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Defenders set sights on Academy

Senior Airman Justin Wilmoth, 30th Security Forces Squadron response force leader, and Airman 1st Class Pietro Sproviero De Paoli, 30th SFS armory technician, hold their Air Force Academy and Preparatory School acceptance letters, May 17, 2017, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Since its inception in 1954, the United States Air Force Academy has been considered one of the nation's most prestigious and selective universities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford/Released)

Senior Airman Justin Wilmoth, 30th Security Forces Squadron response force leader, and Airman 1st Class Pietro Sproviero De Paoli, 30th SFS armory technician, hold their Air Force Academy and Preparatory School acceptance letters, May 17, 2017, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Since its inception in 1954, the United States Air Force Academy has been considered one of the nation's most prestigious and selective universities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Since its inception in 1954, the United States Air Force Academy has been considered one of the nation's most prestigious and selective universities.

With an established reputation of high professional and academic standards, rigorous extracurricular requirements, and a devotion to leadership development -- its acceptance rate has been comparable to some of the country’s most elite schools. For many enlisted military members, the idea of attending such a prominent university is accepted as merely a faraway fantasy. However, through the Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development Program – two 30th Security Forces Squadron brothers-in-arms made this fantasy a reality.

“The first thing you have to do is submit a pre-application on the Academy website, then they determine whether or not you are qualified to proceed in the application process,” said Airman 1st Class Pietro Sproviero De Paoli, 30th SFS armory technician. “Then, once you’re qualified to progress you have to get a Letter Of Evaluation from your unit commander, supervisor and first sergeant. Then you have to receive three letters of recommendation, submit your SAT and ACT scores – they also take your high school GPA into account. Finally, there’s a separate Physical Training test you have to take and an interview with a liaison officer from the Academy that you have to attend. There were six months from when we started the application process until we found out we were accepted.”

Alongside De Paoli since Basic Military Training, Senior Airman Justin Wilmoth, 30th SFS response force leader will follow his fellow Defender on their new Air Force journey at the Academy Preparatory School.

“Whenever one of us got something done in the application process, it just motivated the other to push to do the same,” said Wilmoth. “It’s helpful when you are dealing with such a long, complicated process to have someone alongside you going through the same thing, who knows exactly what it’s like and can give pointers along the way.”

For De Paoli, his acceptance comes after being the first American citizen in his family and is the fulfillment of a dream years in the making.

“I’m the first American citizen in my family,” said De Paoli. “My family is from Brazil, so I just wanted to set a high precedence for others to follow. The Academy has been a dream of mine since high school, and I just felt that if I didn’t take the opportunity to apply than I was going to regret it the rest of my life.”

Master Sgt. Austin Schneider, 30th SFS Logistics and Readiness section chief, was witness to the Defenders’ time at Vandenberg AFB, and believes they have exhibited leadership traits and actions conducive to the Academy.

“Senior Airman Wilmoth and Airman 1st Class De Paoli have demonstrated a drive to continuously improve themselves to be better Airmen, personally and professionally,” said Schneider. “These men have been leaders in their peer groups and have also been recognized for their outstanding performance. I believe that their experiences as Defenders and members of the enlisted force will catapult them to the forefront of their peers during their time at the United States Air Force Academy. Their drive and determination, coupled with their aptitude, showcases their ability to be the next great officers of their generation.”