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..."--Air Force Academy honor code "Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience.Professionals, and especially commanders, must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates."--Religious Toleration (Air Force Code of Ethics, 1997)Forty-two years ago, at the age of 18, I took the oath of office on my first day as an Air Force Academy cadet.The orientation began with a one-hour "warrior" rant to appointees and parents by the commandant of cadets, Brig. I later learned that cadets, to determine when a new record was established, had created a game in which warrior was counted in each speech Weida gave.My son and I then made our way to the modernist aluminum chapel, where I expected to hear a welcome from one or two Air Force chaplains offering counsel, support and an open-door policy for any spiritual or pastoral needs of these future cadets.These are the values that I, and most graduates of the 1960s and early '70s, took with us from our four years at the academy.I, as did many graduates, underwent pilot training followed by tours of duty in Vietnam.
He proudly stated that half of the cadets attended Bible studies on Monday nights in the dormitories and he hoped to increase this number from those in his audience who were about to join their ranks.The academy chaplain staff had grown 300 percent while the cadet population had decreased by 25 percent: from six mainline chaplains to 18 chaplains, the additional 12 all evangelical. William Boykin began sharing his Christian supremacist views from church pulpits around the country, declaring that he was "God's Warrior" and that "America is a Christian nation." He demeaned the entire Muslim world by stating that his God was bigger than a Muslim warlord's god and that the Muslim's god "was an idol." He received little more than a token slap on the wrist.The academy even gained 25 reserve chaplains, also nonexistent in earlier times, for a total of 43 chaplains for about 4,000 cadets, or one chaplain for every 100 cadets. At the time, Joseph Schmitz, then the Department of Defense inspector general (Schmitz is currently the chief operating officer of Blackwater International), found that Boykin had committed no ethics violations.This "invitation" was followed with hallelujahs and amens by the evangelical clergy.I later learned from Air Force Academy chaplain Me Linda Morton, a Lutheran who was forced to observe from the choir loft, that no priest, rabbi or mainline Protestant had been permitted to participate.
I no longer recognize the Air Force Academy as the institution I attended almost four decades earlier.