History of the United States Air Force Academy
The Air Force Academy was established as its own body on April 1, 1954, an idea that had been years in the making. Airpower leader Lieutenant Colonel A.J. Hanlon had the idea as early as 1918 that, “As the Military and Naval Academies are the backbone of the Army and Navy, so must be the Aeronautical Academy the backbone of the Air Service." It wasn’t long after becoming its own body that construction began on the United States Air Force Academy, it was completed on August 29, 1958.
What You Will See at the United States Air Force Academy
Today the United States Air Force Academy serves as both an Air Force installation and a university. Explore the walls of the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center, the gateway to the Academy, or the remarkable 150 foot cadet chapel during your two and a half hour tour of the United States Air Force Academy.
History of the Visitor Center
Funds donated by previous Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater and borrowed funds made the Barry Goldwater Visitor Center possible. The $4.5 million facility opened its doors in June of 1986 and remains the gateway to the United States Air Force Academy to this day.
The Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center
Serving as the gateway to the Academy, the Visitor Center allows you to discover the history and cadet way of life through 31,600 square feet of exhibits.
The Introductory Film
Start your tour off with a 14-minute video in the center’s 250 seat theater. This introductory film is shown throughout the day and will give you a background of the United States Air Force Academy and how it has evolved over the years.
The Exhibit Area
Displays that explore the cadet way of life can be found throughout the museum. They are specially designed to explain the Academy’s four “pillars of excellence” which are character, development and academic, athletic and military training. From video and static displays to historical displays and maps discover what the United States Air Force Academy is really all about in the exhibit area.
Soaring into the blue Colorado skies, the Cadet Chapel is an impressive, all-faiths chapel designed to meet the spiritual needs of the cadets. It is home to a Protestant nave on the upper level and Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and an all-faiths room on the lower level. Admire the remarkable structure and design of the Cadet Chapel and its individual wings.
Every inch of the Protestant Chapel was well thought of. Ceilings rise 99 feet into the air and colorful stained glass windows allow light to pour into the room on sunny days. The focal point of the Protestant Chapel is the cross suspended over the chancel. This unique cross weighs 1,200 pounds and is made from aluminum.
The reredos, a glass mosaic of blues, turquoise, rose and gray located behind the altar will stop you in your tracks as you enter the Catholic Chapel. Located on the first floor, the Catholic Chapel seats 500 people in its stainless steel pews and also houses a reconciliation room, a baptistery and Blessed Sacrament room.
Resembling the Golden mission of the Air Force, the synagogue is a circular structure within a square. Purples, greens and blues can be seen throughout the synagogue and paintings by Shlomo Katz hang on the walls. Nested in the three stars of David, the Aaron Kodesh, the Holy Ark, represents the ever-present God in the lives of the Jewish people and is the focal point of the Jewish Chapel.
The newest addition to the Cadet Chapel is Vast Refuge Dharma Hall. Donated in 2007, the freestanding Buddhist Chapel is made from Port Orford Cedar, a rare wood often used to build Japanese temples. Buddhists of all denominations and visitors are welcomed into the chapel.
All Faiths Chapel
Void of all religious symbolism, the All-Faiths Chapel is appropriate for a variety of faiths. Smaller religious groups often come to this room to worship.
Other Places of Interest
After exploring the Visitor Center and Cadet Chapel other self-guided tours throughout the Academy are available if time permits.
See further exhibits about the military and Academy in Arnold Hall. It is also home to a dining area and auditorium where special events are often held.
You can find Honor Court situated between Arnold Hall and Cadet Chapel. Here bronze statues and aircraft memorials stand in remembrance of previous airmen who served in the Air Force.
With an emphasis on athletics, the Air Force Academy provides cadets with state-of-the-art recreational facilities. The Field House contains an Indoor Athletic Field, Ice Rink, Basketball Court and Snack Bar.
Falcon Athletic Center
Next to the Field House is Falcon Athletic Center. Here athletic achievements can be admired in the Athletic Hall of Excellence. The Athletic Ticket Office can also be found in the Falcon Athletic Center.
Noon Meal Formation
Observe from Honor Court or the wall surrounding Cadet Chapel as the cadet wing marches to lunch. While meal formations are scheduled from Monday until Friday at noon during the academic year, it is important to note they are subject to change without notice.