Aviano Airman LEADs the way to bright future

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sarah Gregory
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
When a retired Army master sergeant challenged a young man to out do him, the Airman pushed himself to live up to the challenge.

Airman 1st Class Chase's drive to do more has led him to face an upcoming 10 months of arduous work.

Airman Ray was notified April 26 that he was accepted in to the Air Force Academy preparatory school through the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program.

"My grandfather, who was in the Army for 30 years, had a little competition going with me," said Airman Ray. "He told me he wanted me to outdo him and the only way I could have done that on the enlisted side is go to E-9."

For Airman Ray, waiting 20 years to live up to the challenge wasn't an option. When he learned about the LEAD program, he realized he had a way to meet his personal goals and be as successful as his grandfather at the same time.

"I've always had something inside me that said to strive for more," said the 31st Security Forces Squadron member. "I thought to myself, I could retire as a major or lieutenant colonel or as a master or senior master sergeant."

The Air Force reserves a certain number of academy enrollments every year for prep school graduates. In 2007, there are 135 Academy positions open; 50 prep school slots and 85 direct appointments. The preparatory school is 10 months long and takes students through the basics of college level math, science and English. Students also study the same four areas as academy cadets - academic, military, athletic and character development.

After completing the prep school, Airman Ray hopes to be accepted into the Academy where he plans to pursue a degree in international relations and participate on the wrestling team. Although he knows the course work will be demanding, Airman Ray knows the results will be worth it.

"Having a degree from the Air Force Academy is like having a degree from an Ivy League school," he said. "For a full ride to one of the best universities in the United States -- I'm not going to argue with that. I'm excited like no other."

After looking at other commissioning options the Air Force offers Airman Ray knew that the Academy was the best choice for him.

"I decided to go this way because earning a degree and then applying for [Officer Training School] would be a long process," he said. "In my job we're constantly on the go so it's hard to sit down and study. With the academy, I'll be going to school full time with nothing to worry about but studying."

For more information about the LEAD program or the academy, call the Air Force Academy's admissions office at (800) 443-9266 or visit www.usafa.af.mil.  For details on all the Air Force commissioning programs, visit http://www.afoats.af.mil.

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