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Future leaders receive Academy opportunity through LEAD program.

Three former members of the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, who were selected to attend the Air Force Academy's Preparatory School three years ago through a program that enables enlisted Airmen to become commissioned officers are in their junior year of study at the Academy and on schedule to graduate in the spring of 2017.

Cadets 2nd Class Chris Bissing, Dustin Johannsen and Krista Kelly all received their opportunity to earn a commission by attending the Air Force Academy through the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program. All three say the school is a challenge, but it's a challenge that continually improves their leadership skills. They said they are looking forward to bringing their new abilities back to the operational Air Force.

"I am very proud to be here at the Academy," Johannsen said. "To be allowed this opportunity to continue serving my country while receiving an education will help me be a better servant leader in the future."

"The experience has been challenging, but I've learned a lot," Bissing said. "It's important to work as hard as you can when you're here so you don't close any doors. Many people's goals change when they get here. You have to be open-minded."

The cadets said the Academy is not for everyone. Future students need to be aware of the commitment the school demands.

"I would tell them (prospective students) to make sure it (attending the Academy) is something they are fully committed to," Johannsen said. "If they fully commit themselves to being successful here and they work hard, they can overcome the challenges and learn more than they could anywhere else."

Kelly said she is planning to continue her studies after graduation with the goal of becoming a medical doctor.

"The experience has been difficult but amazingly rewarding," she said. "I never thought I would have the opportunity to grow with such an incredible group of people and have the chance to really practice leadership and positive change. The place is challenging, yes, but it has only made me realize what I'm capable of."

The LEAD program is available to Airmen who are at least 17 years old but not past their 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year they enter the Academy. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and unmarried with no dependents. Each year, the Academy accepts 85 Airmen who are serving in either the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard. To learn more about the LEAD program, go to http://www.academyadmissions.com/admissions/advice-to-applicants/enlisted-airmen/ and download the LEAD handbook.

(Butterfield is assigned to the 302nd A W public affairs office at Peterson AFB.)

By Master Sgt. Daniel Butterfield

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Title Annotation:ROUND the RESERVE
Author:Butterfield, Daniel
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Dec 1, 2015
Words:448
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