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LEAD from the front: earn your commission

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- One of the real highlights of my career came right at the beginning, when I was first accepted into - and then graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. It was anything but easy - almost nothing beneficial is - but it was well worth the hard work and effort.

And now some of you can experience it too.

In 1995, former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald Fogleman initiated a program known as "Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development" (LEAD) which allows unit and wing commanders the opportunity to nominate our "best and brightest" to compete with Airmen around the world for possible enrollment to the Academy, without a Congressional appointment.

From what I have seen on a first-hand basis both here at Patrick Air Force Base and at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, I have no doubts whatsoever - none - that we have several outstanding young Airmen who are more than qualified to be considered for this life-changing opportunity to get an education at one of the highest-ranked institutions in the world.

This year, there will be 85 slots for active-duty Airmen and an additional 85 slots offered for Reserve and Guard Airmen to earn their commissions and graduate as second lieutenants. There are also 50 slots reserved for Airmen to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, where, upon successful completion of the curriculum, they can enter the Academy.

It's win-win wherever you end up.

I know this opportunity isn't for everyone, but I also know there are junior enlisted Airmen out there who would love this opportunity to excel. They are not afraid to extend themselves, to take a chance and to grab what life has to offer.

If you have young enlisted Airmen in your command who demonstrate outstanding character and values coupled with leadership potential, please urge them to consider this opportunity.

Go Sharks!

(Editor's note: The deadline to apply is Jan. 31, 2009. For more information about the LEAD program, contact our local education center or visit the U.S. Air Force Academy Directorate of Admissions at http://www.academyadmissions.com.