[This is part two of a two-part story by Cara Schulz from PNC-Minnesota. Part one, dealing with Pagans in basic training at Lackland Air Force base can be found, here.]
One of the Gateways to the Air Force for future officers is the United States Air Force academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While earning their bachelor’s degree, military cadets participate in a rigorous athletic program and are instructed in how to lead others as an officer in the Air Force. In part 1 of our series, Pagans receive warm welcome at the ‘Gateways to the Air Force,’ we looked at Lackland AFB, where enlisted trainees attend Basic Military Training. In part 2, we take a closer look at the Air Force Academy (AFA) through interviews with Pagan faith group leaders, an Academy Chaplain, and a current Pagan Academy cadet.
What wild couple of weeks it’s been for the Pagans at the Air Force Academy! First it was announced that a special outdoor worship area was created for Pagan cadets and faculty (that had been in the works for some time), a positive step after past allegations of rampant Christian-fueled intolerance at the academy. Then, the story hit the national media, Tech Sergeant Brandon Longcrier was named an “intriguing person of the day” by Rick Sanchez at CNN, and the first rumblings of criticism were emerging. Sometime, during all this press, a “desecration incident” happened, when a large wooden cross was left at the site. Cue anger (and some debate over how serious of an incident this was) from Pagans, and strangely, anger from Christians at our temerity in claiming it a desecration.