Columbus CGO offers local high school student glimpse into Air Force Academy, college lifestyle

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- What started as a small vacation to Colorado for 2nd Lt. Dustin Froelich soon became a recruiting opportunity when 16-year-old John Mark Junkins, an upcoming junior at Heritage Academy, expressed interest in embarking on the journey. 

An Air Force Academy graduate, Lieutenant Froelich was returning to his old stomping grounds for a week-long visit and decided to bring John Mark along after meeting him at church and noticing his potential. 

"Not only is John Mark bright, but his innate wisdom and understanding of leadership qualify him far beyond his years," Lieutenant Froelich said. 

The lieutenant brought John Mark along in hopes of exposing him to opportunities he had not yet been introduced to. 

"He's the kind of person I want leading this country's military when I am no longer in the service," Lieutenant Froelich said. "I figure, we can't go wrong if we handpick the best to continue on in our footsteps." 

John Mark was awed by the experience. "I was very impressed with everything at the Air Force Academy ... and honestly, a little overwhelmed," he said. "Since we visited in late July, we were able to see Basic Cadet Training, and it's hard to imagine myself there in two years. 

"I know it is extremely difficult to get accepted into the Air Force Academy, but I have decided to give it my best shot," John Mark said. "Dustin said he will help me through the process, and that's reassuring. My father is a retired Navy captain, and I look forward to carrying on our family tradition of serving in the military." 

When asked about the allure of the Academy, John Mark said it's the exclusive opportunities available to cadets there. 

"We met one of Dustin's friends, who is just a few years older than I am, and he spent the first part of his summer at an Air Force base in Japan and then he traveled to Europe," he said. 

"Now he's back at the Academy as an upperclassman conducting Basic Cadet Training, and he leaves in two weeks for a semester exchange at the Naval Academy. Now that sounds like an amazing summer!"

According to the Air Force Academy's Web site, the institution's mission is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to the United States Air Force in service to the nation. 

The Academy has graduated more than 35,009 cadets in 44 classes, and more than 51.2 percent of its alumni is still on active duty. 

For more information about the Academy, visit www.usafa.af.mil.