Final Five Join 2013 Class at Air Force Academy

They got through just in time to be part of the Air Force Academy's Class of 2013.

A week before Christmas, the final five members of the academy's 55th class graduated and pinned on the rank of second lieutenants.

"I know at some point over the past few years and even over the last few days you've wondered if graduation day would ever come. Well, it's here today," Tom Marbry, the academy's deputy registrar, said at the ceremony.

The academy, known as one of the toughest colleges in America, doesn't let its students dally. Cadets are required to complete their courses in four years. A few, like the additional 2013 graduates, get permission to take four extra months at the academy before following their classmates into the Air Force's officer ranks.

"Today is a beginning for you. It's certainly not an end," Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told the graduates. "It's a beginning for your Air Force career."

The graduates were lauded with a ceremony only slightly less elaborate than the one their 1,036 classmates got a few months earlier in Falcon Stadium.

Johnson told them that they are entering an Air Force that is transforming itself to meet future needs.

"The Air Force is going to demand things of you that might never have been imagined," Johnson said.

The cadets took time out to praise Johnson and the rest of the academy's staff.

"Without you, without your staff, without all of the supporting personnel, none of us would have made it," said graduate David Baska, a former punter on the football team who is heading to Vandenberg Air Force Base to learn space operations.

The new graduates were sworn in as officers and pinned on their Air Force rank.

They were given lieutenant's bars by members of the academy's Class of 1963.

"Each of you can be proud," retired Air Force Brig. Gen. William Ball, representing the Class of '63, said.

"These five new lieutenants bring the Air Force Academy's total number of graduates to 46,045 since the first graduating class, which was the Class of 1959," the academy said in a news release.

The school will mark its 60th anniversary on April 1.

Baska and the others gave Johnson a clock as a parting gift.

"This clock says 'Better late than never.' Thanks from the Class of 2013.5," Baska said.

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