Highlands School graduate gives glimpse of life at U.S. Air Force Academy

Maddie Lloyd recently graduated from Highlands School and has spent the past semester at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Life at a military institution can differ from your traditional state school.

“The Academy is an Ivy League school on crack,” said Lloyd. “You have to balance academics with all of your military and physical duties, it can be tough.”

Maddie Lloyd heading off to begin the Commandant’s Challenge that entails survival training. The goal is to avoid detection by drones.

There are several rules one must adhere to as a freshman at the Academy, for example, freshmen are not allowed to become friends with upperclassmen. Lloyd said this helps develop professional relationships and respect the chain of command. Freshman must also run to class on marble pathways that are 1.5-feet wide.

In the mornings, freshman must stand at attention in the hallway and recite all the meals of the day and have a news article prepared to discuss if called upon. Freshman also have to wear their uniform when running about campus and are only allotted three passes per month to leave base.

“Most of the things as a freshman when you ask why, they say it’s the way it’s always been” said Lloyd.

Maddie Lloyd and a classmate after running the Commandant’s Challenge. The weapons are both training weapons. Since being at the U.S. Air Force Academy she has been to a live firing range twice.

Lloyd said a freshman is considered someone who has been “accepted,” but who has not yet been “recognized.” Once a cadet is recognized, some of their initial freshman duties are no longer necessary.

Lloyd’s accepted status won’t last much longer. As long as she continues to meet her academic, military, and physical requirements, she will become recognized in early March of this year.

“Then I can wear civilian clothes and friendships with upperclassmen aren’t outlawed anymore,” she said.

Lloyd said it’s a lot to balance academics and military life, but the system at the Academy works well for her.

“It’s not too hard just because they give you so much structure,” said Lloyd. “I think it would be difficult at another school without it.”

Lloyd said moving from Highlands to Colorado Springs is a big change.

“I miss the people and the connection you feel with a small town,” she said. “When you leave, you don’t know anyone, but there are benefits to that. It’s so diverse out here, I’ve met people from all over the world, and I’m learning tons of new slang terms.”

Maddie Lloyd’s portrait wearing her service dress uniform.

Lloyd said one of the most difficult things at the Academy is figuring out why they make the cadets do what they do.

“It’s so hard to understand the purpose behind everything they make us do and you think ‘why am I doing this? I just have to swallow my pride and do what I need to,” she said.

Since Lloyd’s enrollment in the Academy, she has taken up boxing and joined a club team.

“I saw women’s boxing and thought, why not? It’s another way to grow when I’m already being pushed out of my comfort zone,” she said.

Lloyd’s high school math teacher Gina Billingsley remembers Lloyd as a bit of a perfectionist as a student in her class.

“She was so much fun to have in class,” said Billingsley. “Everything had to be done correctly and she had to understand everything by asking so many questions.”

She added that it was not only doing well in academics that made Lloyd stand out as a student.

“To me, her greatest attribute is not academics, it was how she treated people,” said Billingsley. “Not everything was about her and she was a great leader.”

Highlands School junior Amy Council was a former teammate of Lloyd’s and said her leadership carried onto the playing field.

“She knew how to lead without making herself the center of attention and made those around her feel capable,” said Council.

Maddie Lloyd and her mother Kim at a Lady Highlanders basketball game. Maddie is wearing her Air Battle Uniform (ABUs) while she watched her former team beat East Henderson. Photo by Brian O’Shea.

While Lloyd was in town, she attended some Highlands basketball games and said she missed playing with her former teammates but is happy to move on.

“It was hard watching, but not as hard as I thought it would be,” said Lloyd. “Looking back, I feel like I did everything I wanted to do in school and I feel good how I left Highlands. Plus, it was great being on the sidelines watching my girls win (against Henderson on Dec. 17), that was enough for me.”

Lloyd said she was happy to see family and friends back in the area and flew back to Colorado Springs on Jan. 2. She plans on focusing on electrical engineering and after graduation will serve at least five years of active military service.

Photos courtesy of Maddie Lloyd
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