Academy Airman

  • Published
  • By Mr. Miles Brown
  • Air Force Weather Agency Public Affairs
It started with a standard briefing. A briefing most new enlisted members arriving at their first duty station receive at First Term Airmen Centers across the Air Force. It ended with acceptance to one of the premier universities in the nation . the U.S. Air Force Academy.

When Airman 1st Class Chad Potenzone, a computer system programmer apprentice with the Air Force Weather Agency, Offutt AFB, Neb., decided to enter the Air Force, he was not sure where his service would take him, but he did have ambition. After a briefing from an Academy graduate about the enlisted-specific admissions program, called Leaders Encouraging Airman Development, Airman Potenzone wanted to be Lieutenant Potenzone. This accomplishment would fulfill a deep rooted dream to fly fighters for the Air Force.

"I came into the Air Force not knowing what to expect," recalls the Bloomfield, N.J. native, "but from the moment I entered AFWA, I knew that I wanted to make the Air Force my career.

"This place feels like one big family, and the briefing we received about LEAD during FTAC made me realize that a commission and pilot training were not out of my reach," said Airman Potenzone.

It was probably his father who first planted the idea of flying Air Force fighters into Airman Potenzone's head. "My Dad was in ROTC during college, but was unable to achieve his goal of becoming a fighter pilot because his parents died before he could finish school. He had to leave college to take care of the family," recalled Airman Potenzone.

Now, Airman Potenzone has the chance to enter the Academy from the enlisted ranks, but first he must complete a year in the USAFA preparatory school at the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. This opportunity would not be possible if Airman Potenzone were not already a leader and outstanding performer both before his arrival on Offutt and in his current capacity as a programmer with AFWA, according to Lt. Col. Daniel Bates, the Information Systems Division Chief at AFWA.

"Airman Potenzone will make an outstanding officer. He has the leadership qualities and the work ethic needed to succeed in this program. Most importantly, he has an incredibly positive attitude that will serve him well in accomplishing his goal to become an officer," said Colonel Bates.

Airman Potenzone has always excelled both intellectually and athletically. During high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society and lettered in varsity football, baseball and basketball. He continued to rise to the top during basic training, graduating with honors in the top 1.2 percent of his class. During his technical training at Kessler AFB, Miss., he also earned honors as the top graduate of his class.

"He [Airman Potenzone] continues to impress by completing his qualification training three months ahead of schedule while maintaining an outstanding 98 percent average," said Col. John Lanicci, AFWA Commander. "He has done this and shown exceptional leadership qualities by stepping-up as a physical training leader for the Agency."

The Air Force Academy is one of the most selective colleges in America. The selection process identifies young men and women who have the qualities and genuine motivation to succeed in a very challenging environment and whose primary goal is to serve our nation as an Air Force officer. The competition for an appointment is extremely high and all selected cadets must have a proven record of achievement in academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, and leadership, according to Col. William Carpenter, the Director of Admissions for the Air Force Academy.

Every year, enlisted openings at the Academy include 85 direct appointments for active duty airmen, another 85 direct appointments for Reserve and National Guard enlisted members, and 50 Academy Preparatory School slots for airmen of any status. Despite all these avenues, fewer than 20 prior enlisted airmen go directly into the Academy. The bulk of prior enlisted cadets secure their entrance through the LEADS program and the coveted 50 prep school slots. Each year, only 235 of the 9,000-10,000 applicants to the Academy are offered the chance to attend the preparatory school and polish their skills prior to becoming an Academy cadet.

Soon, Cadet Potenzone can show-off his potential by pursuing a degree in physics and trying to make the Academy football team. He also has his sights set on the Academy baseball team, but that may be a little too much for a first-year cadet, even an exceptional student athlete.

One thing is sure; soon to be Cadet Potenzone will do everything in his power to make his family, co-workers, and the Air Force proud - undoubtedly he will succeed, said Colonel Bates.