*Brendan was interviewed in early 2020.
What have you been doing since SSSAS graduation in 2017 and what do you have planned for your senior year at the United States Air Force Academy?
A lot has gone on since I graduated in 2017! Here are some of the most memorable highlights:
Immediately following graduation, I began Basic Cadet Training which was my first introduction to the military lifestyle. It was extremely difficult and also extremely motivating and inspiring. I will never forget the conclusion of Basic Cadet Training (BCT) and finally being accepted into the Cadet Wing as a Cadet. The class of 2018 were the seniors when I entered the Academy, more commonly referred to as “firsties” and they were some of the best leaders I have ever met.
After the conclusion of my freshman year, also known as four-degree year, I had the privilege of learning how to skydive under the instruction of the Wings Of Blue Parachute Team. After roughly forty hours of ground training, learning the proper procedures for malfunctions while free falling and under the canopy, I was cleared to jump. My first jump ever was solo, no instructor was with me when I left the plane. You truly learn a lot about yourself when the door to an airplane is opened while you are in flight and you step outside. I will never forget watching the jumper before me exit the airplane, knowing that I was about to do the same in roughly ten seconds. I successfully completed the course and received my jump wings after five successful solo jumps (and landings).
The following summer, I spent two weeks at Columbus Air Force Base (AFB) shadowing 2nd Lts and observing what Undergraduate Pilot Training was like. Once I returned to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), I began training the incoming Class of 2023 as an element leader. The same training that I was going through two years ago I now found myself leading. It was one of my favorite experiences of the Academy so far. Having the opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of these cadets is unparalleled. I was proud to watch them complete BCT and I am proud every day to watch them continue their journey through the Academy.
What does it mean to be the Cadet Vice Wing Commander for your senior year?
The Cadet Vice Wing Commander (AFCW/CV) is the second-highest-ranking position a cadet can hold while at the Air Force Academy. There are a multitude of duties that the Vice Wing Commander inherits in his or her position. In short, the Cadet Vice Wing Commander is responsible for working with the Wing Commander (AFCW/CC) in executing the policy and supervision of the roughly 4,000 cadets that are a part of the Cadet Wing. In addition to the entire Cadet Wing, we supervise the entire cadet chain of command, which includes the four Cadet Group Commanders and forty Cadet Squadron Commander.
How did your time at SSSAS prepare you for the USAFA?
St. Stephens and St. Agnes has the best faculty in the world, without question. I cannot say it enough, the faculty truly cares about their students, not just in the sense of their academic development, but in their personal development. Nearly every single faculty member throughout the Lower, Middle, and Upper School contributed to my development as a person. The lessons I learned from my teachers truly set me up for success at the Academy.
SSSAS aims to develop students to pursue goodness as well as knowledge. At the Academy, the spirit of our honor code is to always do the right thing and live honorably. What I valued from SSSAS is that I was developed as a student and a person. Academics inside, your character is what will carry you through the challenges of life.
It is no secret that SSSAS has a rigorous academic curriculum. One of its strengths is developing students with a grasp for nearly every academic discipline and developing students with a very good ability to write and communicate. The Academy is no different; the academic background SSSAS gave me the tools I needed to succeed.
How have you managed the responsibilities of swimming and school at the collegiate level?
Once I stepped on deck at my first swim practice at the Academy, I quickly was humbled and learned that I was entering another level of competitive sports. The intensity was always high. I felt as if I had to make the team each practice and prove that I really wanted to be there and that I really did want to contribute to the team in all aspects, not just swimming.
My first semester at the Academy I struggled in almost every aspect. It was extremely difficult. It took me some time to get my feet under me, I learned the extremely valuable skill of time management. Staying on top of swimming, academics, and all the military duties that the Academy entails can be daunting at times, but it comes down to being organized and understanding what needs to be done. SSSAS and the Academy are both stressful places for different reasons, managing that stress is important, and I rely on my friends, family, and mentors to manage that stress. As cliché as it may sound, managing all the tasks is really about never giving up. That idea is something I carried with me in high school and into the Academy.
Anything else you would like to share?
I have some other highlights that have recently developed:
- The Air Force Men’s Swim Team recently won a Conference Championship, and now holds the modern conference record for most points scored by a winning team.
- This summer I will be a Squadron Commander for a Basic Cadet Squadron!
- I have less than 400 days until graduation.