Air Force Academy announces graduation plans

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The Air Force Academy is moving forward with plans to celebrate the class of 2021 with family and friends May 26 at Falcon Stadium.

COVID safety protocols will include wearing masks, social distancing and assigned group seating.

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Graduating cadets may invite three guests each. The academy plans to make a decision based on coronavirus figures by April 16 about the possibility of allowing cadets to invite additional people. Trading tickets won’t be allowed.

“(The academy) is one of very few universities in Colorado attempting to have in-person graduation with guests,” the school wrote on its Facebook page. “We appreciate the need to plan ahead for transportation and lodging and appreciate everyone’s understanding.”

Past graduations have drawn crowds topping 30,000 to Falcon Stadium, including thousands of out-of-town guests who offer an early summer tourism boost to the Pikes Peak region.

The 2021 graduation ceremony will be shown live online at usafa.edu.

As the newly minted lieutenants throw their caps into the air, the Air Force Thunderbirds flying team will roar through the sky, beginning an air show where the F-16 pilots show off their tight formation flying and aerial displays.

Last year’s commencement ceremony was unlike any in recent memory with the 967 graduating cadets masked and sitting eight feet apart in the center of campus to allow for social distancing. No family or friends were allowed to attend.

As the pandemic took hold last March, freshmen, sophomores and juniors were sent home to finish the semester online while seniors remained on the 18,500-acre campus.

Other firsts last year included Air Force Academy graduates entering the new Space Force and being the first service academy to graduate early since World War II.

This year’s speaker hasn’t been announced but the speaker rotates between the president of the United States, vice president, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force.

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