For some Airmen, an enlisted military career full of stripes is just the beginning. Some wish to trade them in for bars. An Airman at the 355th Security Forces Squadron had that desire and was recently accepted into the Air Force Academy Preparatory School.
â€œMy goal in the Air Force has always been to fly,â€ said Airman 1st Class Matthew Kenny, 355th SFS journeyman. â€œI want to be a pilot. In order to do that, you need to be commissioned. I looked at the different avenues an enlisted member can take to become an officer and my flight chief told me about this program. I checked it out and it seemed like a good fit. It also looked like I had a decent shot, so I went for it.â€
Airman Kenny says he grew up in a disciplined environment, so the military was a natural fit for him. Without the money to go to college at the time, he joined the Air Force in the enlisted ranks. Joining enlisted didnâ€™t dash his dreams of flight as entrance into the Air Force Academy doesnâ€™t require previous college education.
â€œThe Air Force Academy has its own four-year program where you earn a degree through them,â€ Kenny said. â€œThe process of getting in is based more on your high school grades, community service, volunteer hours and things like that.â€
Interested Airmen also need to fill out an extensive application packet.
â€œThe whole process is rather exhausting,â€ Kenny said. â€œThere are quite a few forms to fill out, a few writing samples, medical evaluations and interviews. Itâ€™s a pretty thorough process.â€
Thanks to the Air Force Academyâ€™s Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development program, Kenny was able to visit the Academy before finding out whether or not he was accepted into the preparatory school.
â€œThe Academy selected the top 25 Airmen out of around 240 based on their packages to go on a four-day temporary deployment to visit the school,â€ Kenny said. â€œWe sat in on some classes, toured the Academy and were able to check out a football game. It was a great experience to be able to visit.â€
According to the Air Force Academyâ€™s website, the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School is designed to academically, physically and militarily prepare qualified young men and women to enter the Academy. Cadet applicants who are not accepted into the Academy may receive an appointment to the Prep School. Successful completion of the Prep School improves graduatesâ€™ chances for appointment as a cadet but does not guarantee admission to the Academy.
But the hard work was well worth the effort. During his recent five-month deployment to Afghanistan, Kenny received the good news.
â€œI got a call from my commander here and he gave me the good news,â€ Kenny said. â€œIt was quite the day when I found out I was accepted. Thanks to Facebook, I was able to let my family and friends know.â€
Spending time as both an Airmen and an officer is an experience that not everyone goes through. Kenny believes his time as an Airman will ultimately benefit him if he makes it through the Academy and is given a chance to lead.
â€œI think it should be required for all officers to be prior enlisted first,â€ Kenny said. â€œThat way, they know what the Airmen go through on a day-to-day basis. I think being enlisted first would ultimately help keep me focused and grounded.â€
For Kenny, his dream is one step closer to fruition and the Air Force Academy Preparatory School may get him there.
â€œI think the program encourages enlisted Airmen who want to excel, a goal and something to strive for,â€ Kenny said. â€œIt gives them an avenue to further themselves and their career for the benefit of the Air Force.â€