‘You got this’: 237 start Prep School BMT

Parents and relatives said their goodbyes to their children before they reported to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, July 19, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Parents and relatives said their goodbyes to their children before they reported to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, July 19, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

There’s more to becoming a cadet candidate at the prep school here than just being admitted.

There’s the 18 days of basic military training followed by a 10-month academic program for cadet candidates to tackle.

Even then, graduating from the Air Force Academy’s Preparatory School doesn’t guarantee admission to the Academy.

So for the young adults who reported to the Prep School July 19, BMT is the first of many challenges they’ll need to overcome to be considered for admission.

One of those challenges is moving on and part ways, for a time, from their loved ones.

In all, 237 arrived for BMT, many escorted by their families. Many of the parents that day boisterously support their child’s dreams of being admitted to the Academy, but were still hesitant to part.

The Jenkins Family

Jared, 18, is from Detroit, Michigan. He stood in the slowly moving in-processing line with his dad, Lawrence, and his mom, Latryce, holding onto a gym bag and a sheaf of Prep School forms.

“I’m very excited for him but I’m quite sure I’m going to cry before we leave,” Latryce said.

Jared’s goal is to be admitted to the Academy and be selected for pilot training. He hopes his performance at the Prep School lands him a slot at the Academy.

“I feel great about being here,” he said. “Once it all got rolling, it took a while for me to actually believe it was actually going to happen.”

Now that it’s “going to happen,” Lawrence and Latryce are certain Jared will achieve his goal.

“It’s a blessing for him to be able to be on the way to achieving his dream,” Lawrence said. “We’re very confident that he’s ‘gonna do it.’”

Senator Debbie Stabenow nominated Jared for placement at the Academy.

The Sayle Family

Isabela, 18, is from Washington D.C. She said she enjoys a good challenge and eager anticipates the Prep School “testing her mettle.” Isabela spent the moments before BMT started with her dad, Stephen, her mom, Desiree, and her younger brother, Cristian.

“I think it’s awesome that she did all this by herself,” Stephen said. “She had some really good reasons for wanting to do this.”

Desiree and Stephen supported Isabela’s desire to attend the Prep School, but were a bit anxious.

“We’re very excited and it’s a great opportunity for her,” Desiree said. “She’s incredibly disciplined.”

Isabela’s parents said they know Isabela can handle the training.

“It’s a family thing,” Desiree said. “We just say, ‘You got this.’”

Isabela said she’s motivated by her appreciation for the U.S. and desire to become a pilot.

“I’m a true patriot who would like a challenge,” she said. “The Prep School will train me up. It’s definitely in my heart to be here.  It’s bittersweet but I got all my tears out on the plane.”

U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes nominated Isabela for placement at the Academy.

‘Ready for Success’

Col. Jaqueline Breeden, commander of the Prep School, and Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, superintendent of the Academy, spoke to parents later that morning in the Community Center Theater.

Cadet candidates take the Oath of Enlistment, Breeden said, which legally changes their status from civilian to Air Force Reserve airmen and subjects them to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“They’re adults now, but they’re part of our Air Force family,” Breeden said.

Johnson said the Prep School staff is so adept at preparing select cadet candidates for admission to the Academy that some Prep School students take college-level classes with cadets.

“Some cadet candidates do so well, they take classes up here on ‘The Hill,’” she said.

Breeden and Johnson both said the rewards of being among the cadet candidates selected for admission to the Academy are worth every challenge.

“The Prep School helps you be ready for success,” Johnson said. “The essence of our Academy is really enduring and we exist for character development.  The Air Force is the connective tissue in the joint fight. We bring to the fight what no one else can.”

Breeden said the cadet candidates could not have gotten to the school without the support of their parents, families, sponsor parents, and veterans and civil servants in the audience.

“They would not be where they are today without you,” she said. “Thank you for your service. Your heritage of service continues here today.”