Monday, August 13, 2012

Colorado Springs AF Academy and the Waldo Canyon Fire

The Waldo Canyon fire forced the evacuation of over 30,000 people in the Colorado Springs area and burned over 300 homes and buildings.  Since I used to live in Colorado Springs, I followed the news closely and one of the first things I did upon arriving in Colorado Springs last week, was go and scope out where the fire occurred.  It actually did not get into the area of town I first thought, but it did burn down the famous Flying W Ranch, a chuckwagon BBQ and western style entertainment since 1953.  It was a working cattle ranch in the foothills of Colorado Springs and during its high season could feed as many as 1,000 people a night.  During the winter they brought the entertainment inside and had a winter steakhouse.  But sadly, it was burned to the ground in the Waldo Canyon Fire, June 26, 2012.

Just down the road from the Flying W Ranch is where most of the destruction seemed to occur.  Here are the ruins of several homes, but notice the home on the hill which wasn't touched, nor were the trees down the street.

Some had just smoke and minor damage, but some had nothing left but some bricks.

Even this car wasn't spared.  It looked as if it might have been inside the garage when the house caught fire.

Here is a series of homes on the left which show little harm, yet you can tell where the homes on the right where destroyed.  They have already started the process of tear down and clean up. 

Just north of the fire area is the AF Academy and the AF Academy Chapel, visted by over 500,000 people annually.    Established in 1954, it was not located to this campus until 1958, and is both a university and a military organization.  Over 4,400 cadets live here for four years until they graduate and are commissioned as an officer in the Air Force.  The chapel was started in 1959, but not completed until 1963.

The pipe organ has 4,334 pipes.  It is located on the main level, which is the protestant chapel.  I attended a presentation of Handel's Messiah some 20 years ago and there is nothing like the music this pipe organ produces.  It's beautiful.

The Protestant Chapel ceiling is comprised of the 17 spires seen from the outside, with stained glass windows.  The chapel was designed to accomodate the worshipers from all walks of life.  Beneath the main chapel is the Catholic Chapel, a Jewish Chapel, a Buddhist room.  There is also a lower level (they don't allow you to tour this area), but it consists of an Islamic Worship Center and the All Faiths Chapel.  We did visit the Catholic Chapel, but got no pictures, although the marble statues are Carrera marble, drawn from the same quarries as the marble used by Michaelangelo.

The Jewish Chapel is round and seats 100.

The marble in the Jewish Chapel is from Israel, provided by the Israeli Defense Force.

The Buddhist room is small by comparison.

Standing in front of the chapel, you look down on the parade grounds of the rest of the Academy.   Much of the AFA is setup like any other AF base, but the cadet wing is located more like a university.  Looking across the parade grounds are the academic halls and classrooms and labs.  On the sides of the parade grounds are located the dorm rooms and the cafeteria.  They say all 4400 cadets can be fed in 20 minutes.

If you are there at noon during the school year, you get to see the cadets march in formation to lunch.  It is quite a site.  The cadets had arrived only the day before and school officially started the day after we were there, so we did not get to see the cadets march.  But we did see many of the first year cadets (called doolies) running (literally) to and fro.  Doolies must at all times, except in formation, travel only on the white strips and must call out and salute all other cadets they pass.

We saw lots of cadets carrying laundry, dry cleaning and bags of school supplies, all getting ready for classes to resume tomorrow.

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