LEADing the way

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Valerie Harwood
  • 166th AIrlift Wing Public Affairs
Three Delaware Air National Guard Airmen will be departing this June to receive a free world-class education.

Airmen 1st Class Sharon Dominguez and Luke McFadden have been accepted into the 2019 United States Air Force Academy graduating class, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Airman 1st Class Ryan Weber has been accepted into the USAFA Preparatory School. Upon completion he will be eligible to apply for the 2020 USAFA graduating class.

Dominguez is a North Hagerstown, Md. native. She graduated from North Hagerstown High School, Md. and is currently enrolled at the University of Delaware in Newark. Dominguez enlisted in the Delaware ANG in August 2012 and is a certified radio frequency transmission systems technician.

McFadden is a Bear, Del. native. He was home schooled and graduated high school from the Powle Institute and is currently enrolled at the University of Delaware. McFadden enlisted in the Delaware ANG in January 2013 and is a certified aircraft environment and electrical systems apprentice.

"I joined the Delaware Air Guard because it seemed like a good opportunity and I recommend it to anyone," said McFadden.

"I want to major in electrical engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy."

Weber is a Newark, Del. native. He was home schooled and graduated high school from the Mount Sophia Academy and is currently enrolled but on military leave from the University of Delaware.

Weber enlisted in the Delaware ANG in April 2013 and is a certified metals aircraft technologist.

"I heard about the Air Force Academy on base through a meeting Col. Castaldi [166th Maintenance Group commander] held and he explained there were opportunities for Delaware Guardsmen age 23 years old and younger to attend the Academy through the LEAD [Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development] program," said Weber.

The LEAD program was developed by Air Force leaders to encourage aspiring enlisted Airmen to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. Upon completion of the program, LEAD Airmen are commissioned as second lieutenants with a bachelor's of science degree.

Airmen applying to the USAFA through the LEAD program have an advantage compared with high school applicants because Airmen do not need to obtain a nomination from a U.S. senator or congressman. In place of a nomination, enlisted Airmen only need to receive an endorsement from their localĀ  commander.

According to the USAFA, they receive more than 12,000 applicants each year, and admits just over 1,000 as cadets.

In order to be eligible to apply to the USAFA all three Airmen had to be of good moral character and meet basic eligibility requirements. Also, each service member must be at least 17 years old but not past their 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year they enter the Academy, be a United States citizen, and unmarried with no dependents.

The USAFA is a challenging environment by design. Their mission is to inspire and encourage excellence in their applicants, and competition for an appointment is highly competitive.

The USAFA assesses potential cadets through academics, athletics, character and leadership potential as demonstrated by the life experiences and achievements of each applicant.

"The Academy is an amazing opportunity and I would encourage every young Airman to apply, I mean it's a $435,000 education, for free essentially!" said Dominguez. "Of course you pay with your time in service but that is the ultimate goal here, to become an officer in the world's greatest Air Force."

If Weber is accepted into the Academy after Preparatory School, the three Delaware ANG Airmen combined will receive a free college education worth over $1,248,000, not including Weber's 10-month USAFA Preparatory School.

The preparatory school accepts only 240 cadet candidates annually and is designed to academically, physically and militarily prepare qualified young men and women to enter the Academy.

"I could see myself making the military a career after my five year commitment," said McFadden. "I have two older brothers in the Delaware Army Guard and I joined the Air Guard because I was interested in doing hands-on electrical work."

USAFA cadets can choose from majors in aeronautical engineering, astronautical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, engineering mechanics, environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, computer science and management.

The USAFA will develop cadet skills, character and motivation. A cadet's future with the Air Force will allow for focused ambition, purposeful self-discovery and impactful study during their college years.

If you are interested in the LEAD program contact your supervisor and base education office for guidance.

To learn more about the U.S. Air Force Academy, visit www.usafa.af.mil.