SALT LAKE CITY — Are you an enlisted Airman between the ages of 17 and 22 and looking to be a future leader? Would you like to earn your bachelor’s degree going to school full time at one of the most competitive, prestigious schools in the nation that traditionally only accepts 18 percent of its applicants — and at no cost to you? Are you interested in earning a commission as an officer? Sound too good to be true? Think again.
The Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development (LEAD) program was developed by Air Force leaders to encourage aspiring enlisted Airmen to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Upon completion of the program, LEAD Airmen commission as second lieutenants with a Bachelor’s of Science degree and enter active duty to train as pilots, engineers, program managers, intelligence officers, doctors, etc., and become the future leaders of the U.S. Air Force.
“The LEAD program is an exceptional way for our rising stars in the enlisted force to receive a commission in the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Mike Ivison, Utah Liaison Officer Director. “We hope to get the word out to all the local bases so their Airmen can be aware of the program and its benefits.”
The Air Force Academy reserves 85 slots a year for Active-duty enlisted Airmen and another 85 slots for Airmen from the Reserves or National Guard. For direct entry into the Academy, enlisted personnel compete against other high school seniors from around the country. Less than 10 percent of applicants for this year were offered appointments. The average GPA was 3.86 on a 4.0 scale, and the average ACT/SAT scores were approximately 30/660, respectively. For students whose scores are not that high, they can compete for the Academy’s Prep School, which is co-located on the USAFA campus. This institution accepts 240 cadet candidates annually from across the country and prepares them to be a competitive candidate for USAFA. The minimum GPA for the prep school is 2.7 and the ACT is approximately 24.
“While a cadet candidate at the prep school, Airmen still maintain their pay and rank at time of entry,” added Ivison. “Airmen will continue to earn time in grade and time in service while enrolled in prep school as well. Once accepted into the Air Force Academy, Airmen will have to give up their rank and grade and become a cadet, or officer candidate. If not accepted into the academy, or if they choose not to accept a slot as a cadet, they return to the same enlisted AFSC they held prior to entry into the prep school.”
One of the key benefits for Airmen applying through the LEAD program compared with high school applicants is that the latter is required to obtain a nomination from a U.S. senator or congressman. In place of a nomination, enlisted Airmen only need to receive an endorsement from their local commander.
While attending their four years at USAFA (or five years if they attend the prep school), cadets are challenged to become experienced followers and are given the foundation for leadership as an officer. Cadets enroll at USAFA full-time, and there are no out-of-pocket expenses for tuition, books, room or board. The academic tuition by itself is valued at $45,000 per year. Academically, cadets select from more than 30 different majors, including: English, history, aeronautical or astronautical engineering, physics, biology, political science, civil engineering, computer science and chemistry. All cadets take part in either intercollegiate athletics or intramural athletic programs. Military training includes programs in parachuting, flying in gliders and powered aircraft, survival training, three weeks at an operational Air Force base, and leadership opportunities to serve as cadre in basic training or summer camps. There are also opportunities to do a semester abroad at a foreign military academy.
If you do not meet the requirements for the LEAD program, the ROTC path is also an option. The Air Force ROTC Scholarship program offers highly qualified students excellent educational opportunities and the same commission in the Air Force. Unlike the academy however, AFROTC scholarships are based on a chosen field of study and the education is through a civilian college or university. Scholarship winners must apply separately to the qualifying universities of their choice. AFROTC scholarships are also offered on a competitive basis considering academics, class standing, demonstrated leadership and physical condition. The deadline for the Air Force ROTC Scholarship program is Dec. 1. For more information you can visit www.afrotc.com .
Completing a college degree is a valuable step forward for anyone’s career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the monthly median salary for a person with a high school diploma in 2012 was $2,794. The base total salary for a second lieutenant with 2 or more years of service is roughly $4,000. Act fast and put your career on the fast track to a college education and fast-paced career. The application window for the Class of 2018 closes Jan. 31, 2014.