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Students at the Army's U.S. Military Academy participate in the traditional hat toss, a ritual shared by the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. The hat toss symbolizes students’ transition from cadet or midshipman to military officer.   Courtesy photo.
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2007— As “pomp and circumstance” rings through the three U.S. military academies over the next few days, several thousand new graduates will accept their commissions and join the military ranks.

These young second lieutenants and ensigns all enrolled in their respective schools -- the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. -- recognizing they’d graduate into a wartime force.

Most were sophomores in high school when they watched televised images of the Twin Towers falling and the Pentagon burning, then the U.S. going to war in Afghanistan. Most hadn’t yet been to their senior proms when the country entered Iraq. Story
Photo: Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Army Gen. John Abizaid
West Point 1973
For insight into how the military academies are preparing future officers, one could talk to a graduate who went on to serve a long military career, a commandant who helped groom future officers or a combatant commander who watched them perform in combat. Or one could just talk with Army Gen. John Abizaid. Story
Air Force Gen. John Corley
Air Force Academy 1973
When 17-year-old John Corley joined the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Class of 1973, his father had already given him some valuable life lessons to tuck under his belt. The Vietnam War was still raging -- along with anti-war sentiment -- when Corley, now a four-star general serving as Air Force vice chief of staff, entered the academy. But he said he never once considered not following in the footsteps laid by Don Corley, his Army Air Corps pilot father. Story
 
Marine Gen. Peter Pace
Naval Academy 1967
Sitting back in his Pentagon office, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, considered three decisions he said dramatically changed his life: to marry Lynne, his wife of 36 years; to join the Marine Corps, and to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md.   Story
Photo: Army Gen. John Abizaid, Retired
Photo: Air Force Gen. John Corley Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
 
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A cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy undergoes a blackboard exercise in Chinese. All three U.S. military academies are putting new emphasis on language and regional studies coursework to help their graduates as they deploy around the world.  Courtesy photo.

Academies' Language, Cultural
Studies Gain More Focus

Today, some 185 years after West Point became the first of three U.S. military academies, followed by the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., all three schools are thinking globally in the way they educate future officers. Story
A Historical Look at the Academies
1802: President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the U.S. Military at West Point, N.Y. Gen. George Washington and other top soldiers and legislators promoted the concept of an institution devoted to the arts and science of warfare to eliminate the country’s reliance on foreign engineers and artillery officers.
1845: The U.S. Naval Academy was established on the grounds of the former U.S. Army post, Fort Severn, in Annapolis, Md. Its first class is made up of 50 midshipmen and seven professors. The U.S. Naval Academy was moved to Fort Adams in Newport, R.I., in 1861, but returned to Annapolis in 1865.
1954: The U.S. Air Force Academy was established, seven years after the Air Force became a separate service, and Congress authorized construction of the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
1955: The first class of 306 Air Force Academy cadets was sworn in at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colo., as construction began on the permanent campus in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Air Force Academy moved to its Colorado Springs site in 1958.