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USAFA Cadets: Nathan Foss and Chase Bockstruck – Talk rugby & Montreal

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USAFA Cadets Nathan Foss and Chase Bockstruck attend RMC for military training from a foreign perspective! Cadet Foss majors in Foreign Area Studies and minors in French, he is an aspiring Pilot who has been a member of the United States Air Force since June 2013. Cadet Bockstruck majors in Management and is also an aspiring pilot who has been a member of the United States Air Force since June 2013.

The article has been coordinated by – 26659 Danielle Andela – e-Veritas Sr. Correspondent

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Cadet (I2363) III Nathan Foss, United States Air Force Academy

I’d say the biggest difference for me to get used to, is having all three branches. So you are able to get to know how each branch operates very well even before you graduate. Whereas for us it’s very segmented, since I go to the Air Force Academy it’s all Air Force, all the time. Granted we have a couple of exchange officers, we have a couple Navy, a couple Marine, a couple Army, but it’s maybe 3 or 4 officers for the entire faculty. So it’s very minimal exposure for us, so I like being able to talk to my friends who are going Army, friends who are going Navy, friends who are going Air Force, it’s fun to be able to hear those differences. There are 4000 students in USAFA so I think that is another thing I enjoy about RMC. I really enjoy the smaller environment, which is weird, when I was initially looking at colleges I was looking for the big school kind of feel but after being here I really enjoy the smaller feel, I really enjoy being able to recognize people and being able to get to know more people.

I’d say the events within the PPT are different. We still have situps and pushups but you do the beep test whereas we do 600 yard sprints and we also include pullups. In Varsity sports we have a little more of a draw for people to go to service academies. It’s a big deal to go to one so they have that to be able to recruit people. It’s also a bigger school so there are more people to draw from to those teams, either recruited athletes or walk-ons. It’s more competitive especially with football and hockey, since we’re in the NCAA, all of our sports are pretty competitive. I’m not really a big football fan so it doesn’t affect me that much [that RMC does not have a football team], obviously at USAFA it’s mandatory to go to all football games so it’s kind of mandatory fun but the tailgates before are pretty fun.

I really like the fact that you guys know your trades so during the summers you can do specific training for that. I’ve been able to talk to some of the pilots who have been able to complete portions of their flight training over the summer, and as a hopeful pilot it would be really nice to be able to do that. On the flip side I feel that it doesn’t motivate you as much, whereas for us we don’t find out our trade until 4th year and everything at the academy can affect what job we get. So there is a little more of that push to do well in classes and not to screw up. It’s a bit of a drawback but I feel like it is a real benefit for you guys to be able to get some of that training in and have more applicable training while you’re here.

I feel like one thing that we do really well is that everyone has a leadership opportunity in every year except first year. So as a second year you are a mentor for a single first year where you are guiding them through their first year, how to survive pretty much, because we have a not as intense FYOP but it goes all the way until March. We get up in the mornings at 0600 and go out and call minutes, calling the menu for the meals of the day, the Duty Officer and Cadet Duty Officer. There are certain rules that we have to follow like we can’t wear our backpacks, we can only walk in certain areas, and then the second years are guiding the first years in this. As third years we act as NCOs, so helping the program officers. Instead of it being the Operations Officer in the Squadron or the Academics Officer, being a third year they are the Academics NCO, Operations NCO, and everyone has those NCO positions as well as our version of a Section Commander. Every single fourth year has a job, whether it be our version of a Cadet Squadron Leader, Cadet Division Leader or Cadet Wing Commander or it could be an Academics Officer, Operations Officer, everyone has a job, there are no slashers for second, third and fourth years.

When we first enter [USAFA] we enter at the end of June and we go through basic training which is 5 weeks run all by cadets. There are officers there to make sure no one is breaking any laws or rules, to make sure we stay between the lines, but as long as we stay between the lines it is all cadet run. The first three weeks are basically breaking you down, getting you used to the military lifestyle, then the final three weeks it’s our deployed scenario and that’s building you back up, teaching you how to work as a team. That ends at the beginning of August when school starts, but when school starts there are first year rules you have to follow. Like I said before you can’t wear a backpack, you’re not allowed to wear civies, you’re always in uniform, always at attention, you can only walk in certain areas, you can’t speak freely. We call them seven basic responses, “yes Sir, no Sir, no excuse”, things like that. That’s always how you always need to talk. That ends in March with a three day weekend called “Recognition” where it’s essentially all of basic compressed into one weekend. It’s very intense; it starts right after school ends on Thursday and goes all the way until Saturday afternoon where you do all these courses again, the obstacle course, assault course, things like that. You have people screaming at you and doing physical exercises, but once you’re done you’re basically a free person.

At USAFA, once graduation happens and the Thunderbirds fly over, you’re the next year. For example, I’m a third year but I’d be considered Cadet 2nd Class which happened at graduation this past May. The main difference is whether you hold a position, there are certain probations where you are not allowed to hold a position. For example, aptitude, if you are failing militarily, or honour, if you have an honour violation, I know those two you can’t hold a position. For the rest of them you are just on probation, where there are certain requirements you have to meet. If you failed a fitness test they would put you on reconditioning to boost your fitness score. For academics you have to meet certain tutoring hours each week and as long as you can meet those and meet the requirements by the end of semester you are good to go.

In between my first and second year we are all required to do some form of airmanship. I had a lot of friends who did free-fall parachuting. Some friends, we have gliders, and they soloed in a glider. For me I worked on our space program, we have a satellite in orbit so I was able to work on that, as well we have drones so I did those too. That program is one of the smaller programs, our summers are split into periods. For that space program I think there were 20 people per week, it was only a week long program. However for the jump program I’d say that there are about 150-200 people per three weeks. The soaring program it is closer to 250-300 people going through every three weeks. In addition to that we have survival training, going into our second year so we go out into the woods and the mountains and learn how to survive if we were in a scenario where our plane was shot down and were in hostile territory. We learn how to put on the proper paint on your face and how to evade.

Going into my third year we all have to do a leadership position so I was Safety Medical Officer for our basic training. So I was able to work behind the scenes on that and help people if they got sick or injured or had to see the doctor. In addition I did the Ops Air Force, I went to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and learned about our nuclear missiles, flew in a helicopter and learned about some of our logistics things.

For intramurals I’m in soccer because I’m not a very athletic person. I was in cross-country in high school, I haven’t really played any of the other sports so I figured that soccer is the one I know most about and that I would be able to inflict the least harm for my squadron! I can actually help out a little bit. I really wish I would have done hockey instead, I didn’t realize they gave you the equipment, because I used to play hockey when I was really little and it would have been nice to get back on the ice. I’m hoping to at least get on the ice a little bit during the weekend. We have the same system, unless you play a Varsity sport or are on a team that actually travels, you have to do intramurals. The only thing is that your intramurals are much shorter. Ours are about two hours twice a week but it only lasts for about a month. Here you only have it for an hour but it goes for the whole semester. I think I like this better because it’s a lot more free, I feel like people have a lot more fun. For us, they make it so restrictive, you can’t just have fun they expect it to be competitive, whereas here people just go out to have fun and play a sport a little bit, it’s a little bit more relaxed atmosphere and I like that a lot more.

I think Montreal has been my favourite part of Canada, I’ve had the chance to go there twice now and the feeling of it being completely French, being forced to use that little bit of French, being able to go there and say “Bonjour” and “Comment ça-va?”, sometimes they push me along and I really enjoy that. I’m a history nerd so I really enjoyed the Old Port and the Old City. Last time I was there I walked around the Old City a little bit more and read all the plaques. We went to the Old Market and the first Plaza, where the Europeans first landed. That was definitely my favourite part.

What advice would you give to another USAFA Cadet thinking of studying at RMC?

I would say, get involved as much as you can. Even if you don’t play a sport, maybe try to hook up with a team and practice a little bit. Be outgoing and try to meet as many people as you can because of what great connections you can make here.

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Cadet (I2364) III Chase Bockstruck, United States Air Force Academy

I would say the biggest difference is in the amount of students here compared to USAFA. At USAFA we have around 4,000 cadets so it has been nice to be at RMC where there are less people. Also, while there are fewer cadets here, I think that there is more diversity in the training you all do as there are cadets going into the Army, Navy, and Air Force here and you all know your trades. At USAFA most people have similar training while at school and over the summers.

Instead of FYOP we do 5 weeks of Basic Cadet Training at USAFA the summer before our first year. We go from around 4am to 10pm everyday throughout basic training. During this time we learn a lot of how to be a cadet at USAFA. We go over things such a how to make your room ready for inspection and how to wear the uniform, how to properly use a firearm. Also, we do frequent PT sessions. There is a pretty similar progression through the years in terms of responsibilities and privileges.

Since we do not find out our trade until our final year at USAFA, we mostly do job neutral training outside of school. So far I have been able to take courses such as freefall training, survival training, I have worked as an instructor for basic training.

I am a member of the rugby team both at USAFA and RMC. I had never played before attending USAFA, but it’s a great team atmosphere and a fun sport.

It’s hard to choose a single thing that I like most about Canada, but being at a school right on the water has been pretty awesome and is a nice change from the mountains in Colorado.