Becoming an Officer and a Gentleman

Air Force Academy seeks help to teach cadets finer points of finer living

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Sure, you’re learning how to bomb an enemy capital back to the Stone Age with that old tried-and-true “shock and awe” strategy. But do you become flustered at a fancy dinner party when you have to pick the right salad fork?

Have no fear, Air Force Academy cadet: the service is seeking outside help to calm those Aim-High-society jitters. The Colorado Springs, Colo., academy “has a requirement for a comprehensive etiquette training program instructing cadets and staff in military protocol for social and business situations as well as the skills they need to succeed in the U.S. Air Force and in life,” it said in a Thursday contract solicitation.

That’s because being an Air Force officer is not all tarmac, cockpits and ready rooms. According to the academy, it’s also “table etiquette (settings, seating, decorum, conversation), the art of conversation (tact and diplomacy, small talk, use of proper language style, body language and non-verbal communication), social conduct in stressful situations, leadership roles outside the military structure, and ceremonies.”

What the academy calls its “social decorum” curriculum has been under development for “several years.” Following this single-year contract, the academy says such training will be done by academy employees. The program is funded by donor—not taxpayer— funds, an academy spokesman said.

The topics in each annual hour-long class will vary by year, but interested bidders are told not to worry about repeating themselves. “Training may be repetitive and cumulative,” the solicitation says, “to ensure proper social behavior is inherent by graduation.”

Freshmen training “shall emphasize courtesies and standards of behavior, proper hygiene, how to be a guest, social conversations, and writing thank-you cards.”

Sophomores “shall be taught etiquette in small group situations, proper civilian dress standards, table etiquette (settings, seating, decorum, and conversation), receiving line etiquette and military dining-in/out etiquette.”

Juniors “shall be taught social introductions, how to behave when alcohol is available, how to plan social events, and how to communicate standards of behavior to their peers and subordinates.”

Seniors will get “Formal Decorum Training,” which means they’ll receive “experiential, semi-formal dinners to teach first-class cadets the do’s and don’ts of formal dining. The events will also be used to teach proper invitation and RSVP procedures, proper semi-formal civilian attire standards, and social event planning.”

While the social-decorum program has been under development, seniors have been served what the academy newspaper calls five-course meals—“ beef medallions, roasted baby baker potatoes, salad, mixed vegetables and white chocolate raspberry Brule cheesecake”—in the academy’s formal dining hall to help them hone their etiquette skills. “The intent is to practice so they understand,” the academy’s social-decorum consultant told the Academy Spirit. “We want to take them from clueless to a class act.”

101 comments
Piacevole
Piacevole


This is nice.  Now, do you suppose they could teach the "gentlemen" not to assault and rape their female colleagues?

flite
flite

Not the article, but it is the majority of the inane comments that are troublesome.

As a Navy Aviation Officer Candidate in the 1960s, we had a woman come in to teach us "social decorum."  I was not very interested, and I vaguely remember it.  Nevertheless, although I flew 197 combat missions in Vietnam long ago, some of what she taught is still with me, thankfully to this day.


pbug56
pbug56

Is this where they learn that assaulting women in the Air Force is acceptable?  Or using drugs, or cheating on tests?

RichardBrown2
RichardBrown2

Considering the majority of Air Force officers from Air Force ROTC is it really going to change anything? 

edlf
edlf

This sounds a bit ridiculous for the gentlemen a 'gentleman' would not require such guidance and training.  But how about the gentleladies?

jcphenry
jcphenry

It is a necessary part of the academy training. Their graduates will have to interact with others, including as invited guests of host countries, and well-mannered, cultured officers are always better representatives of the U.S. than those who are not. Look no further than the recent embarrassments caused by a U.S. Air Force general traveling in Russia, whose drinking and boorish behavior offended his hosts and reflected poorly on the government that sent him there. No one is suggesting the core of academy training be less about engineering and warfighting, only that a well-educated officer should also be able to conduct himself well in formal social events.

Dogs
Dogs

That's code for homosexual.

JoeBillington
JoeBillington

It's good the Air Force has never been involved in a MASSIVE SEXUAL HARASSMENT SCANDAL. LIKE THE NAVY. 

romejim4
romejim4

How about this, let's save the expense and downsize the military to match our current conflicts.  The US military is not an ever-expanding enterprise.  It grows and shrinks, as needed.  That's what makes it the greatest fighting force on earth. Sometimes it's really small, but then can grow large enough to fight a war.  Now it's time to downsize to 10% of current capacity and take our money and help our Vets.

seven.pesos
seven.pesos

united states airforce wants only white, anglo saxon, protestants in their midst.

must be believers and church goers.

must be willing to proselytize.

must go to church on sunday.

sign up.....you'll love it.

k_noble
k_noble

Chair force. Yawn.

"Here's a mirror, go call yourself a bad name, I don't have the time to be so barbaric."

- Airforce trainer / instructor...

lizzy10
lizzy10

They're training to protect our county, they can use whatever fork they want.

JackieNichols1
JackieNichols1

If these cadets were smart enough to get into the Air Force Academy, then I'm sure they're smart enough to pick up on the social graces without a formal class.  It sounds like this is more about teaching pretentious snobbery than anything else.

norrisburkes
norrisburkes

They don't call it the "chair force" for nothing.

PatHenry
PatHenry

At the BOC at Ft Knox, it was taught one's calling card was presented with one corner turned down. I cannot remember why.

les21forever
les21forever

It's about time.  I work at a full service restaurant and my Rottweilers have better table manners than many of the servicemen I've waited on. 

TracyFort
TracyFort

Most Airman don't attend the Air Force academy....

Kate1970
Kate1970

Well they're right.  My Dad was career Air Force turned Diplomat when he was a Colonel.  It would have been a pretty unhappy situation had he not understood the basics beyond a single knife and fork.  He came from a poor background.  He was mannerly to be sure, but fancy dining would have been something his parents didn't have the resources to teach him.  Good for the Air Force Academy!  Incidentally, he's retired now and back home where all good career Air Force retire, Colorado Springs!

stacybak
stacybak

It's too bad social skills and table manners don't seem to be a part of most people's upbringings anymore.  Just basic things like learning to set a table and learning to use utensils.  My 8 and 6 year old nephews barely know how to use a fork!  It's disgraceful.

Maybe a semester long class needs to be taught in our public high schools before sending these kids out into the world?

IshmaleWhale
IshmaleWhale

I am retired after 23 years of service, half Army and the last half Air Force. I believe ONE fork, ONE knife, and ONE spoon is all any person needs to eat. There are those who do use less, and that is chop sticks. Unless one likes having to wash multiple dishes and items at the conclusion of a meal, three utensils are all that is needed. Or one "spork" and one knife.

jfp
jfp

While you're at it, could you include a few lessons on how to CARVE any kind of roast?  I've been visiting a relative who lives on an air force base [most recently cooking up a storm for Christmas dinner], and although they're good company, not a single one of these airmen/officers can pick up a knife and carve anything!

ChoirLoft1
ChoirLoft1

Another oxy-moron from the American military.  Be polite but kill without mercy, without conscience and without question.  There is no honor in this.   The only thing wanted is a government sanctioned hit man and that's what they've got.  To insist upon one that hypocritically acts like a gentleman when the killing is over - and as though it never happened - is a national delusion of the lowest order.   But then Americans love their hypocrites in uniform.  Seig Heil.

and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

JeanGray96
JeanGray96

Even if parents haven't taught it, that's something that should be taught by the older students. I went to USNA and table etiquette was taught to us upon arrival and reinforced over the years - at every meal. We ate at tables for the 12 people in your squad. And there was almost always one formal dining event every year held at a company level (about 100 people) with a couple of opportunities as an upperclassman for other formal dinner events. We didn't need a formal class or outside expert - we were all taught the tradition of dining in a civilized manner. Granted USAFA only has about 40 years of tradition, but they came from the Army which surely has it's own traditions for formal dinners for officers much as the Navy does. And for those folks not going to USNA, they do offer lessons on formal dining at OCS, but something tells me they don't hire a contractor and do a multi-year study on implementation. Talk about overkill. At least it isn't taxpayer money paying for this.

SusanCrofootDavis
SusanCrofootDavis

One hour per year to cover all those topics?  Maybe I read it wrong.  These are things parents should have taught their kids, and they have done so in past generations.  Our young people certainly can use this training.


Now if they could teach them respect for each other, particularly males respecting females, and tell them it is not appropriate to rape their classmates!

whotmewory
whotmewory

EGADS! EVERYone could use this training! Have you SEEN the pigs at the restaurants the last time you went out? Holy cow!

TShafer
TShafer

Are they going to include obtaining proper consent before sex?


Tom

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@DogsWhat is? Being polite and well mannered? Ridiculous.

zeustiak
zeustiak

@romejim4 


If you think the military could be 10% of it's current size and suddenly grow big to fight a war you are crazy.  It takes decades to train the NCO's required to lead and fight in a modern war.  Anything less and you are asking for mass casualties on our side when all our untrained conscripts rush to fight whatever war started when we became weak.  


You think those conscripts can maintain jet engines in 120 degree heat while being mortared?  Are you going to have any NCO's left to lead those conscripts if you kick them all out and stop training their replacements?


You think China is going to downsize if we do?  They would double their military if they saw us doing that.  


Get a grip!


Btw, Retention boards meet in June, 25,000 will be kicked out by September 25.  That is just Air Force.

zeustiak
zeustiak

@seven.pesos 


I'm thinking they rejected you because of your lack of intelligence...

Kate1970
Kate1970

@stacybak     When I married my  husband, we argued for the first six months about which side of the plate forks went when setting the table.  It started when I set the table for guests and he came behind me and switched the forks and knives.  That was when the internet was fairly new you paid for a half hour a week, so in the end I had to buy a book to PROVE that his hick parents had taught him how to set a table incorrectly.  I mean, they went through the trouble of TEACHING him so why not put the effort in and get it right?  Well anyway.....20 years later we're still happily married and now he does know how to set a table correctly and goes behind his Mom and changes her flatware around, ha ha.

tardcore
tardcore

@stacybak maybe their parents need to get off the couch and teach them.

IshmaleWhale
IshmaleWhale

@jfpIf you are at a military friends house eating their food, YOU should be doing the cutting and serving for and to them as they gave you the protection and freedom to do what you do and they still share their food with you.

stacybak
stacybak

I think that's fairly common among the general population as well.  The majority of people don't know how to carve a roast or poultry because most people are eating food that is pre-portioned and pre-packaged.  Most people barely even know how to cook a roast!

I was lucky to learn how to carve meat and poultry because my father was a butcher.  Others learn because perhaps they hunt and do a lot of their own meat processing.  It's too bad that these basic life skills are quickly being forgotten.

HarryChamberlain
HarryChamberlain

@jfp You need a ground pounder with a bayonet to do the job properly. I guess the AF is looking for a few good gentlemen, meantime they have to make do with what they have.

Crimedog90
Crimedog90

@ChoirLoft1  With a mindset like that, I doubt you've been anywhere near a choir loft in a long time....

jrandom
jrandom

@Kate1970  So you're gloating about winning a power struggle with your mother-in-law over two pieces of silverware. And you're rubbing it in by calling her a hick on the Internet. I can't believe your husband's luck in finding a girl like you. But for a guy who goes around changing the flatware of whatever female complains the most, you two are probably a perfect match. Or he has a girl on the side to keep him in his happy marriage.