I was awarded a scholarship and went to the Air Force Academy – Just like Ben Carson!

Air Force Academy Chapel

Air Force Academy Chapel

It’s a good thing that I am not running for president. If I were, the Politico  would have researched my past and reported that I fabricated this story. While I am the proud father of two veterans, those who know me know that I never served in the Air Force or any other branch of the military. Unlike Ben Carson, I was never even in High School ROTC. So before readers start accusing me of lying or Stolen Valor, let me explain my story. In truth, my experience and the way I convey it to people some decades later causes me to believe that this particular attack on Ben Carson is unfounded and without merit.

The year was 1977, I was a high school junior thinking about the Air Force Academy. Physically, I was in decent shape, I raced bicycles and cross country skied. Of course these sports did nothing to help my my position on the totem pole in the pecking order in high school! (Oops, I was almost racist there!!!) I had good but not great grades. Teachers always complained (and rightfully so) that I was not performing up to my potential. On the other hand, I had excellent ACT and SAT scores. As for leadership skills, I was beginning to come out of my shell and take on positions of leadership in a number of organizations. Looking back I was probably not the best candidate for an Academy appointment but not totally outside the zone either.

Like Ben Carson, I never formally applied to the Academy. I may have contacted my congressman, but my memory on that is a bit hazy after these decades. Somehow I did get in touch with the local Air Force Academy liaison, a retired Colonel and Academy graduate. He took time to answer my questions about the Academy and Air Force life. I was interested and he encouraged me. He told me about an opportunity for high school students in their junior year interested in going to the academy. The academy had then, and still has, a camp for high schoolers called Summer Scientific Seminar (s-cubed). In those days, it was a science camp, not just for prospective cadets but for high achieving high schoolers in STEM (the phrase was invented much later) fields. My grades may not have been the best, but there was no question that I was my one of my schools resident math and computer geeks. The camp may have been two weeks long and it took place on the Air Force Academy ground in the summer. In addition to academics, it was also an introduction to Air Force and Academy life.

I signed up, and as a minority I was awarded a full scholarship to attend. The camp was one of the highlights of my high school career. I had been to other gatherings of high school students at state, regional and national events, like the National Junior Achievement Convention, but this was by far the most intelligent group of high school students I had ever been with. Every one a leader, every one an academic high achiever, ever one an athlete. I felt privileged to be counted in their number.

During the seminar, we signed up for courses in various academic disciplines. They were all hands-on and for a geek like me they were a blast. I got to play with a jet engine on a test stand, participate in a multi-day political simulation game, work with a wind tunnel, and visit NORAD under nearby Cheyenne Mountain. We got to sleep in the Academy dorms and and eat in the cafeteria. It was an awesome experience!

In the end, like Ben Carson, I decided not to pursue an Academy appointment. While I was interested in serving in the Air Force, I really wanted to be an electrical engineer and do R&D on computers. A traditional college seemed the best route for what I wanted to do.

So, I was in fact awarded a scholarship to the Air Force Academy (Summer Scientific Seminar), I was never appointed, nor did I formally apply for appointment to the Air Force Academy. Good thing I am not running for president or the Politico would have a field day!