Three Cherokee County School District Air Force Junior ROTC cadets are among the first group of students in the nation selected for the newly launched AFJROTC Flight Academy scholarship, which will enable them to earn their private pilot’s license this summer at one of six partnering universities.

Cadets Walker Sosebee from Cherokee HS and Cohen Nunes from Etowah HS are two of 120 selected for the Flight Academy; Cadet Jared Johnson from Sequoyah HS won an alternate slot for the prestigious program.

From left: Sequoyah HS AFJROTC Lt. Col. Ronald Whittle, Cherokee HS AFJROTC Lt. Col. Eddy Stanfill, Cadet Walker Sosebee, Cadet Cohen Nunes, Cadet Jared Johnson, Etowah HS M. Sgt. Tanya Hagarman, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

The Air Force is paying $2.4 million to teach 120 of its Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets (AFJROTC) how to fly, part of the service’s overall effort to address its pilot shortage. Recipients of the scholarship will take classes this summer, each course lasting between seven and nine weeks, according to the Air Force, to earn a private pilot license. Each scholarship in the initial round is valued at approximately $20,000 per cadet, according to AFJROTC’s Region 1 director and Flight Academy program acting director, Todd Taylor.

Lt. Col. Eddy Stanfill, senior aerospace science instructor for Cherokee High School’s AFJROTC program, coordinated a recognition program and reception for the three cadets from CCSD when the names of the recipients were released this month. The cadets, their parents and AFJROTC instructors gathered at Cherokee HS to receive their commendations and were recognized by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

“Congratulations to the parents and students – I know that you’ve put a lot of hard work into this process. And, to the commanders – it’s a real credit to your program to see students moving forward,” said Dr. Hightower. “Students sometimes have the opportunity to reach out and grab the golden ring, and this is an example of three students doing that. We are proud of you. We will pray for your safety as you go through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Cherokee HS Principal Todd Miller added his praise for the students and the AFROTC program. “I think this is a huge honor, and it says a lot about our district that we had three of our students selected for this program when there were over 800 applicants,” said Mr. Miller.

Despite the steep competition for admission to the program, Lt. Col. Stanfill had no doubts about his cadet’s ability to stand out among hundreds of applicants.

“Walker has shown extraordinary diligence to academic, physical and social excellence in his four years of Air Force JROTC at Cherokee High School,” said Lt. Col. Stanfill. “He is a leader who exemplifies the Air Force core values of integrity, service to others, and excellence.”

Summer classes will take place at six partner universities: Auburn University, Auburn, Ala.; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla; Kansas State University, Manhatten, Kan.; Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.; Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.; and University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D.

The 120 AFJROTC cadets selected for the summer’s Flight Academy and the 250 planned for 2019 are but a drop in the large commercial and military pilot shortage bucket. Civilian airline industry experts project a demand for 117,000 new commercial pilots over the next 20 years. The Air Force is currently short of at least 1,500 pilots to fulfill its requirements.

To help fill those voids down the road, AFJROTC leaders’ end goal is to offer scholarships to 1 percent of its cadet corps, or 1,200 cadets, a year. The cadets will not incur a military commitment after getting their private pilot license through Flight Academy, nor does getting the license guarantee acceptance into one of the Air Force’s officer accessioning programs.

“We understand not all of the cadets graduating from the Flight Academy will elect to take a military track, but that’s OK as those young people electing to enter commercial aviation will have a positive impact on the overall national crisis,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Koscheski, Air Force Aircrew Crisis Task Force director.

Cadets who want to apply for scholarships covering the 2019 summer courses will be able to do so between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. More information will be available to AFJROTC units in the fall.

Superintendent Hightower congratulates Cadet Jared Johnson.

Supt. Hightower is greeted by Cadets Jared Johnson, left, and Cohen Nunes, right.

Supt. Hightower congratulates Cadet Walker Sosebee.

Supt. Hightower congratulates Cadet Cohen Nunes.