Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Above Average Cadet Smart-Ass!!

By Paul Belmont

I had academic challenges with ALL of the math and science courses. I was a very "unbalanced" specimen. I graduated with a cum 3.02, which was arrived at with a greater than 3.6 cum in the Social Studies and a barely surviving cum 2.24 in the Engineering and Sciences courses. In particular, EE nearly brought me down. I suffered loss of much of Junior year Christmas vacation for a Turnout Exam in EE. Finally we were wrapping up my EE agony in the Fall semester of Senior year with the fourth and final EE course. We came to the Last EE Lab of the Last EE Course, on page 4, at the bottom of the page, with about 1 1/2-to-less-than 2 inches of space for the answer was the Last EE Question: "What did you think of this lab exercise?" My Cadet heart leapt for joy --- finally, after all the travail, here was a EE question a Social Sciences person (me!!) could readily and confidently answer -- So, I said (I swear I remember every word of the first sentence as if it was earlier today), "Not only did I not get anything out of this lab, I have not gotten anything out of any of the labs in this course, and all of the preceding courses." And then I 'elaborated' on my perspective on the attempt to force us all into a single "one shoe fits all" curriculum that did not permit some folks, LIKE ME, to take more social science courses for the benefit of the officer corps, versus the science and engineering at 50%. Even with my sharp pencil, I ran out of room to expound on my perspective. I remember writing around the corner of the limited space and starting up the right hand margin of the page. I was "happy" as I turned in this last, final lab -- thank the Lord, the EE ordeal was over, and I could get on with my real life. But, Could I???!!

About three or four weeks later, while taking the ritual Firstie Nap one afternoon, a third classman came from the orderly room to inform me I needed to call Col (LtCol) Basham ASAP. I did. His secretary told me he wanted to see me ASAP. Grumble, grumble... get dressed in Class A Blues, post to Vandenberg, find Col Basham's office -- Hmmm!! Asst EE Department Head. Reported in --- two steps in front of the desk, shoulders back, chin in, "Sir, Cadet First Class Belmont reporting as ordered, Sir!!!". Then ensued a barrage from Basham about just who I thought I was that I had a different perspective on AF Officer education requirements than the Dean. I got to say very little.... initially. I could "sense" I was "in trouble" for my comments on the EE lab. When after "forever" Basham said "What do you have to say for yourself?", I (having done an Assessment of the Situation (deep doo-doo) and Considered Alternatives while he was ranting) decided that my options were Retreat or Attack!!! So, taking lessons learned in Military History, when finally allowed to speak (still in a doolie brace after about 12 minutes -- as a firstie, mind you!!), I said, "Well Sir, there simply was not enough space on the page for me to really say all that I thought about the curriculum we have here at the Academy. Clearly I have a stronger academic record in the Humanities and Social Sciences than in Engineering. (I was on the Dean's List from the prior semester -- actually the Supt's List as shown on my sleeve!!). I felt that Cadets could contribute to the future of the AF in many disciplines, not just a one size fits all balanced curriculum. (Cadets majors were a year or two away at that time).

Basham "allowed" that ...... having reviewed my Cadet record while I was posting over to his office .... that (in his own words), "You are not the usual Cadet Smart Ass, you are an above average one!!" Then he said (I swear again this is true), "I was intending to give you a Class III for your comments, but having heard your (whatever.... can't remember the actual words), I have decided to only make it a Class II". At this point, I "shut up!!", saluted, and departed. Never could figure what the hell I had done to get considered for a Class III or a Class II -- they asked the question!! I gave an honest Cadet answer!!!

Anyway, a week later the Form 10 for a Class II arrived at the orderly room. What happened from that point on is "another story completely" more complex and more convoluted than the one above -- ask Fred Olmsted if he has a clue what his role was in the subsequent part of this story.
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