Tag Archive | AFJROTC

Off We Go Into Service Academy Application

IMG_2911My son is in the process of applying to the United States Air Force Academy. I will spend much of my time on this blog talking about that process as I know that I appreciate every little bit of help I can get. There are a ton of forums out there, and everyone has their opinions, so sometimes weeding out what’s helpful is a long process. But here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

1. Being smart is important, but it’s not everything.

And standardized tests are a poor indicator of how truly smart someone is. My son has done very well in school. He’s 8th in his class of 733. He has a weighted GPA of more than 4.7 and is taking honors, AP and dual enrollment classes. But he’s not shown himself to excel on standardized tests. Unfortunately, the Academy has standards and if you do not meet those standards, you are disqualified. So far, DS (military academy speak for “dear son,” which, along with DD, is how all posters on military forums refer to their children) is considered competitive by the Academy.

2. Being athletic is important, but it’s not everything (do you sense a pattern here?)

Ever since DS decided he wanted to apply to the Academy, we’ve been talking about his participation in a team sport. He played Little League Baseball for many years, but hasn’t since before middle school. He earned his blue belt in Tae Kwon Do instead. Once he reached high school, he got deeply involved with his AFJROTC unit, participated in the drill team and commanded the armed drill team, which knocked him out of sports because the drill teams practice every day. Each Academy candidate has to pass the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), which includes several components. If you fail even one component, you fail the whole CFA. If you fail the CFA, you’re out. So, being physically fit is necessary (obviously, since we’re talking about military service here), but that can be accomplished in ways other than participating in team sports.

Unfortunately, the Academy ranks their candidates by said participation. I did have one forum poster tell me that DS needs to be doing what he has a passion for. If JROTC is it, then that’s what he needs to do. The Academy is looking for opportunities for leadership. My DS has that within his JROTC unit by being named the Vice Wing Commander of his unit next year. His unit is more than 500 strong. That’s leadership. I hope the Academy sees it that way.

3. The Nomination from a member of Congress is everything (it really is).

No nomination, no appointment, no matter how great you are. So right now, DS has been collecting letters of recommendation to send to our senators (2) and congressman (1) and the Vice President of the United States (a long shot, but they say to apply everywhere you qualify) to send in with his application for nomination. A nomination committee will review his application and either call him for an interview, or disqualify him. If he gets the nomination, he still has to pass the CFA and his medical evaluation. If he does all that, he still needs to receive an appointment from the Academy. It’s a long, long process.

4. There is seemingly no end to the details that have to be covered.

DS has taken both the SAT and the ACT twice; now those scores have to be sent to our MOCs (Members of Congress). Essays have to be written. That’s the tough part because your essay really needs to stand out. Every list the MOCs have needs to be checked and rechecked to make sure everything that is required is enclosed. If not, your application will be turned down flat. Letters of recommendation, along with an academic recommendation from his principal, have to be sealed and then signed across the seal so the committee knows it hasn’t been tampered with. They need a photo with his name on the back. They need a checklist of items in the file. It’s enough to make an administratively minded person like myself pull out my hair. My 17-year-old son is barely surviving.

5. Discouragement is always close at hand.

You have to be on a sports team. Your ACT score is just adequate. You don’t stand out. How discouraging is that to hear for a kid entering his senior year, working a part-time job, being 2nd in command of a huge JROTC unit, volunteering with the middle school youth at his church? It’s summer and I can’t seem to motivate him to get up early to go run, to practice for the CFA, to study harder for the ACT. Especially when I’m trying to back off and let him have more control of his life. I’m determined not to nag.

After the last SAT scores came out he said to me, “I’m not going to make it.” That made me sad because I feel that he’s losing hope. We don’t know what the candidate pool looks like this year. All we know is that he can only do his best and the rest is up to God. Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do. That’s the Air Force motto. Those are intangibles. He has control over his academics and his physical fitness. He can study more for the standardized tests. But his integrity, his character, who he is when no one’s looking, are what will stand out in the end.

Hopefully, the MOCs will notice.

Let Freedom Ring

I’ve been contemplating freedom today as we remember those who gave their lives serving our country in the Armed Forces. Both of my sons are AFJROTC members at their high school. The thought of them someday going into battle as full time airmen scares me. But the thought of where this country would be without the sacrifice of those who have gone before scares me as well.

My younger son, Nathan, and I were talking about how the Americans stole the tune to Britain’s national anthem, “God Save the Queen.”


O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all

we get:

My country ’tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s died
Land of the Pilgrim’s pride
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring

The people who founded our country were looking for freedom in a new world; a place where they could freely practice their religion without fear. The tyrannical government they were fleeing wanted none of that. The battles fought in the Revolutionary War bought our freedom from a country that wanted to keep us under its thumb.

There are many people who think that we should not engage an enemy that has not come upon our shores to threaten us. But I am not of that frame of mind. I think an enemy of freedom wherever it is found is our enemy. Freedom does not just belong to Americans. Everyone deserves the chance to worship as they choose, to say what they will—be it stupid or not, to have choices. Yes, that freedom comes at a price. It always has. It always will.

I’m proud of our soldiers. They understand the price. They have seen the devastation bondage causes. They have witnessed the joy freedom brings.

IMG_2877Justin, my eldest, will one day soon be one of those soldiers as his desire is to serve his country in the United States Air Force. I support him wholeheartedly. To every serviceman or woman I personally encounter I say, “Thank you for your service.” To those who live under tyrannical governments, who have no freedom and who live in fear every day I say from afar, “Don’t give up hope. Be strong. I pray you are not abandoned by those who would leave you to suffer alone, just because you’re not American.”

I promise you, that will never be me.

I Have a Dream

I keep having this recurring dream. No, it’s not the one where I show up at a college class I never even knew I had to find out there’s an exam I’ve never studied for. I haven’t had that one in awhile. In this one, I’m driving a car and coming up to a stop, and as hard as I push on that brake pedal, I cannot get the car to stop. It’s a very out-of-control feeling.

Out of control. Yep, that’s what it is alright. I’m a mother, watching my son become a man, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Not that I’m supposed to do anything about it. This is the way it’s supposed to be. But, take yesterday for example. We sent him off at 4:00 in the morning with about 100 people that I don’t know to a place we’ve never been to do something he’s never done before. Granted, the rest of the family would be meeting him there a few hours later, but still, the dream came.

Yesterday’s event was an Air Force Junior ROTC drill competition. Justin’s goal in life is to be an Air Force fighter pilot. It’s been my habit to thank active duty or retired military personnel for their service when I see them. Now, I do it with a bit of a tear in my eye as I think that someday in the not-too-distant future, that could be my son.

I’m having to release control, cut the ol’ apron strings, as they say. It started when he entered high school. Before that, he’d been under my watchful eye at our parent-involved private Christian school. When he started public high school, I felt like I was sending him into the lion’s den. He survived–even thrived–so this year wasn’t as tough. But I know that, in less than three short years, he’ll be leaving my little nest and I won’t have any control whatsoever.

Thank God that He’s still in control. And I can pray.

I know all my friends who have gone through this before are laughing at me–or maybe they’re nodding their heads in sympathy. That dream might come more and more often. And I’ve got two more kids to go after this one. *sigh* Those baby days were a lot easier than this. They are maybe not as physically exhausting, but emotionally, well, let’s just say I’m earning my gray hair.

I’m proud of the man he’s becoming. I pray that he seeks to stay close to God his entire life. That will make this letting go thing a lot easier on me, if I know he’s making good choices hand-in-hand with his Lord.

And it would be nice to hear “M’am, yes m’am!” around the house sometimes.

Thankful today for:

630. an extra hour’s sleep

631. sunshine with no sweating

632. pictures of fall in other places, because we have no color here

633. food when my stomach rumbles

634. the approaching holiday season

635. open doors