Air Force Academy Falcon Mascot Fascinates Youngsters
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2002 "Where did you get that bird," a preschooler excitedly asked Air Force Academy Cadet 3rd Class Joe Fixemer as she pointed to the falcon sitting on the cadet's hand.
Fixemer and his falcon was the Air Force Academy's way of getting people to stop by the academy's booth during the 10th Annual Public Service Recognition Week "Student's Day" on the National Mall.
With his falcon, "Vector," sitting on his hand, Air Force Academy Cadet 3rd Class Joe Fixemer tells a bunch of youngsters how the birds are used at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo by Rudi Williams.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Beaming with delight at the youngster's question, Fixemer told the group of students and adults that the falcon's name is "Vector" and that falcons are the academy's mascot.
"We have four out of the five species of falcons found in North America," Fixemer explained. "We have a team of 12 falconers 12 cadets at the Air Force Academy that are responsible for the training, care and health of the falcons.
"We train them to perform at home and away football games, which involves releasing the falcons -- taking all its tethering off and letting it go," he said. "It will attack a lure that another falconer is using to attract the bird. It's a leather pouch about the size of a fist that the falcon recognizes as its dinner plate. It essentially becomes a game of catch we play with the falcon in front of spectators."
He said experts originally said it couldn't be done because the falcon would be distracted by all the people. "But ever since 1959, the falcon has been performing at home and away football games entertaining crowds," he said.
"We also do a lot of public relations work and educational things with the falcons, from entertaining preschoolers on up through the elderly and retired Air Force officers and veterans."