Ditch the cellphones, music, TV and every other kind of media on the planet. Ditto for civilian clothes. If you are a freshman at the United States Air Force Academy, this is your new normal. Cadet Fourth Class Jane Kaufmann ’10 can vouch for that.
At a time when only one-third of Americans qualify for the military, much less its service academies, Kaufmann began basic cadet training in June 2010. “Being given the chance to not only serve my country but to help lead it is amazing,” she says. She had “the right stuff” in terms of academic and physical grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and leadership experiences.
“I still get moments when I look down and think about the fact that I’m wearing combat boots to school,” she admits. And like her fellow freshmen, she is getting used to being known as one of the SMAKS (Soldiers Minus All Common Knowledge).
“What other school has Pave Hawk helicopters that land on the Parade Field or F16s flying over?” she asks. Saluting the flag the first time during training “was one of the coolest moments of my life,” Kaufmann says.
She comes from a family with a history of military service. Her grandparents met during World War II – he was a Marine and she was a U.S. Navy recruiter, and their siblings were in the military, too. “Having the family history of serving and growing up valuing and respecting the sacrifice that the men and women in the armed forces give definitely influenced my decision,” she notes.
Kaufmann plans to major in mechanical engineering and minor in Chinese. Marching, parades and lessons about the honor code are part of her education, and in the summer she will learn parachuting, combat survival training and global engagement. Recently, she was one of 35 students selected to begin training to be a nationally-certified emergency medical technician (EMT).
“We have an unusually large core with 152 semester hours,” she says. In her off hours, she enjoys reading, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding and running.
Adapting to military life has been a challenge. “Coming in I knew nothing. I didn’t know how to march or shine my shoes; I thought I knew how to make a bed, but I didn’t. You go through courses every day that are designed to test you mentally and physically,” she says, adding that each week she is tested on the contents of the ProBook, which includes info on Air Force personnel, planes’ specifications and rules of engagement. “You also have an opportunity to qualify on an M16 rifle at the rifle range,” she says.
Kaufmann believes that Gilmour not only prepared her academically, but helped her face the rigors of her first semester in college. Being a Gilmour resident student prepared her for being away from home and living with others her age. “My friends and classmates at Gilmour taught me to trust in people and to accept and understand other viewpoints,” she explains, “which helps in the diverse community here.”