Jan. 15, 2014
The Former Falcon Baseball Alum Perspective will be an occasional series of stories by former Air Force baseball alums on how the Academy has prepared them as they embark on their careers in the Air Force. The first one comes to us from Capt. Jake Allen, USAFA class of 2008.
In addition to playing baseball during his Academy days, Capt. Jake "Apollo" Allen was also a team captain and member of the USAFA soaring aerobatics team. He graduated with a degree in Aeronatical Engineering. The former fleet-footed Falcon baseball outfielder is currently serving as an Instructor Pilot in the F-16CM block 50 at Shaw AFB, SC. After graduating from the Academy, he attended Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX. He then traveled to Luke AFB in Phoenix, AZ for a year for the F-16 B-course before moving to his first operational assignment at Shaw. This summer Apollo will be leaving Shaw to join the 80th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan AB, South Korea.
Of all the positive attributes that I can come up with that have been endowed upon me through my four years at the United States Air Force Academy, most all of them can be attributed in some way to the simple fact that the Academy is hard. According to Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great." I couldn't agree more. The Academy is not a place to skate through with limited effort to earn a degree, or just a Div. I baseball program to play for. As I'm sure is the case with any highly ranked university, the academics are demanding. Balancing a full course load with athletics and the requisite military formations can sometimes seem impossible. But, as a result, I have benefited from the perks of a highly esteemed education, been given the opportunity to fly a fighter aircraft, and developed lasting relationships with some of the most genuine and brilliant people I could ever hope to meet.
I vividly remember receiving a briefing in the first week of basic training that outlined the average SAT score and high school GPA for my class; I was very humbled! It was discouragingly evident that I underachieved compared to my new peers and the next four years in the classroom would be rough. Thankfully cadets aren't expected to succeed alone. Class sizes are small, so student questions were always welcome. All of my teachers knew me by name, and they ALWAYS made themselves available when I needed help. Every time I asked for extra instruction from a teacher, which was often, I was able to meet with them in their office that same day or the next. Good luck finding that in a 300 student lecture hall! For me, the most surprising source of help came from fellow cadets. In an atmosphere where everyone is ranked based on performance I expected a cut-throat environment where people hoarded their strengths to keep themselves at the top; this was not the case. Everybody has weaknesses that require assistance, and cadet gatherings were common for academics, fitness, airfield activities, and others. For me, innumerable study sessions, mandatory physical training and formations, the academy glider program, and baseball all instilled friendships that I will keep for the rest of my life. Walking into the Air Force Academy I expected the difficulty and competitive atmosphere to lead to a solitary struggle to keep my head above water and I found the exact opposite. General Douglas MacArthur has a quote, that all cadets become intimately familiar with, that states, "On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory."
After graduation I attended Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) where I again found a difficult demand on time, fast paced learning expectations, and, of course, performance based rankings. And yet again, I found myself sitting around my kitchen table on day one with seven-to-nine of my classmates studying together. The Air Force Academy not only provided me a pilot slot, it taught me humility which allowed me to ask for help often, from my instructors and from my peers. It taught perseverance through difficulty, teamwork, and how to compete with honor. All of these traits have been pivotal throughout my five-plus years in the Air Force, from SUPT, F-16 initial qualification training, and the path to becoming an Instructor Pilot in the F-16CM block 50. I wouldn't trade that for any other college experience.