Tri-Lakes area students included in Air Force Class of 2017

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With the words “Forward HARCH,” more than 1,150 Class of 2017 Basic Cadet Trainees began their 4 ½-mile march out to Jack Valley on July 22.

The journey began about 6:45 a.m. and was the transition from the first phase of Basic Cadet Training to “Second Beast,” which entails about two weeks of military training and team building.

Among the first-year basic trainees were several Tri-Lakes area high school graduates.

“This is so much more challenging, but so much more rewarding in more ways than I thought,” said Alexa Chacon, who graduated from The Classical Academy in May. “It’s challenged me in ways I never really would have done by myself had I not come here. It’s hard. It’s tough. It’s not easy.

“But the greatest thing about is you form this team with your flight. All the guys are my big brothers. All the girls are my sisters. We work for each other. We do pushups for each other. It’s a great feeling knowing you have your wingman next to you helping you, encouraging you, every step of the way. There’s not one instance where you’re alone.”

Chacon selected the Air Force for many reasons, including a top-notch education and the chance to compete in Division I track and field. She was a three-time high school state champion in the 300 hurdles at TCA and a two-time state champ in the 100. She set meet records in each event this year, posting times of 42.75 and 14.23 seconds, respectively.

Chacon was also part of two second-place relay teams, while leading the Titans to their seventh state team title in eight years.

But Chacon is still a couple of weeks away from lacing up her spikes and hitting the track. For now, she is working towards the goal of getting through second beast and marching back to the Cadet area on Aug. 3. A few days later, they will retake their oaths of allegiance and officially become freshmen.

“The first week (of Basic Cadet Training) was so tough I was asking the Lord `Are you sure this is really your plan because I don’t think I can handle this,’” Chacon said. “Being away from my parents and having to strengthen myself and calling on the Lord and my teammates with everything it’s been such a strong journey. Now I’m able to focus more on the task that needs to be done and the goal that needs to be finished, instead of `Oh my gosh, I can’t even get through this,’”

Chacon - a member of the Flying Tigers Squadron - and the rest of the Basic Trainees reported for duty on June 27. The first phase of their journey was a lot of physical training, as cadre yelled out orders and often times got in the face of the new cadets.

They got a bit of reprieve on July 13 when they attended the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. On July 20, they were allowed to leave the Academy for about 10 hours if they were with a sponsor.

Jacks Valley is more of a field environment. The cadre will expose basics to a field environment: the basics set up their own tents (10 to a tent) shortly after arriving in Jacks Valley and will call those tents home throughout their field training. Second Beast also provides a greater focus on teamwork and physical fitness as well as exposure to combat first aid.

Pete Barringer graduated from Lewis-Palmer in 2012 and spent a year at Northwestern Preparatory School in southern California. He is the third member of his family to attend the Academy. One brother, Ben, graduated in 2012, and another, Dan, is a senior and will graduate in 2014.

“All my cadre definitely know my last name,” Pete Barringer said. “The name definitely gets thrown around. I like the attention, but a lot of the time the attention isn’t so nice. A little bit of extra pushup or pulls ups or something. It definitely makes it more interesting.”

Barringer is also part of the Flying Tigers Squadron.

“This has been really great,” he said. “I am just ecstatic to be here. I love every second of it. Every day is a good day. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Michael Downs, Lewis-Palmer class of 2009, took the long journey to the Academy. He attended Northwestern, the Air Force Prep School and did training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“Most people would say after three basics `Wow, I have to do this one more time,’” said Downs, who is part of Demons Squadron. “But I see it as `Thank you so much, Lord, for this opportunity. Thank you for allowing me to prove that I can make it here and be among the best.’”

According to John Van Winkle, the Academy’s director information/communications, two other Tri-Lakes area alumni are Basic Trainees; Christian Eells (Palmer Ridge, Hellcats Squadron) and Alex Fulton (Discovery Canyon, Demon Squadron).

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