WATCH: Air Force Academy Class of 2020 graduates!
It's not the ceremony they envisioned four years ago -- but it's one they'll never forget.
In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, 967 cadets made the transformation from students to military officers in a pared-down commencement ceremony Saturday.
The ceremony came six weeks ahead of schedule as the U.S. Air Force Academy strove to find a way to recognize the cadets' accomplishments within the current limitations forced by the COVID-19 outbreak. Changes to this year's graduation ceremony included:
- A move from Falcon Stadium to the Academy's Terrazzo.
- Cadets will march into the area 8 feet apart and remain 8 feet apart during the ceremony.
- There was no spectators, including family. The ceremony will be live-streamed.
- The ceremony will be significantly shorter than usual.
- Cadets will wear dress face masks made by seamstresses at the Academy.
What was the same: Vice President Mike Pence is making an in-person visit to address the cadets, and the Air Force Thunderbirds will be soaring overhead following the ceremony.
"Cadets are happy and thankful to be able to graduate with their classmates. They also acknowledge their ceremony is unique in the history of the Academy, especially with this being the first class having cadets commissioned into the Space Force, their graduation is one that will always be set apart," Air Force Academy Directorate of Public Affairs told 11 News in an emailed statement Friday.
Class of 2020 by the numbers:
- 1,168 men and women were inducted into the Air Force Academy class of 2020. Of those, 967 will graduate.
- Women make up nearly 30 percent of the class, up 3 percentage points from the class of 2019.
- Minorities make up 30 percent of the class. Of those cadets, 96 are Hispanic, 91 are Asian, 72 are African-American, 26 are Pacific Islanders, and 11 are Native American.
- 16 cadets are from other countries: Georgia, Macedonia, Moldovia, Pakistan, Panama, The Philippines, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Tunisia.
- 536 graduates are scheduled to become rated officers in flying-related careers.
- 485 graduates have been selected for pilot training
- 30 have been selected for remotely piloted aircraft training
- 11 have been selected for combat systems officer training
- 10 have been selected for air battle manager training
- Nearly 90 graduates will serve in the new Space Force. Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond is scheduled to attend Saturday's ceremony.