night immediately following his return to the AFA.
One Parent’s Suggestion about returning to the Academy on Monday evening of PW
In order to avoid the rush of families trying to return 3,000 under class cadets to the Academy by 7:50PM, (The other 1,000 firstie cadets don’t have to report back until 11pm) we did what an upper class parent suggested – we had a late afternoon picnic with our cadet on the Academy grounds!
Late Monday afternoon, we went to a local Sandwich Shop and purchased sandwiches, potato salad, chips, pickles, soda, etc. and returned to the Academy with our cadet around 5:30PM. Because we were early we were able to drive right up next to his dorm area, parked and helped him carry all the “stuff” we had purchased over the weekend for him as well as his luggage up to his room. He signed in, and then came back out (signing in indicates that you are back on campus as required). We then drove to the “Scenic Overlook” that provides a view of the athletic fields and Cadet area. We parked, spread out a blanket (remember the C4Cs will be in uniform – so blanket or towel for them to sit on) and had a picnic. We were able to enjoy each other’s company for that last couple of hours. We took lots of pictures of our cadet with family members using the Cadet area as a background. We also kind of smirked as we watched hundreds and hundreds of cars in long lines as they snaked their way up to the dormitory areas as everyone was trying to get their cadet back in order to sign in on time. With their lights on, the cars looked like that scene in Field of Dreams when all the spectators are headed to the ball game played in Ray’s Kinsella's cornfield. Around 7pm we drove over to his dorm area and dropped him off. We then walked over to Chapel Wall for awhile.
While “hanging around” the Chapel Wall we got ready for the Christmas Songs. Not sure if they still do that, but if so, be prepared! It’s just the upperclassmen teasing the C4Cs and their parents. (You’ll soon learn that fooling gullible, new parents is a hobby for most of the upper class cadets.) On the stroke of 7:50PM, an announcement is made throughout the dorms and the cadet area stating that “Parents Weekend is officially over and all cadets should be in their squadron.” Almost immediately, that will be followed by the Bing Crosby rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” being played by the upper classmen who will strategically place the speakers of their sound systems in their dorm windows facing the Terrazzo area so that all the parents and all the doolies can hear. Just know that it happens and that it’s done with tongue in cheek.