Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

What The Honor Code Meant to Us


The American taxpayer pays for the education and training of USAFA students. In return, the American public taxpayers expect honorable leadership and service from USAFA graduates. Since our first graduating class in 1959, graduates have met the public's expectation and will continue to do so.

For example, the breadth and depth of the military and civilian successes of members of Class of '64 have been truly honorable and remarkable. Members of '64 demonstrated they knew not only how to do things right but also to do the right thing. One might ask how is that possible?

It started the same way for all USAFA graduates: live four years at USAFA under the most stringent Honor Code in existence, USAFA's Cadet Honor Code. While cadets, we lived under principles that required us to be honorable and trustworthy in all one did, personally and professionally. Those principles stayed with us throughout our Air Force and civilian careers.

If you read all the personal histories of the USAFA Class of 1964, you will find laced throughout them a common theme:

service with honor.

Many mention how important the Honor Code was to them. So on the event of our 50th reunion, and being the Legacy Class for the Class of 2014, I thought it was appropriate for the class to record our thoughts on what the Honor Code meant to us. An email was sent to the class asking for a one, two, or three sentence answer to the question,

What did the Honor Code mean to you?

Some needed more than a few sentences to convey their feelings about the Honor Code, which is fine. The class was given only 48 hours to respond on a summer weekend, so the replies are just a sample of the class, but the nature of the responses speaks for the entire class:

This was OUR code, and still is.

Here are the responses, in order of receipt.

Al Larson, editor, Class of 1964 History

The honor code has been my lodestar for any ethical decision I have faced. It has set the boundaries within which I make my decisions.

     Darryl Bloodworth '64
The Honor Code became an integral part of who I am. It forms the basis of my moral and ethical standards. These are high expectations of me and others. I must admit that sometimes I struggle to meet these standards, but I never abandon them.

     Robert Salas '64
It gave me a lifetime set of values.

     Bill Helmich '64
I have a speech in my history file on the 4P’s – they are People, Partnerships, Process, and Persistence. These 4 P’s were critical to any significant accomplishment in my various careers. But I have recently changed the 3rd P in a new version of that speech that I gave recently while receiving an award at the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.

The third P now stands for Probity

· What is probity? Webster says its adherence to the highest principles and ideals: integrity, uprightness, honesty. Probity aligns with the Honor Code that forms a critical foundation for cadets at USAFA, and also for their future careers as officers and leaders in positions of responsibility and trust.

· Probity is a critical enabler of trust and team work - knowing that everyone on the team knows the rules and is playing by those rules.

· Without probity teams degrade to individuals or factions.

· The USAFA Honor Code was my foundation for Probity in my work and in my life.

     Paul Kaminski '64
It was "difficult" reconciling the Honor Code when reviewing and reporting to Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence re the "Pentagon Papers" before their publication.

     Laird Schaefer '64
Remember the "All Right" procedure? CQs would come down the hall every 30 minutes during Call to Quarters, tap on each door and ask, "All Right Sir?" To which the occupants of each room would answer "All Right Sir." That would indicate that each occupant of the room was authorized to be there and that he was studying. I thought that was an amazing and effective benefit of having an honor code.

Also, I remember coins sitting in the hoppers of pay phones for days at a time until the rightful owner showed up to claim them. No one would ever think of snatching up a coin that wasn't his.

To this day, I believe there is no such thing as a "white" lie and I refuse to tell them.

     Doug Jenkins '64
USAFA HONOR CODE: A code for living all aspects of your life

     Alan Rogers '64
Honor Code: Here is my take.

I didn't need to be schooled and/or convinced that one shouldn't lie, steal, or cheat. My parents instilled that in me, by example, and that seemed to be the norm for my friends in small town Seminole, Oklahoma.

I was in 13th Squadron for four years and it was saturated with truly outstanding and very honorable leaders, both at the Academy and in the Air Force--Butler, Dinsmore, Fogleman, Kaminski, Sansom, Hawley, etc.

I was fortunate while serving in the Air Force to see, meet, and work with many former USAFA cadets from the 1960-64 time period, both upper classmen and our 64 classmates. There was always a "trust" that I believe generated mostly from the Honor Code experience.

That code is, and will always be, chiseled on my brain and heart.

     John Sowers '64
I recall one air defense exercise when we were all told to under-log the flight time. My grounding in the Honor Code wouldn't let me comply.

     Jim Stewart '64
Here is what the Honor Code did for me:

The automatic TRUST and FAITH in your fellow man, built by the Honor Code, was a cornerstone for my relationship with fellow military members throughout my career. In trying times, such as being a POW, I knew I could take what they said "to the bank".

     Don Spoon '64
It has strengthened my character and integrity throughout my life.

     Ray Rodgers '64
We had a Code, it worked, and it became a defining guidance of this life. Please -- all you religiously inclined folks -- stop mucking around with my Code.

     Todd Jagerson '64
The Honor Code established a life-long search and respect for the truth and a determination to follow the tenets that we practiced as cadets, and to lead an honorable life.

     Matt Feiertag '64
The honor code formed the bedrock of trust.

     Jay Kelley '64
To me, the Honor Code was that "value" that separated my school and classmates from the rest of the collegiate process throughout America. By whatever standard the others might choose, our bonded commitment to honor each other with complete veracity provided the ultimate in faith and trust in one another.

     David Ammerman '64
While sitting in cell #3 of "New Guy Village", which was part of the "Hanoi Hilton", on 4 Dec 1966, I had a long and deep conversation with myself. The question being, "In the situation I'm in, is it alright to tell lies?"

The Honor Code had changed me as a person during my first few years as a cadet. The Code had made me a person who could be trusted, someone who always, no matter what, told the truth. As a Lt. assistant training officer in my flying squadron I had refused to pencil whip a swimming requirement needed before an over seas squadron deployment. The outcome was that a lot of Captains and Majors had to report to the pool one morning and show that they could swim.

Now, in Hanoi, I needed to convince myself it was OK to lie. After several hours I decided it was not for personal gain but my lies might help the US or the AF. My fondest assignment in the AF was the two years as Comm's exec for the Honor and Ethics Committees.

     Leroy Stutz '64
I was elected 22nd Squadron Honor Rep – looking back that position of trust given by my classmates was the greatest honor they could have bestowed upon me. I will never forget it, nor has that honor and the code itself not been a part of my life.

     Lanny Burrill '64
First, the honor code re-enforced the way I was raised. Tell the truth. Secondly, it established a bond of trust with any AFA graduate that I have ever met. Finally, it gives me a deep sense of pride that I have lived an honorable life.

     Jim McComsey '64
The honor code meant:

--A level playing field in a difficult program
--Expectations and consequences

     Thad Wolfe '64
The internal part of this has as much to do with personal integrity as “honor” per se—doing what is right for the simple reason that it is right. The external aspect of honor is that in dealing with others – they can count on taking you at your word, and never give it a second thought.

     Dennis Madl '64
It was a unique privilege and an honor to live and study in an environment where you did not have to analyze each comment or statement made in conversations, class discussions, or other environments while engaged with other cadets. This personal practice carried over into my USAF career and helped me give every conversation the "benefit of belief" at the first stage. This trait allowed many projects to move forward without delay and was especially important in combat where life/death decisions needed to be right the first time. The honor code has helped every day of my life since 1960 when we first were introduced to its simple but highly effective statement of being truthful.

     Phil Roberts '64
Without honesty and integrity there can be no trust. Trust in your squadron mates and in your leaders is the basis of an effective military.

     Sam Finch '64
In just a few words what the honor code did for me was teach me “TRUST”. Since then I have trusted in pilot training, in combat, in marriage, in business after the Air Force, and in most people I have known. Without that TRUST, my life would not be the same!! HONOR equals TRUST!

     Robert V. Woods '64
My father taught me that a man was only as good as his word, and that my word was my bond. The Honor Code crystalized that into a way of life. It has served me well throughout three different careers.

In a society permeated with dishonesty, it has meant everything to me to belong to a group of people whose word I could always trust. There can be no better foundation for one's life, for any group, for any service, for any company, for any nation, or for the whole world. Imagine a world where everyone lived by the Honor Code.

     Al Larson '64
Trust. The same trust you had in your flight lead...and that you later provided as that leader.

     Tom Walsh '64
With the Honor Code we had, I knew I was in the company of solid honest men. I trusted every single one of them. I felt extremely honored to be one of such a group.

     Marty Bushnell '64
The Honor Code always made the truth comfortable.

     Gaylord Green '64
The USAFA Honor Code: My first important academic test was in Chemistry 101. The instructor passed out the tests and left the room. I was absolutely confident all of us would do our own work. Really neat!

     Nick Lacey '64
I have always thought that the honor code as a concept is a good thing but as an enforceable rule or regulation I think it misfires. The watered down version that they have now makes no sense to me. Honor is something gained through life experience and is particular to each person. I would suggest that they teach it and practice it by example but without the enforcement mechanism.

     Paul Fraser (Van Sickle) '64
The Academy Honor Code was a powerful and enduring reminder to me of what my parents had taught me from my earliest years. It was a reaffirmation of the principles my Mom and Dad explained must guide me throughout life. Those principles will always be integral to how I live my life, and for that I have my parents and the Academy to thank.

     Harry Pearce '64
The Honor Code embodies the principles that the parents of our generation tried to instill in all of us. It has served me well as the guiding principle that has governed my life throughout my military and civilian careers and it continues to do so to this day. When entrusted with the honor of Command, honesty in word and deed, with subordinates as well as superiors, is essential and is the very least that you as a Commander can do.

     John Cunningham '64
The Honor Code means everything to me. It has been the guiding force in my life; always giving me the right path: in business, socially and in raising my children and grandchildren.

     Gerald King '64
The Honor Code was right at the core of who were and who we were training to become. I was so privileged to live among men who prized character above all.

     Jerry Daley '64
Speaking as someone who has been separate and apart from all things USAFA-related since late 1969, I don't really have a considered opinion about the current state of affairs re the Honor Code. When confronted with the temptation to fib a little, I do hearken back instantly to the Honor Code, and I am quickly reminded that fibbing is not what I am about.

     Bill Lawhorn '64
Guidepost to everyday ethical living.

     Clarence Fung '64
The values instilled by my parents were embodied and confirmed by the honor code. The honor code, in turn formed a foundation of trust with my classmates and all Academy graduates. It is the underpinning of trust and is essential to who I am.

     Jim Richmond '64
I have to admit that I lived in fear of the code those four years but it became my school master, instilling in me a standard of integrity, honesty and accountability before God and man. And when I screw up -- which I certainly did enough times in a 30-year career -- I admit it, correct it and move on as best as I can.

     Kris Mineau '64
The Honor Code is the basis of the trust we have in each other and the trust we carried forward to our comrades and/or co-workers. A person without honor will soon prove he isn't to be trusted.

     Bob Hovde '64
While at the "Zoo" I took the Code for granted as I took air and water; it was how I had been raised. As infractions would be dealt with and we saw it in action, it became a learning experience. And during my post graduate years, nearly 50 of them at last count, as I assumed leadership responsibilities, I began to focus on Integrity with my teams as our guidestar for our endeavors. Of all the rules I ever laid down, Integrity was the only inviolable rule, as it underpinned all we did. Things like trust, loyalty, ethics, all begin with integrity. And for me, the Code today remains the foundation of that one inviolable principle!

     Usto Schultz '64
Throughout our extremely challenging four years at the academy, the honor code gave us the assurance that no one was getting an unfair advantage by lying or cheating. It was the absolute foundation for forming our bond, which still exists today.

     John Shriner '64
Living under the Honor Code changed my life more than any other thing at USAFA.

     Jerry Butler '64
The Cadet Honor Code was an impressive and trusting experience towards all USAFA Cadets and our leaders. It formed my basic criteria for USAF experience and life and was especially helpful and motivational in my 18 years of teaching AFJROTC in three high schools after I retired.

     Julio A. Echegaray '64
I, also, internalized the principles of honorable behavior during the four years at USAFA. I'm eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to do so. If one can only understand life backwards, I now understand value of having applied those principles to my life for the last 50 years. Doing so, among other things, helped make my life meaningful.

     Pat Tuffey '64
For me, the Honor Code was somewhat more communal than personal--common, mutual beliefs with common, mutual accountability rooted in far more deeply held and longstanding truths. It was a time likely now viewed as quaint.

     Ray Blunt '64
My parents taught me and my two brother's the difference between right and wrong and the meaning of trust. Living under the Honor Code for four stressful years, with classmate's I admired, gave me the confidence to understand and appreciate that "truthfulness" in all things... could and would be my path.

     Chuck Handley '64
The Honor Code was and is the foundation of my personal and professional integrity in life.

     Tim Westover '64
The Honor Code reinforced my upbringing. Later, when situations arose with difficult choices, it always was that little voice in my brain asking "are you sure you want to do this?" Sometimes, I should have listened better; but, that little voice is still with me.

     Rich Flechsig '64
During our Class' stay at Wright-Pat on the ZI Field Trip, a dime sat in the return slot of a pay phone for several days as hundreds of us used the bank of phones to make calls. That memory has been with me for 53 years; it illustrates the integrity and trust we were privileged to learn and live because of the Honor Code.

     JD Manning '64
Being involved with the new Center for Character and Leadership Development at the Academy, I have spent time with many of the current cadets and the Academy leadership involved in the various CCLD programs. The toughest part of the code for the current men and women that are at the Academy, coming from a culture so dramatically different than that from which most of us came, is “nor tolerate among us those who do”. Teamwork, team loyalty, loyalty to leaders are important leadership traits, but that they sometimes conflict with “toleration” is often one of the most difficult aspects of the Honor Code to accept and execute. It is my acceptance and living this part of the Code, that in my career, has prevented mistakes, tragedies and financial misfortune. Thanks to learning to live under our Honor Code, my life has been made far easier and less stressful.

     Max James '64
For me the Honor Code has always meant that I could always trust and believe those who adhered to it.

     Howie Cohen '64
The Cadet Honor Code reinforced what my parents taught me.
Tell the truth. Say nothing unless you must. Simple. Effective.

     Tom Webster '64
In the pile of a few treasures and mostly trash that composed the Academy experience, the golden nugget I found was the Honor Code.

     Will McKenney '64
First, it was a wonderful confirmation of what my parents taught my brother and I from the day we were born.

Second, it was one of the most amazing privileges of my life to spend four years with a cadre of young men who walked this talk every day, in everything we did.

Third, it was one of the greatest and most meaningful gifts of my education and experiences at the Academy. It became the bedrock of how I conducted the rest of my life, regardless of my particular “role”—husband, father, grandfather, family member, friend, coach or working colleague. It was in this latter role that I was always both amazed, and dismayed, at how unique this made my “approach” seem to people and organizations that were meeting me for the first time. And then how positively people responded to it over time, every time!

     Donald Heide '64
The Honor Code has been my moral compass and a source of intense personal pride in myself and my classmates.

     Allan McArtor '64
People have often commented that it must have been very difficult to live with the Honor Code. Even now, 54 years later, I can always state that life is much simpler and rewarding if one lives within the principles of the Code. And this has been especially true in the 40 years I have been practicing law, and my reputation within the legal community for integrity is one of my most prized achievements.

     Mitch Cobeaga '64
The fundamentals of the Cadet Honor Code of the USAFA came with me to Colorado from the conservative environment of Idaho, where I grew up. The approach my parents, the Boy Scouts and my Church groups were essentially: Work hard to recognize right from wrong, and always do your best to do what’s right.

It’s a tough world in ‘real life’ -- often where the tenets of the Code put you in difficult situations. The Code to me has been a guiding principle, a rudder to help me decide what is right, and encouragement to me to do everything possible -- to do what is right.

As I have met many new people over the years, I subconsciously put them right away on my spectrum of trust – are they trustworthy, or do I need to learn more before I trust them? As a rule, the Honor Code defines a military academy graduate. When I meet another graduate, that person automatically takes a position of trust on my spectrum. That same person from another environment has my respect off the bat, but has to earn my trust.

     Tom Mahan '64
To me the Honor Code is the basis for how one conducts his or her personal and professional life.

     Lee Conner '64
At first, the Honor Code simply reinforced and codified the basic lessons taught by my parents. During our Academy years, it became an indelible creed for living in the midst of men who you could trust, believe their word and count on under difficult circumstances. The Honor Code created the foundation of integrity, discipline and loyalty that I have embraced the remainder of my life. Transitioning to civilian life, I have all too often found these principles lacking in people that I had to deal with. I am proud to continue to be associated with those who live by our Honor Code.

     Tom Browning '64
The Honor Code meant to me that when we were flying in combat in SEA, and lives depended on your word re: TOT, "modified fluid -4 fighting formation (as in Basco Flight MiG kills)," and so on, when Steve Ritchie and I agree on an attack plan there was never any doubt that what we agreed upon for fighting that day was going to happen.

If he said it, it was going to transpire... he gave his word, that was all I needed to hear before going into a fight over Hanoi!
AF Academy fighter pilot honor in life-or-death combat!

     Fred Olmsted '64
The USAFA Cadet Honor Code was the bonding agent for me among my classmates and later as we served our country as military officers, as well as in future endeavors. We depended upon it to be at the core of our integrity, our moral compass, and our dependability to each other. Our early examples in our parents were reinforced by the Code.

The Code served our class well in combat and in NVM prison camps, during the most terrible of times. Did we see deviations within the military as we served? Of course, but correcting those who did not ascribe to an honor code strengthened the whole. I hope and pray that this Country’s leadership would be brought to understand what such a code represents, and new leaders would display all elements of our Honor Code in federal service. This we desperately need.

     Wayne McKenney '64
The USAFA Honor Code was for me a clear, precise and personal statement of my commitment to a set of timeless principles of personal honor and of my dedication to each of my classmates. Adhering to the code meant that one always knew the truth, about one’s self and about one’s classmates. This is an uncommon condition in life. It is a standard of behavior that I have used throughout my life to continually assess my own actions and that of others.

     Karl Widmayer '64
My parents raised me to be honest and trustworthy so I thought that living under the Code would be easy. What I found was that that the Code reinforced the way I had been raised – your word is your bond, honesty is always best and integrity can not be compromised if one is to be true to ones self. I found later in my career that the background of living under the Honor Code brought instant respect from my commanders, peers, and subordinates.

     Dewey J Barich '64
Upon swearing into the cadet wing and being instructed about the honor code, I found it completely compatible with the Judeo-Christian ethic that was instilled in me by my parents and church. I readily acceded to the code’s principles and have reaped generous benefit in my life and career as I endeavored to live not only by the letter of the code but also by its spirit. No regrets!

     Roy Moore '64
My parents taught me at an early age not to lie, cheat, or steal. When I arrived at USAFA, it seemed like it wouldn't take much adjustment to abide by the Honor Code, but I discovered that it was a 'way of life' change that was expected of us. Many of our classmates left after failing to meet the provisions of the Honor Code, and I respected a number of them who self-reported their inability to live up to the Code.

After graduation, I left USAFA with an appreciation for what the Honor Code instilled in us and how every one of us was changed by it. In the many years since, the Code has always guided my actions.

     Bob Kern '64
I agree with 90% of what was written, but respect 100% of the sentiment. It’s true. It is our Honor Code and it remains with us to this day. You could even say it left USAFA with us.

     Ken Helmig '64
The Honor code: Loved it then, love it now. Don't change it. The world could use some ethics lessons.

     Manuel Cardenas '64
The Honor Code was -- and is -- an excellent standard to set for Air Force cadets. It served us well at the Academy and it's likely that that it served us well in our professional careers, both in and out of the service. Given the changes in our society since our Academy days, in both the public and private sectors, it will be a great challenge to maintain the standard that was set for us. Let's hope our country meets that challenge.

     Tom Till '64
The Honor Code meant I could trust completely my classmates and other cadets and fellow grad's word. I remember leaving my wallet outside my gym locker during intramurals and coming back finding it all there.

     Ted Saito, '64
I think of the Honor Code of Conduct as a moral compass. It points the correct way to do the right thing. All we have to do is follow it.

     John Golden '64
The honor code re-enforced and brought to a higher level the the teachings of my parents on how one should live with respect and acceptance within a community.

And for the long haul, after leaving the environs of the Academy, It provided a criteria with which to measure new acquaintances against, and decide to whom and how deep a relationship would be developed. Quite an important tool for a successful life.

     Lou Comadena 1964
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