Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2005

He’s academy bound

For De Soto grad, Air Force service will mean more running than flying

June 30, 2005

Since childhood, Casey Johnson dreamed of becoming an airplane pilot.

But when the lanky De Soto High School track star began getting motion sickness at the beginning of his senior year, political science began to look more and more appealing. Fortunately, he said, he got hooked on the subject after a great senior-year government class.

"It's something I really like to do," Johnson said. "Plus, I'll have less math classes."

Johnson, who graduated from DHS in May, was accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and reports for basic training this week. Instead of aiming for pilot training, Johnson plans to run track and study political science, a possible precursor to law school.

Johnson began thinking about military academies in middle school and even got to visit most of them, including the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

"I've seen West Point and Annapolis, and they're all awesome," he said. "It's really inspirational."

By the time he visited the Air Force Academy, Johnson said, he had his heart set on going there.

Although doctors never pinned down what caused his motion sickness, Johnson said that was OK. He's taking it as a sign that a career path less turbulent than full-time flying is the right choice for him.

Besides studying political science, Johnson will be a member of the Air Force track team.

Johnson took first place in both the 800- and 1,600-meter runs at this year's 4A high school state track championships, but he said he still wasn't sure which events he'd run in college.

Official Air Force track practices won't begin until after five to six weeks of basic training, although Johnson hoped he'd have enough energy left to do some track-specific workouts on his own.

"Five weeks without practice is quite a bit," he said.

Johnson said he knew Academy athletics and academics wouldn't be a walk in the park.

"I expect everything to be a lot harder than high school," he said. "I'm sure running's going to be harder; there's going to be better guys there."

Johnson said he hoped his Academy experience would broaden his horizons and that he looked forward to meeting other cadets, who come from all over the country.

"Pretty much all the people I know here are from De Soto," Johnson said. "I'm glad to get a chance to meet new people."

In exchange for service, military academy students get their college educations free of tuition, which Johnson said was a selling point.

"It's like a $350,000 education for all four years," he said.

In all, Johnson said he expected his Air Force commitment to be 12 years.

After graduation, Academy graduates owe the government five years of active duty and three years in the reserves, he said.

Johnson said he realized the possibility of combat came along with his prestigious Academy education.

"If I have to go over into a war or something, I think it'll have been worth it anyway," Johnson said.

A week before Johnson was scheduled to move to Colorado Springs, his stepmother spoke from a parent's perspective. She said she was proud of Johnson for being accepted into the school but also apprehensive about him going there.

"We're elated, but at the same time nervous," Kelly Johnson said. "The closer it gets here, I think I get a little more anxious."

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