Taking flight

Local student nominated to U.S. Air Force Academy

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Maggie Blackstun was excited when she answered her cell phone Nov. 10 and heard the voice of Sen. Wayne Allard.

The Colorado Republican had called to congratulate Blackstun on her nomination to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Both Allard and Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., recommended her to the academy.

"I was amazed because I'm a very political person, so senators are like celebrities to me," Blackstun said. "To get a call from one on my cell phone was pretty exciting."

The Moffat County High School senior attended a nomination ceremony Nov. 12 in Denver, where she met Salazar and some of her potential classmates.

But getting there was no easy task. Blackstun said she filled out forms, wrote an essay and autobiography, submitted test scores and listed her honors.

Before the Air Force Academy accepts her, Blackstun must complete the application process, which means more paperwork and more challenges. Aside from essays and more forms to fill out, Blackstun must complete a medical exam, physical test and sign an agreement to abstain from using drugs and alcohol.

John Van Winkle, a spokesman for the academy, said a successful candidate must have more than academic achievement. The selection committee also considers athleticism and leadership skills.

"It's all factored into a whole-person concept," Van Winkle said. "You can be a 4.0 student, but there's more to it than grades. Book smarts aren't going to get you in here."

About 9,000 students apply to the academy each year. Last year, officials offered 1,660 appointments, and 1,300 new cadets accepted the offer.

Blackstun, active in school and church activities, said she has confidence in her abilities. She said she also looks forward to the physical demands. All the work to apply is worth it, she said.

"In my mind, it's one of the best (colleges) in the world," Blackstun said. "It has the academics and leadership all rolled up into one."

Her military interest stems from a family of officers. Black-stun's maternal uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather all graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and her maternal aunt is an Air Force Academy graduate.

Blackstun attended a seminar in the summer at the academy to pursue her interest, and she began applying for a nomination soon after she returned home.

Blackstun said she would like to become a military lawyer, through the Judge Advocate General school, or a civil or aeronautical engineer.

If accepted, Blackstun will complete four years of academy training and earn a bachelor of science degree. She then will be required to serve five years, commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.

As a woman, Blackstun would not be sent to the front lines, but she could be deployed overseas, something her aunt and uncle experienced in their military tenure.

"I don't think anyone would not be afraid to go overseas in a wartime situation," she said. "But I feel like it's worth it. I'd be proud to do it and excited to do it."

Blackstun said she thinks graduating from the Air Force Academy and serving five years of active duty would be a strong addition to her resume.

"After you serve five years, you'll be pretty marketable," she said.

If accepted, she said she would be excited to fly a glider and learn from the upperclassmen cadets.

"They have a real desire to save the country," Blackstun said. "I just admire the integrity they have."

For information about applying to the Air Force Academy, visit www.academyadmissions.com.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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