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WATCH: ‘They persevered’: Nearly 1,000 cadets to graduate from the Air Force Academy Wednesday

WATCH: Thunderbirds perform flyover for U.S. Air Force graduates in Colorado Springs
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 12:47 PM MDT|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 7:30 AM MDT
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U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KKTV) - Perseverance may be the word that best describes the Air Force Academy class of 2022.

“This class has overcome perhaps the most adversity than any class that I know in recent history,” Lt. Col. Taren Wellman told 11 News.

In the middle of their fourth semester, cadets found themselves uprooted from the academy as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe.

“Much like the last two classes, cadets had a challenging four years at the academy,” the AFA said in advance Wednesday’s graduation. “Sent home in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, and [cadets] worked through a different learning environment that was virtual.”

Though the entire student body was permitted to return to campus at the start of the fall 2020 term, the coronavirus would continue to disrupt normal academy life as multiple waves hit Colorado through early 2022.

“I would have a student that’s here locally, or even staying in our temporary lodging because the place at home wasn’t going to be conducive to learning, all the way to holding class live virtually with a student that’s in Hawaii who’s getting up at 3 in the morning to go into a closet to not wake their family members up,” said Wellman.

The AFA says this is the first nearly full graduation since President Donald Trump made a visit in 2019. Although the 2022 graduation is not still open to the public, ,cadets were allowed to give out 20 tickets to guests.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will speak to the cadets. The Thunderbirds flyover and performance will take place around 12:30-1 p.m. Wednesday.

“They persevered,” the AFA said, “and nearly 1,000 cadets will march into the stadium to graduate and commission.”

WATCH FULL CEREMONY BELOW:

WATCH: U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation Day in Colorado Springs

This remarkable class of 2022 by the numbers:

- 1,182 men and women were inducted into the Air Force Academy in 2018. Of those, 973 will graduate.

- More than a quarter of the cadets (260) are women.

- 300 graduates are minorities. Of those cadets, 99 are Hispanic/Latino, 72 are multi-racial, 108 are Asian, 91 are Black, 18 are Pacific Islanders, and 10 are Native American.

- 16 cadets are from other countries: Cameroon, Gambia, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Niger, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

- 54 had a parent graduate

- 15 had both parents graduate

- 41 are the second child in their family to graduate (excluding twins)

- 4 are the third child in their family to graduate

- 1 set of twins is graduating

- Including the class of 2022, 54,692 cadets have graduated from the academy since its first class in 1959.

- Including the class of 2022, 6,922 female cadets have graduated from the academy since 1980 (the first class to admit women).

- Including the class of 2022, 53,812 have been commissioned into the military. This breaks down to 53,198 in the Air Force, 293 in the Space Force, 135 in the Army, 99 in the Navy, and 87 in the Marines.

- 417 graduates have been selected for pilot training

- 24 have been selected for remotely piloted aircraft training

- 11 have been selected for combat systems officer training

- 9 have been selected for air battle manager training

- 94 have been assigned to Space Force

- 192 are continuing onto graduate school or other programs at schools such as Harvard, Standford, MIT and Oxford.

- Athletes in the class of 2022 have helped 17 coaches earn Coach of the Year honors, have received 25 Player of the Year honors, and 142 All-American awards.

- They have recorded a 55-30-5 record over Army and Navy.

Watch the graduation live beginning about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday right here inside this article.

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