Center for Character and Leadership Development
“To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
The Air Force Academy defines character as: “One’s moral compass, the sum of those qualities of moral excellence which compel a person to do the right thing despite pressure or temptations to the contrary.”
The Center for Character & Leadership Development (CCLD) aims to facilitate programs and activities throughout all aspects of cadet life, which help cadets develop this internal moral compass. The Center supports all eight pillars of the Academy Essence, in particular, developing character and leadership. The Center’s activities and initiatives are firmly grounded in its conceptual framework for character and leadership development, creating an environment where cadets and faculty alike “Own, Engage, and Practice” the habits of honorable thoughts and actions in line with an identity of a leader of character. CCLD’s objective is to graduate officers who:
Live honorably; consistently practicing the virtues embodied in the Air Force Core Values
• (Integrity First) Honesty, Courage, Accountability
• (Service Before Self) Duty, Loyalty, Respect
• (Excellence in All We Do) Missions, Discipline, Teamwork
Lift others to be their best possible selves
Elevate performance toward a common and noble purpose
The Center for Character Development is organized into four directorates:
• Cadet Development
• Scholarship and Innovation
The Honor Division works to foster in every Academy graduate the habits of living honorably and a relentless pursuit of an identity of a leader of character. Over the course of four years, cadets participate in honor education and the implementation of the Cadet Honor Code and Honor Oath: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably [so help me God (optional)].” The bedrock of moral and character education begins with a solid understanding and internalization of the Cadet Honor Code. This education begins during Basic Cadet Training (BCT) and continues throughout a cadet’s tenure at the Academy. The honor education program focuses on what it means to live honorably at all levels of leadership: individually, interpersonally, as a team leader, and as an organizational leader.
The Development Division designs, delivers, and assesses character and leadership programs. These engaging experiences challenge and support cadet development throughout the Academy experience. Specifically, the Development Division offers character seminars and core values training focused on helping cadets take ownership of their development with an internal focus on values, courage, respect for others, servant leadership, and ethical dilemma resolution. These opportunities provide a deliberate, developmental approach to each cadet’s personal character and leadership growth and prepare cadets for key decision points along their developmental path, such as the decision to commit to serving during their final two years at the Academy. Furthermore, the Development Division maintains a strategic view on how we execute character and leadership development across all of the Academy’s mission element areas.
Beginning with BCT, cadets experience a different aspect of character-based leadership education each year. Cadets experience character enrichment in a developmental fashion, beginning with personal understanding, moving to interpersonal skills development, followed by understanding of the importance of servant leadership at a team level, and culminating in organizational improvement through analyzing ethical dilemmas. In BCT, basic cadets are exposed to concepts of living honorably and to the Air Force Core Values and culminates with the basic cadets joining the Cadet Wing in taking the Honor Oath.
With a focus on integrity and discipline, fourth-class cadets begin the character and leadership development journey with VECTOR (Vital Effective Character Through Observation and Reflection). During VECTOR, cadets are inspired to own the development of their identity as a Leader of Character by understanding and committing to strengthening the virtues embodied in the Core Values.
Third-class cadets complete the Respect and Responsibility (R&R) seminar designed to help cadets discover information about themselves, others, and the interpersonal interactions that foster a healthy command environment. While focusing on selflessness, cadets recognize the importance of creating trusting relationships, fostering respect, and promoting support and accountability to help others reach their goals.
Second-class cadets take part in the Leaders In Flight Today (LIFT) seminar which enables cadets to learn about the leadership competencies focuses on excellence. LIFT culminates with a comprehensive exercise that provides cadets with an opportunity to apply the leadership competencies within their squadron.
First-class cadets’ character and leadership development journey culminates in the Academy Character Enrichment Seminar (ACES), which is designed to challenge cadets to own their decisions, review foundational concepts for ethical decision-making, and apply an ethical decision-making model in real-world scenarios relevant to the Profession of Arms.
The Scholarship and Innovation Division aims to generate diversity of thought and innovation that takes theory into practice and helps the CCLD and the Academy research, challenge, inform and shape the character and leadership development process. This division examines “the big character and leadership questions that matter” through research, scholarship, and outreach.
The Scholarship Division also publishes the Journal of Character and Leadership Integration (JCLI). JCLI is unique in bringing together the expert views of scholars and leaders who care about character and leadership, and the integration of these concepts. Its purpose is to bridge theory and practice and offer insights to both. JCLI is motivated by, but not exclusively concerned with, preparation of cadets to lead as officers of character in service to our nation. Combining quality, peer-reviewed scholarship and the experiential perspectives of character-driven leaders at all levels, JCLI aims to enhance intellectual understanding and empower real-world development of the effective, character-based leadership that both individuals and organizations need to succeed in a complex and demanding world.
Finally, the Events Division was formed to maximize the value gained from the many functions and events hosted by the CCLD. Events conducted within the CCLD offer numerous opportunities to learn from experts and guest speakers from around the world and every walk of life. The National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS) is USAFA’s largest and most complex institutional event and affords cadets the opportunity to help shape, plan, and execute a major event and gain valuable insight from the life experiences of a wide array of guest presenters. NCLS brings together distinguished scholars, military and corporate leaders, athletes, and others to share knowledge and insight which enhance the understanding and challenges of sound moral character in leadership positions. Furthermore, Falcon Heritage Forum links cadets with the wealth of knowledge and experience embodied in distinguished veterans. This two-day event encourages sharing practical and honest answers to operational Air Force issues between visitors and cadets. These interactions give practical and honest answers to operational Air Force issues.
In sum, character development will be a crucial, all-encompassing part of each cadet’s Academy experience. From the time each cadet enters the Academy until graduation, they can expect to see various character and leadership development programs in every aspect of their life with the ultimate goal of inspiring in them an intense inner drive to put integrity first, place service before self, and strive for excellence in all they do.