I wrote this up for my guests for my daughter's graduation 2006 (yikes--some time ago, but still relevant). You might find it helpful to know what is going on during the Graduation Parade in a couple of weeks. And as for all Graduation events, arrive early! There is a lot to see before the march-on (falcons, wings of blue, sabre demo..). Seating is limited. So if you have an elderly person or someone in a wheelchair, you will want to be sure to get them a seat.
To know where to sit: look for small white metal flags with numbers on them right at the grass's edge before the cement where the bleachers are. These numbers are where that squadron will end up when the seniors separate from the other classes during the parade. The firsties march straight for that marked area. For ex. If your cadet is in squadron 21 and knowing that the numbers are in sequence (except for the top squadron which will march first and be on the far left), and there are 40 squadrons, your cadet will be about the middle. Sit one or two rows up straight across from marker 21. I suggest a few rows up because of the people wandering around on the ground floor will block your view of the goings on.
For fun, you could bring a sheet with all the squadron symbols. See what The Warthog or the chicken Hawk squadron decal looks like.
Graduation Parade “Full Circle”
In a Doolie’s first summer, the Acceptance Parade marks the successful completion of Basic Cadet Training (BCT or “Beast”). When Doolies finish their BCT within 2 months of their arrival at the Academy in June, the Doolies march together onto the Parade Field and are absorbed, or ACCEPTED, into the Cadet Wing. The newly formed 4,000-plus-strong Cadet Wing leaves the field in unison. The Cadet Wing split into squadrons and each squadron awards its Doolies their first shoulderboards which denotes rank.
Nearly four years later, the Cadet Wing will march in together onto the Parade Grounds for its Graduation Parade, and the members of the graduating class will separate and move toward the stands, leaving their under-classmen at the back of the field. After the change of leadership ceremony and the sheathing of the class color flag, the ¾ Cadet Wing will march in review of the soon-to-be 2LTs and exchange salutes with their squadron mates.
• The advancing Firsties form a wedge look as they advance.
• How the squadron flags are dipped to indicate salute as the younger classes pass their former squadron mates, as they march off the field. The extra banners/ribbons hanging from the squadron pole pls flag indicate what awards that squadron won thru the year. For ex. Academic, intermurals, military....
• Listen for the Roll Call numbers. In previous years the 4 Groups will note the number of “Counted and Present” and it will numerate the Class Year. 126.96.36.199. And cheer!!!
• In the second rank of the color guard, behind the U.S., POW, and Air Force flags are the colors of the four classes at the Academy. On the right, in the position of honor: The class colors are: red, gold, blue, and silver. After the Graduating Class leaves the Cadet Wing, the Class Color flag will be furled and cased and moved to the farthest right position. At any parades before Acceptance, the cased color will be on the right, still cased, awaiting the acceptance of the next class. At that Acceptance parade, after the incoming class joins the Wing, the class color will be unfurled, symbolic of that class joining the wing. The Class color flag will work its way from left to right, year by year .... It's a fine tradition that most folks never notice.
My daughter pointed out that USAFA superintendent Gen Michelle Johnson is a three-star. When she is on the parade ground, there should be a blue flag with three stars on it behind her. Also, when the AF band plays, it will do three flourishes before commencing with the song.
Also one of the very last times you can get a photo of your cadet in full parade uniform. Next time, s/he tosses the hat. At commissioning, it is mess dress.