It goes without saying that Air Force Academy graduates feel a strong call to serve – their country and their fellow man – and Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bradley is no exception.
The best part for Bradley is he now serves the Academy in a direct capacity as an Air Officer Commanding for Cadet Squadron 36 in his hometown of Colorado Springs.
Bradley served as the Falcons’ captain during his senior season (2000-01), when he capped his on-ice career by winning College Hockey America’s Student-Athlete of the Year Award.
A two-time Academic All-CHA pick, Bradley also won multiple team awards during his time at the Academy, including the John Matchefts Award as freshman of the year in 1998 and the Vic Heyliger Award in 2001.
Bradley was a consistent scorer from the time he stepped into the Falcons’ lineup, putting up between 25 and 38 points every season. He sits 29th on the school scoring list with 123 points, including 38 goals, in 145 games played. Only three Falcons ahead of him on the scoring list played have played more games.
Bradley also has ties to the current Falcons coaching staff. He played for head coach Frank Serratore during his first four seasons leading the Falcons. Assistant Joe Doyle recruited Bradley. And fellow assistant Andy Berg was a teammate of Bradley’s.
Bradley graciously took time out for an extended conversation about what’s he’s doing now, his various assignments since graduation and, of course, some favorite Air Force Hockey memories.
Flight Path: Scott, could you update us on what you’re doing these days?
Scott Bradley: It’s a dream job for me to get to come back to the Air Force Academy. I’m an AOC, an Air Officer Commanding – the one officer in charge of a group of about 100 to 110 cadets for Cadet Squadron 36.
I get any and every college student’s issue. Whether it’s their success or any 18 to 22-year-old challenge, whether it’s family or school or relationships. I start off acting as a commander first, then a leader, mentor and counselor in a lot of fashions, which is fun.
Before that much of your Air Force career was spent as a pilot. What can you tell us about that?
I graduated in 2001 from the Air Force Academy. I was fortunate to play four years of hockey for coach Serratore. After that I went to pilot training in Wichita Falls, Texas, at Sheppard Air Force Base. I was assigned initially to fly the F-15E, the strike Eagle at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. From there I transferred up to Alaska to Elmendorf Air Force Base.
Then I was fortunate to transition to the F-22 Raptor; our squadron was transitioning to a different air command. The F-22 is a fifth generation fighter in the United States Air Force. It’s the newest fighter until the F-35 comes online in a few years.
I stayed at Elmendorf for a few years. Then I taught at the Schoolhouse, the formal flight training school in Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for about five years.
Clearly you have a strong drive to invest in others. Where did that originate from? Has it always been a passion of yours?
It was learned. So no, it was not always a passion, but it’s definitely become a passion. My parents brought me up well, teaching me that relationships are pretty much the most important thing that matter in life, no matter what you do. So I’ve adopted that, to invest in relationships. Not only will they determine your progress for succesess in life but also the ability to invest in other peoples’ walk and their pursuit for whatever goals they have in life has become a passion for sure.
Growing up as a youth hockey player in Colorado Springs, I would imagine you played some games at Cadet Arena from time to time. Did you go to many Air Force games growing up?
It’s funny because I grew up watching Joe Doyle. In late ’80s my family frequented the games here. Joe Delich, Joe Doyle, Matt Watson, the Veneri brothers, watching all those famous alums. They were the guys I was looking up to, waiting for the sticks on the side of the rink hoping they’d pass me something after the game. And see all those fun games in the ’90s.
Joe Doyle actually recruited me when I was playing junior hockey in Billings, Montana. I credit him for giving me the opportunity to come play here, which has launched a career I never would have imagined. It’s been great.
Playing here at home in Colorado Springs has been awesome. I grew up playing for the Pikes Peak organization. I actually started playing here at the Air Force Academy when I was real young. I ended up playing with the Pikes Peak organization, which ended up becoming the Miners in Midget. Then I played junior hockey for a couple years after that.
It was a dream come true to come back here and play where I grew up playing, here in the Springs.
Do you have any favorite memories from your playing days with Air Force?
There’s a lot of favorites. Clearly, the games against West Point. Seeing the competitive games here between the service academies brought back a lot of memories. We went on the road my freshman year and were able to sweep West Point back in 1998, Frank’s first year. He took some of the ice, and we were all wondering why he was shoveling ice at the end of that series. But he brought it home and presented us all with a little gift – a little bottle of ice with a puck on the bottom that ended up being the ice from West Point from that sweep. I still have that. It’s a great memory for me of my time here. We could spend the next 45 minutes talking about memorable games, but that one definitely sticks out.
One of the things I’ve been struck by with Frank and what he’s brought to the program is honoring the past and celebrating the achievements of players on an ongoing basis as you described, as well as the history here. What have his biggest contributions been to the program?
Man, that’s a tough question because he’s had his hand in almost everything the program has been involved with. … His initiative for the past 20 years to get this program from a middle of the road Division I program in the middle ’90s to a top tier, consistently sustained D-I program that he has now is impressive. Whether it’s organizing the alumni and getting that group of 350 people who have played here for the last 50 years on the same page, whether it’s giving them weekly updates on the games, or getting the best for his players, as far as equipment, jerseys, staff, the collective hockey knowledge that he’s put together here.
Remember, he has to compete with DU and CC, which were from the old days to now the premier Division I teams. Not only does the team just compete but it really has taken over Colorado Springs as its premier program. That’s pretty amazing for him as the head coach to do in the past 20 years. Oh by the way, you can add the five NCAA appearances, the two to three Hobey Baker finalists that we’ve had and the handful of All-Americans on his resume speaks to the contributions he’s made to the program.
The sense I’ve gotten from talking to players is how unique it is to play here because you’ve got another level of demands on top of being a Division I athlete, there’s the military service. How does that help individuals going forward? Do you have to grow up faster?
Initially it’s probably more of a challenge than it is a benefit. You have the challenge of not just coming here to play Division I college hockey, but you’ve also got the academic rigor and the military rigor on top of that.
That again goes back to the coaching staff. For Frank, Andy Berg and Joe Doyle to be able to recruit such a good crop of individuals, such that they can sustain the academics, sustain the military and do well at a top-tier level in Division I is amazing from a coaching standpoint. So I give them all the credit.
Clearly the players have to deal with a day-to-day grind. So from that standpoint we’re fortunate because the recruits are older. They come from junior hockey so they’re 19-21 years old as a freshman compared to their peers, who are 17 to 18. So as you know that three years of growth and maturity is significant. So I think that’s a huge advantage to bring those kids in because they are thankful for the opportunity in a lot of fashions. With that comes with a little more built-in discipline, that motivation to do well, realizing the opportunity they’re going to have after graduation to be a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force and have a significant start to a career ahead of them.
©First Line Editorial 2017