Mostly Cloudy, 90°
Weather sponsored by:

Fleming Island students make history with appointments to Air Force Academy

By Kylie Cordell For Clay Today
Posted 5/11/23

FLEMING ISLAND – Honor students Eire Johnson and William Hughes received and accepted appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their names will be honored in the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Fleming Island students make history with appointments to Air Force Academy


Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Honor students Eire Johnson and William Hughes received and accepted appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their names will be honored in the Hall of Champions at the main hall by the front office of Fleming Island High.

“The Air Force Liaison Officer told me that it’s extremely rare for one kid in the district to receive an appointment, but two from the same high school in the same year is unheard of,” Johnson said.

For one, the application process is particularly rigorous. Applicants are required to be in the top 10% of their graduating class academically, have been heavily involved in volunteering and must receive a congressional nomination to be considered for nomination. The acceptance rate is less than 12%.

“It was a long journey to pass the CFA (Candidate Fitness Assessment),” Johnson said.

Hughes agreed, saying the strenuous physical fitness test involved a 1.5-mile run, push-ups, curl-ups, sit-ups, cross-legged reverse crunches and planks.

“The Air Force Academy is very strenuous from what I hear, but I knew if I applied myself, I would be a better leader at the end of the day,” he said.

Johnson and Hughes will attend the Academy in June for Basic Training, a physical and mental gauntlet designed to instruct incoming cadets on the discipline and rigorous challenges of military life before the start of the academic year.

“From what I understand, you go out on June 28th, they train you through the summer, and then classes start in September,” Hughes said.

“In general, it’s a daunting task knowing you will be without technology that long. You have to depend on everyone else and your mental stability to get through it. It will be interesting,” Johnson said.

Cadets at the Academy receive a full four-year scholarship and are required to complete year-round military training programs and college academics. Upon graduation, cadets will be commissioned officers in the USAF and must serve at least five years, longer if they complete pilot training.

Hughes plans on majoring in astronomical engineering at the academy with a few possible career choices, including being a pilot. He hopes to follow in his great-grandfather’s footsteps.

“My family has a lot of aviators in it. My great-grandfather was one of the first guys to be certified to fly the 477. He wrote a bunch of books on flying, and that’s how I became interested in flying at a young age,” he said.

After obtaining his private pilot’s license, including 70 flight hours, Hughes knew he wanted to work with the planes he loved. The Air Force seemed like the obvious choice.

“I’d like to fly an F-35 out of college, but I’d be happy with anything that goes in the air,” he said.

Like Hughes, Johnson found inspiration close to home.

“My dad was a flight surgeon in the Navy, and my sister is studying aviation at her college. I also have some relatives in the Air Force,” she said.

Eire will be entertaining aviation or medicine after graduation. She was accepted to both the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and USAFA.

“Both have a percentage of cadets that go into the medical field, which is why she applied to the two academies, but the Air Force is more focused on the academic side of things rather than fitness,” she said.

Johnson and Hughes are enrolled in the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education course series. Their appointments are a testament to the AICE program and the overall student experience at Fleming Island.

“Being able to pick up as many challenges in high school before you graduate and go to college has helped me see the benefit of working hard,” Hughes said.

Besides being in the tenth percentile of their class academically, Johnson and Hughes are also active in their community, volunteering with various organizations and local nonprofits in conjunction with school and community-related projects and activities.

“The ability to give back to the community has really helped me hone my leadership skills,’ Hughes said.

“If I could share any message, it would be to lead by example. Be a servant leader and work just as hard as the people who are working for you. You have to have that respect for the people you will be in charge of.”