I saw this blog idea the other day, and thought, 'what the heck,' I should write an introduction for prospective students and their parents. So here it goes . . .
I am a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. I also had a great career in private industry. But, let me start at the beginning.
I grew up in the South: Alabama, Florida and Georgia. I am an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor Member of the Order of the Arrow (if you know what that means!), a former President of the Central Georgia Council's Explorers as well as a former Youth President of the Eagle Scout Association. Scouting was an wonderful program for me, and I was fortunate to have Scouting mentors that guided me so well over those years. My old Scoutmaster, John Caldwell, unselfishly spent countless, valuable time with us. Bill Williams did the same. Plus, there were hundreds of Scouters in the Council that also helped me along the way.
I was also the Senior Class President of Northside High School (Class of 1978), Runner-up for Mr. Northside and Copy Editor for our Yearbook, Aquila. Northside High School, the faculty and my friends there, was also a great influence.
As an Eagle Scout, in early 1976, I was given an opportunity to shadow a local "career professional" in Middle Georgia. By good fortune, I was 'assigned' to U.S. Air Force Major General Carl G. Schneider, who generously spent the majority of the day with me. As you can imagine, I was thoroughly impressed by General Schneider, who allowed me to engage with him all day. It was quite eventful. First, I met the Chief Chaplain of the USAF, Chaplain (Major General) Meade, who had been visiting the base. Later that day, two Senators arrived at Robins AFB to catch a joint flight back to Washington, D.C.
General Schneider made a point to introduce me to both Senators. What a thrill! I met both Senator Bellmon of Oklahoma and Senator Nunn of Georgia. Senator Sam Nunn lived about 20 miles away from the base so he routinely used Robins for his travel to and from Perry, Georgia. When the day ended, General Schneider simply said, "Chris, if you want to become an Air Force officer, like me, just go to college and then attend Officer Training School." The idea was set!
I returned home that day and announced to my mother that I now knew what I wanted to do with my life: "I want to an Air Force General!"
However, as I explained further to my mom, I knew that my uncle, Jerry Gill, had gone to "a military college where they pay you to go to school" -- that is, as I learned later, he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. The more research I did, the more convinced I became that I needed to earn my commission through the Academy.
Eighteen months later, I found myself reading through a USAFA catalog and initiating my application for an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. I received my nomination from Senator Nunn in December, which was followed by my appointment to the Academy in April 1978. Ironically, during the process, I found out that I am color blind, which meant that I could not be a pilot. But that never became an issue for me.
I could write hundreds of pages sharing stories of my time at the Academy. It was full of great and valuable experiences, that often kicked me in the butt. My best friends are also my classmates. I drove myself to succeed there, and I graduated in the top 25% of my class with Military Honors as a Squadron Commander of CS-37 and a Physics major.
My first assignment was as a Test Engineer with the 4485th Test Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Florida. It was a great job, which gave me the ability to fly as a test engineer in support of our operational testing mission. During this time, as a 1st Lieutenant, I decided to visit the USAFA Physics Department to explore the possibility of joining the teaching staff there. I was surprised that day when I emerged from my meetings with an offer to attend graduate school and to join the teaching staff as soon as I completed my Physics Master's degree. In the summer of 1985, I started my program at Georgia Tech.
In November of 1987, after completing my Master's degree and attending Squadron Officer's School in Alabama, I arrived at USAFA joining one of my close friends and colleagues from the Test Squadron, Captain Bruce Acker. Bruce is a USAFA graduate, Class of 1981, who taught in the Aeronautical Engineering Department and continued his career in the U.S. Space Command. His final two assignment were as the Air Attaché in Malaysia and the Defense Attaché in Sweden, where he resides today. He is a retired Colonel.
My three years on the faculty were some of my career best. I loved teaching, and my colleagues on the faculty were amazing. I worked closely with Captain Darren McKnight, PhD, conducting some research under his lead modeling the dispersal patterns of orbital space debris created upon impacts of satellite platforms. Darren continues to be a leading expert around space operations and associated risks. I was also on the faculty with Captain Eileen Collins and Captain Susan Helms. Both excelled in their careers to become important Air Force leaders and NASA astronauts. Eileen piloted STS-63 and STS-84, and she commanded STS-114. She retired as an Air Force Colonel. On ISS Expedition 2, Susan (and Jim Voss) conducted an 8-hour and 56-minute spacewalk -- the longest spacewalk on record. She returned to the USAF after leaving NASA and ultimately became Lieutenant General Helms!
At 29 years of age, with a Master's in Physics, I decided to resign my regular commission and join the AF Reserves. I became an Air Force Admissions Liaison Officer, or ALO, helping the Academy evaluate young people who were applying for appointments -- the same process that I had completed 12 years earlier!
My 'day job' was with Scientific-Atlanta, focused on antenna RF performance measurements and the equipment to complete this work. Eventually, my profession moved into technologies around digital video compression, which S-A helped to pioneer. My career eventually took me to France with several companies, but ultimately in the early 2000's, I landed in Portland, Oregon, where my family and I reside today.
In France, as a AF reservist, I was promoted to the rank of Major and served as the ALO Director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. I recruited active-duty ALOs around Europe, chiefly located on the U.S. Air Force bases on the continent, including Aviano AB in Italy, Incirlik AB in Turkey, and Ramstein AB in Germany, to name a few along with some of the larger Army locations, such as Ansbach and Wiesbaden in Germany. Often, I would have to arrange interviews with applicants whose parents worked at one of our U.S. Embassies. I took advantage of the presence of the U.S. Air Attaché as well as supplementing the interview with a phone call of my own with the candidate. As "LOD," I flew back to the Academy each year to attend the LOD conference held for all of the directors, including participating in the Academy Review Board process where student records were considered for appointment. My experience as an LOD is invaluable to my admissions coaching practice today, and also led to my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in 2002. I retired shortly after my promotion to 'start' my job as a dad as my first daughter was born that year.
My efforts to encourage my two daughters to apply to the U.S service academies were an utter failure! (LOL!) Neither showed much interest, although my oldest daughter loved that she could "wear combat boots" to AFA classes! I imagine that this fact may be the genesis of my idea to start coaching students. The impetus, however, for my practice originated with my wife, Kim, who asked me, "What would you like to do when you quit your day job?" I responded that I loved being an 'LO,' but I wasn't sure anyone would pay for this kind of service.
So, here I am. I am now in my seventh year of working with students who seek a service academy appointment or an ROTC scholarship. My first student graduated from West Point in 2022, and my second just graduated in 2023 from the Air Force Academy. In 2022, ten of my twelve students earned military scholarships (including seven appointments: four USNA, two USAFA and one USMA). Five of my students just reported last June 2023 to the AF Academy. Three are 'new' freshmen at the US Military Academy. Two others also reported to the Military Academy Prep School. And finally, two of my students are new Naval ROTC midshipmen at Virginia Tech. Another successful year!
This blog turned out a bit long . . . but I hope it provides some insights into my qualifications to work with you (and your parents) as you pursue an appointment to one of the U.S. service academies, and strive to earn an ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corp) scholarship to a university or college.
As a Chinese proverb states, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I hope that you will reach out to me soon to start your 'journey'!
[ I would welcome a chance to discuss your goals and aspirations with you. I offer tailored coaching services to prepare you for the entire application process for all of the U.S. service academies and the different ROTC scholarships. Contact me at email@example.com, 503.515.7406 or complete my contact form on this website. ]