Graduation Advice

Tami Garst

We gave 1 clear bag per family, but kept them low-key. Cheap ponchos $1.97 at Wal-Mart. The pin/magnet buttons from were a hit! (Marni Kelsey shared a code that we all used/tweaked; price & customer service were great.)

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Donda Thomasson- Posted in Parent Resource… 5/10/17

I wrote this up for my guests for my daughter’s graduation 2006 (yikes–some time ago, but still relevant). You might find it helpful to know what is going on during the Graduation Parade in a couple of weeks. And as for all Graduation events, arrive early! There is a lot to see before the march-on (falcons, wings of blue, sabre demo..). Seating is limited. So if you have an elderly person or someone in a wheelchair, you will want to be sure to get them a seat.

To know where to sit: look for small white metal flags with numbers on them right at the grass’s edge before the cement where the bleachers are. These numbers are where that squadron will end up when the seniors separate from the other classes during the parade. The firsties march straight for that marked area. For ex. If your cadet is in squadron 21 and knowing that the numbers are in sequence (except for the top squadron which will march first and be on the far left), and there are 40 squadrons, your cadet will be about the middle. Sit one or two rows up straight across from marker 21. I suggest a few rows up because of the people wandering around on the ground floor will block your view of the goings on.

For fun, you could bring a sheet with all the squadron symbols. See what The Warthog or the chicken Hawk squadron decal looks like.

Graduation Parade “Full Circle”
In a Doolie’s first summer, the Acceptance Parade marks the successful completion of Basic Cadet Training (BCT or “Beast”). When Doolies finish their BCT within 2 months of their arrival at the Academy in June, the Doolies march together onto the Parade Field and are absorbed, or ACCEPTED, into the Cadet Wing. The newly formed 4,000-plus-strong Cadet Wing leaves the field in unison. The Cadet Wing split into squadrons and each squadron awards its Doolies their first shoulderboards which denotes rank.

Nearly four years later, the Cadet Wing will march in together onto the Parade Grounds for its Graduation Parade, and the members of the graduating class will separate and move toward the stands, leaving their under-classmen at the back of the field. After the change of leadership ceremony and the sheathing of the class color flag, the ¾ Cadet Wing will march in review of the soon-to-be 2LTs and exchange salutes with their squadron mates.

Look for:
• The advancing Firsties form a wedge look as they advance.
• How the squadron flags are dipped to indicate salute as the younger classes pass their former squadron mates, as they march off the field. The extra banners/ribbons hanging from the squadron pole pls flag indicate what awards that squadron won thru the year. For ex. Academic, intermurals, military….
• Listen for the Roll Call numbers. In previous years the 4 Groups will note the number of “Counted and Present” and it will numerate the Class Year. And cheer!!!
• In the second rank of the color guard, behind the U.S., POW, and Air Force flags are the colors of the four classes at the Academy. On the right, in the position of honor: The class colors are: red, gold, blue, and silver. After the Graduating Class leaves the Cadet Wing, the Class Color flag will be furled and cased and moved to the farthest right position. At any parades before Acceptance, the cased color will be on the right, still cased, awaiting the acceptance of the next class. At that Acceptance parade, after the incoming class joins the Wing, the class color will be unfurled, symbolic of that class joining the wing. The Class color flag will work its way from left to right, year by year …. It’s a fine tradition that most folks never notice.

My daughter pointed out that USAFA superintendent Gen Michelle Johnson is a three-star. When she is on the parade ground, there should be a blue flag with three stars on it behind her. Also, when the AF band plays, it will do three flourishes before commencing with the song.

Also one of the very last times you can get a photo of your cadet in full parade uniform. Next time, s/he tosses the hat. At commissioning, it is mess dress.

Kim Brock Taylor


2017 GA Parents, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I know in many ways you thought this day would never get here; and on the flipside, you are amazed at how fast the last four years have flown by!!!

Disclaimer: Graduation changes every year. This is what we did for our graduation in 2014. Do what works for YOUR family!! Do not feel you need to do all the bells and whistles. My biggest advice is to let your guests decided where to be and when, and you just worry about your immediate family and relish every second of every moment. Take lots of pictures as this event is a once in a lifetime celebration! Enjoy this fabulous, marvelous, breath-taking, once-in-a-lifetime experience of USAFA graduation!!! Kim Taylor (Chris, USAFA 2007, AF Test Pilot School, Libby, USAFA 2014, UPT Columbus AFB, graduates in April!)


Graduation Goodie bags: Here is what I did in 2014 for my guests (one per family). Besides the graduation booklet, a personalized Tervis water bottle (helps to be the distributor — hahahaha!) and one photo button per guest, I included:

water bottle (24 oz. or less)
Sunscreen (got at dollar store)
rain ponchos (dollar store)
personalized coozie (friend ordered a bunch, custom to 2014)
lip balm
protein bars
aspirin packets (got off amazon individual packets)
fans (fold up kind, patriotic, from Oriental trading company)
lotion (dollar store)
packet of Kleenex
wet wipes
candy, mints, some other snacks like peanut butter crackers

More graduation information! We ordered this banner (cannot remember where, got it on-line for wherever I found best price). We put it out at my sister’s house prior to the graduation party AND then took it back home to Peachtree City and put it up in our yard for a couple of weeks so all our neighbors could see how proud we were of our USAFA grad!!!


We got these buttons from and the design code they created is 3706135 (this was in 2014). I ordered 35 of the 3 inch buttons with the plain pin back, I used the coupon “moreoff” and paid a grand total of $32 which includes shipping. GREAT PRICE. Our guests loved wearing these and my daughter thought it was a crack-up! Something else I put in their goodie bags! I used red stars since my daughter’s class was red – my son’s year some folks did yellow stars for yellow class.


This gave a schedule of events, times to be there (always early!), suggested outfits, security regulations, etc. etc. Plus it had just a lot of extra information about USAFA which our guests loved to read in the waiting periods for the events.

Here is what we did for our daughter, contains lots of pictures, schedule of events, info on academy, etc. It is TOO BIG to attach to the file folder on FB (tried last year) but if you send me your email address, I will forward the pdf to you via drop box (too big to email). You can cut and paste if you want to use this. Please email me if you want a copy and in which format, pdf or dropbox. This is in the Publisher program so if you have that, you can easily cut and paste your stuff in and not recreate the wheel.

AGAIN, this is how things worked in 2014. You know how everything changes from year to year so this may not all be pertinent anymore. I know they have changed to 3 swearing in ceremony periods instead of 2 like we had.


Some hints from 2014:
The graduation parade will be PACKED!! I highly recommend you get there early!! We were the first ones in 2014 and of course had our pick of seats! hahaha!! We loved seeing the sunrise and just enjoying the ambiance of all things AFA on that beautiful morning!!! Watching the flag come up with taps was a real tear jerker…..
Bring a big umbrella for the wait — we certainly folded up the umbrellas once any sort of on-field activities started but they were a life-saver for sunburn! (it was sunny the whole time for us)
Freeze water bottles over night and bring them — they will stay cold and you don’t want to be standing in lines to fill them up at the water facilities once the parade activities start!
Do NOT sit on the front row — all the wheelchairs, strollers, etc. will totally block your view! Plus late arrivals will stand in front of you looking for seats (there won’t be any!) and block your view.
If you get there early and they don’t have the ropes up yet, remember that both sides of the stands next to the center will be roped off for VIPs — if you sit there early, you will be told to move when the ropes go up.
Late arrivals will eventually sit in on the stairs next to you if you are on the end — technically not allowed since it is a safety issue but the sheer numbers will overwhelm security police. If you are on the end, make sure you tell them they are NOT to stand up to take pictures when you are also trying to take pictures — you were there first to ensure those great pictures and they need to be cognizant of that.
When your cadet is marching away from the squadron and towards the stand, take LOTS of pictures — once they get in place, they will pivot back toward the rest of the wing and then you just get the back of their heads.
As soon as allowed, head straight out to the field and have your cameras ready — your cadet will want pictures of their buddies and of course all your family and guests — even if they whine, they will treasure the pictures forever so keep taking them! This is also your last chance to get pictures of them WITH their hats (as they throw them at graduation) so keep shooting those photos — and if you want a picture of them in their parade uniform with hat in front of their class crest on the wall up on the T’zo, this is also the time to walk up there and take it! (class crest comes down the next day)
After the parade was also a good time for our cadet to take family and friends on a tour of the Academy grounds, show them their room, etc. Many of our guests were at USAFA for the first time and they were fascinated! Our cadet was probably in a million more pictures as they walked around the T’zo in those spiffy uniforms with their very proud family and guests! (heard that some of this may have changed in ’15 and ’16 so if you have other information different than mine, trust the new information!)

One other BIG HINT! Make sure your cadet is cleaning out their room and whittling down their belongings now — they and you will be surprised how much stuff they have collected over the last four years! (and this includes males, not just females!) You do not want to be one of those panicked parents helping your cadet get everything out last minute when you should be enjoying the event and your guests! You will be shocked at how much cadets just throw out last minute since they are out of time and out of space (other younger cadets love it and call it treasure hunt time with all that is tossed or forgotten or just abandoned…….
I will send another email in a couple of days with graduation hints for the actual ceremony!
I am sure other parents have additional advice and hints and hopefully they will add on to this.

Will add a few more hints in the upcoming days!

Again, congratulations! Kim Taylor

Libby’s Graduation Booklet is in PDF Form

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Graduation reflections– By Adrian Sutterfield