Aim High, 7’285 Feet High

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Gage Daniel
  • 94th Airlift Wing

“The Air Force is amazing and it has amazing opportunities,” said Cadet Fourth Class Joseph Anderson, Air Force Academy cadet, to a classroom full of trainees attending a Unit Training Assembly (UTA) at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., in preparation for Basic Military Training (BMT).


Cadet Anderson started his military career in 2022 when he went through the same Delayed Entry Program (DEP) on Dobbins as the many trainees he was speaking to before heading to BMT. The DEP at Dobbins allows trainees to come on base monthly during the standard UTA, learn about Air Force history, structure, customs and more, run through marching drills, and even practice reporting statements, a mandatory aspect of BMT.


“I was working a civilian job and veterans kept talking about the Air Force, so I decided to join as I wanted a really good life and security and safety for my family,” Anderson said. “After joining, the core values of ‘integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do’ made me stay, as they were values I believed in.”


After returning home from Lackland Air Force Base, Tx., Anderson remembered his mentor telling him about the U.S. Air Force Academy and he began to look for avenues to attend. Just before technical school training to be a member of the 80th Aerial Port Squadron, Anderson finished his application to attend the Academy.


“What made me push the button was that I found out it was an all-paid world-class education, where I could get a degree and the job I wanted at the same time,” said Anderson. “I wanted to be a pilot.


 After submitting his application and being selected as one of the few prior-service members to go to the Academy, Anderson was one of the roughly 20 percent of cadet candidates that were prior enlisted, with other prior service members being given direct appointments to the Academy.


“I heard that being prior enlisted helps out as an officer because you have been through exactly what it is that you're telling people to do as a leader,” Anderson said. “You've already experienced that world and are now able to relate to your fellow wingmen in various ways. It’s different coming into the workforce already having experience even though you still have a multitude of space to learn, so that people can know ‘Hey, you've done this before, you might know what it feels like, you know what I'm feeling right now,’ and you then have the opportunity to share this knowledge with others.”


After graduating from prep school, Anderson received his appointment to the Academy and is slated to start during the Summer of 2024 as a future graduate of the class of 2028. Anderson also remarked about how Dobbins helped prepare him for the Academy even before he left for BMT.


“The DEP helped me learn both how to complete BMT and how to be high-achieving while there, and serve with excellence from the start,” said Anderson. “While I was there, I became an element leader and while at tech school I had one of the leadership ropes. Dobbins really helped set me up before I even started basic training and tech school for success at both, and that success turned into my success upon returning home.”


Upon returning to Dobbins, he began his Aerial Port Squadron on-the-job-training, was ready to work, and always had plenty to do, according to Anderson. 


“I learned how important the mission was here,” Anderson said. “And gaining that mission mindset, I now attend the Air Force Academy knowing what the mission is, being successful in my basic training that I had to go through and knowing how to network. I certainly appreciate the core lessons in leadership and followership learned at Dobbins. My competitive advantage at the Academy is clear, being that I already have experience in student leadership, and leadership overall. I look forward to learning more about the complexities of leadership over these next four years and throughout my entire career.”


Before moving to Colorado Springs, Co., Anderson was given the opportunity to speak to a group of his near-peers in the DEP. There, he spoke about how he joined the military, his time thus far, and his process to applying and being accepted to attend the Academy.


“It was a big moment for me because going into the Air Force I come from a military family, so this world was entirely new to me, similar to college,” Anderson said. “Speaking at DEP was very full circle, so much so that I’m talking to people before they go into the military who just graduated high school, it’s very important to me.”


While Anderson was at prep school, he had the opportunity to speak with the previous Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, CMSgt. Joanne S. Bass. He decided to take to heart what she had told him there and put actions behind his words.


“I talked with CMSgt. Bass specifically about this,” said Anderson. “We spoke about the fact that as enlisted personnel, we feel that there is a huge information deficit for those looking to attend the Air Force Academy. The first thing she charged us with was to, ‘Do something about it on a local level,’ and I took that to hear. I’m not going to wait for a new link, a new video, or a new pamphlet to come out. I’m going to go out there and start talking, and this is only the beginning.”


While preparing to make the move and attend the Academy this coming Fall, Anderson has a few goals in mind.


“One of my main goals is to lead and to represent,” said Anderson. “I want to represent where I've come from and what opportunities everybody else has from where I'm from. And then goal number two is to get a pilot slot.”


For anyone interested in the Academy and applying to it, follow the links below:


Application Page

Enlisted to Officer

Official Website