By Staff Sgt. Daniel Martinez
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class Alan Acosta dreamt of being an Air Force officer since enlisting at the age of 17. Little did he know his dream would be realized.
The Airman from the 50th Comptroller Squadron received an unexpected surprise when 1st Lt. Eddie Cunningham, U.S. Air Force Academy diversity recruiting regional director, personally presented him with a letter of acceptance into the Academy’s prepatory school April 22.
“What we’re looking at is the whole person concept. We look at their high school transcripts, SAT scores, and more importantly, their commander’s recommendation and potential for future leadership,” Lieutenant Cunningham said. “Every year we have about 11,000 to 12,000 applicants from across the country who apply. We have a selection rate of about 13 percent so it’s very, very selective.”
Informing Airman Acosta of his acceptance started out as a ruse to surprise him. While an office meeting was taking place, Lieutenant Cunningham stormed into the office posing as an irate customer wanting to file a travel voucher. Maj. Thomas Smicklas, 50th CPTS commander, asked Airman Acosta to assist the lieutenant while the meeting proceeded. The ruse was up when Airman Acosta flipped the travel voucher over to find his letter of acceptance. A look of concern on the Airman’s face quickly transformed into a smile. His colleagues then congratulated the Airman along with Col. Wayne Monteith, 50th Space Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Randy LaCombe, 50th SW command chief master sergeant.
“When I first came into the military I always wanted to become an officer,” Airman Acosta said. “One reason I wanted to become an officer was I wanted to have an impact on the Air Force and what better way than to become an officer.”
Airman Acosta was born and raised in Venezuela and moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 9 years old. He joined the Air Force in August 2008 straight from graduating high school and received his U.S. citizenship in 2009. Acquiring his citizenship pushed him one step closer to meeting the Academy’s rigorous requirements, which also include a fitness assessment, interviews and testing. The Airman finally completed all of his requirements in December, but after not hearing anything for almost four months, he figured he probably didn’t make the cut. However, that all changed when his crew learned of his acceptance and found a unique way to break the news, getting Lieutenant Cunningham to play along.
Airman Acosta said he values the friendships he’s made with his co-workers and the time he’s spent as an enlisted Airman. He also said he draws inspiration from his family.
“My brother is in the Army … he’s like a father-figure. I joined the military because he did,” Airman Acosta said. “I like to make my family proud … my parents proud. My mom raised me by herself since I was one so she’s done a lot for me, and it’s the least I can do for her.”
Airman Acosta said the knowledge he’s gained as an enlisted member will help him remain humble even as an officer.
“When I become a lieutenant, I don’t want to act like I know everything because I’ve had those people come through,” he said. “ You can always learn something from even the youngest Airman, from anybody.”
As for other Airmen who may consider becoming a officer, he had some advice.
“It’s a really long process but it’s worth it,” he said. “Don’t take things for granted because the military is one of the best things you can have in the world.”
Airman Acosta will begin prep school July 14.
For more information on becoming an Air Force officer, visit www.academyadmissions.com.