Two first-class cadets were found dead within three days this past week at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Air Force officials say neither death was related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The first cadet was found dead on campus on March 26 and the second on March 28. Investigations are underway, but officials say foul play is not suspected.
We are deeply saddened to confirm that a US Air Force Academy cadet was found dead in the cadet area Saturday afternoon. This follows another cadet death Thursday morning. Both were Cadets First-Class.
“These tragedies have caused incredible shock and pain throughout our USAFA family,” said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, Air Force Academy Superintendent. “Right now we are all focused on taking care of the cadet’s families and each other—our cadets, our faculty, our staff— as we grieve this loss. We ask for everyone’s patience and respect for the families’ privacy at this time.”
Academy leaders, the chaplain’s office and mental health professionals are providing support and grief counseling to cadets, faculty and staff.
The circumstances surrounding the deaths are currently under investigation, but neither was COVID-19-related and foul play is not suspected in either case.
Though officials say the deaths are not related to the new coronavirus pandemic, they come at an unprecedented time, as the Air Force Academy significantly restricts face-to-face interaction and closes facilities on campus due to the crisis. The Colorado governor issued a stay-at-home order on March 26, which applies to everyone at the Academy currently living in Colorado.
Only about 1,000 first-class cadets and limited faculty and staff remain on campus. Most of those cadets have been housed in single dorm rooms, but the Academy will now allow two students to a room if they want. The 3,000 other cadets were sent home and are now attending classes remotely due to the coronavirus.
Unlike the other service academies, USAFA cadets were still weeks away from spring break when the spread of COVID-19 escalated across the country. Academy officials decided to keep the seniors on campus, which was seen as a more safe and secure location, rather than risk exposure to the virus elsewhere, which could potentially preclude them from graduating in May, according to a letter obtained by Air Force Magazine from Silveria to the USAFA community. Although the situation continues to evolve, Silveria said the plan is to move forward with a May graduation.
Separately, two first-class cadets have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and their health is being closely monitored while they are kept in isolation at the Academy. A total of five people living and working at the Academy have tested positive as of March 27, according to a letter from Silveria to the greater academy community.
“In nearly four decades in uniform, I can tell you that this week has been one of my most difficult, and I know that sentiment is shared across our team,” Silveria wrote. “In particular, the outpouring of positive support from our graduate community has been inspiring. I readily admit that I do not have all the solutions to the challenges we face, but the solution lies in the USAFA family. It is in times like these that feeling the full strength of the USAFA bonds—between our cadets, graduates, faculty, staff, and our entire community—can make all the difference.”
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond all flew to the Academy on March 30 to talk to cadets and better understand the current environment on campus.