Academy officer takes the 'LEAD,' joins Long Blue Line

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
  • U.S Air Force Academy Public Affairs
An Academy officer started her career as an enlisted Airman but thanks to a commissioning program, is now a second lieutenant serving in the Academy Admissions office where she counsels possible future officers.

More than six years ago, Airman Lelia Abdulrazaq realized during a combat dining-in that she wanted to join "The Long Blue Line."

The-then enlisted supply technician approached a lieutenant in her squadron to ask about commissioning options and was soon introduced to the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program, offering about 170 appointments to the Academy and the Academy Prep School each year and Abdulrazaq never looked back.

The LEAD program was created in 1995 to give commanders the chance to nominate qualified airmen to attend the Academy or Prep School.

Abdulrazaq's story, however, doesn't begin at that dining-in - it began in 2005 when she moved from Nigeria to the U.S. and went to college. After receiving her first college bill, she knew something had to change and decided to enlist.

"I actually went to the Army recruiter first and later told my mom," she said. "She was not happy and took me to an Air Force recruiter."

The recruiter stressed the benefits the Air Force offers and Abdulrazaq was sold. After training to become a supply technician, Abdulrazaq was assigned to Travis Air Force Base, Calif. After making sure she was eligible, she waded through the necessary paperwork and applied for the LEAD program.

"I didn't know who at admissions thought I was qualified because my scores were really low," she said.

Abdulrazaq was accepted to the Prep School and then continued on at the Academy. Though she said the experience was difficult at times, she also said she wouldn't change a thing because the alternative in her home country was simply not an option.

"In Nigeria, there is less emphasis on education for women," she said. "It's not that we don't go to school - a lot of people go to school. It's more that a lot of people don't focus on carving out a life unique to you that is unlike everyone else. The position I am in right now, the education I received here, it's impossible for you to get that there."

Airman interested in the LEAD program should apply but be motivated, Abdulrazaq said.

"I would say that motivation has to come from you," she said. "If you want to take this path, you have to earn it. It's going to be a tough five years [Prep School and Academy] but if you know it's what you want, then it's not over until you say it's over."

Abdulrazaq will move this summer to her second assignment at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., to serve as a contracting officer.

Airmen eligible for the LEAD program should complete an Air Force Form 1786, submit an online application (Pre-Candidate Questionnaire), and contact their base education Office for assistance.

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