COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. (WVDN) – Russell Dunford, Huntsville Center Business Practice Division chief, traveled to the mountains of Colorado for his daughter’s graduation May 25 from the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Co.
A graduate of Huntsville High School, Ann Marie “Annie” Dunford entered the Academy in 2018, alongside 1,434 other cadets. She was among the 973 who graduated, making her the first in the Dunford family to graduate from a service academy and one of 6039 women to have graduated the Academy since 1976, the first year women were admitted into military service academies.
Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin III addressed graduates at the ceremony on May 25.
“Discipline matters. Work hard, master your craft, and stay focused,” Austin told the graduates. “As cadets, you are no stranger to putting in the reps and sets it takes to be successful. As lieutenants, I hope that you’ll keep up that persistence.”
Russell Dunford, who served as an Army helicopter pilot for over 20 years, was on hand at the ceremony to cheer on his daughter. However, unlike most other proud parents in attendance, he had the honor of administering the Oath of Office to her.
Russell Dunford is Rainelle, graduated from Meadow Bridge High School and attended WV Tech. He was a helicopter pilot who retired from the Army as an LTC.
“Next to holding your child when they are first born…. this was the greatest experience of my life,” Russell Dunford said.
“I’ve administered the Oath of Office from Iraq to Fort Hood, Texas and all places in between. I have administered the oath to soldiers and friends’ children, but when you pass the baton of military leadership to the next generation, and it happens to be your daughter… there are no words that can describe that.”
With the Academy behind her, Annie Dunford intends on taking full advantage of her 60 days of leave before reporting to her next duty station. When tasked with the decision on how to spend her leave, Annie turned to her dad for advice.
“She asked me, if I could do it over again, what I would do, and I advised her that I would travel.” Russell Dunford said. And travel she is. Annie embarked on a 45-day trip to Europe that began in Ireland and will conclude in Greece.
As Annie Dunford reflects on her time at the Academy she notes that “the reason you stay is not the reason you go,” and despite the academic challenges, long hours, and the need to keep Chapstick and hand lotion on hand year round, she will miss the comradery of the Academy. Annie Dunford looks forward to reporting to Columbus Air Force base in Mississippi to begin her pilot training later this summer.