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Local students accepted into military academies

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Mikey Sanford (TCHS) is headed to the Air Force Academy; Bryce Richardson (CHS) will be attending the Naval Academy

By Zac Oakes

 

Mikey Sanford, Taylor County High School, U.S. Air Force Academy

 The Sanford family has an honorable history of attending military academies, and Mikey Sanford, a senior at Taylor County High School, is continuing that rich history.

Mikey recently found out that he was accepted into the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a prestigious acceptance as just a little more than 12 percent of applicants to the academy are granted acceptance.

“It’s a huge honor,” Sanford said. “I’m very glad that they chose me, and I am looking forward to getting there and being able to serve my country.” 

Mikey’s older sister, Meghan, was also accepted into the academy last year and is in her first year there. Mikey and Meghan have an uncle who graduated from the Air Force Academy, and their father is a graduate of West Point.

Mikey said his family’s history with the military academies was a major influence in his interest in applying to the Air Force Academy. He said he regularly communicates with his sister, and her love for the Air Force Academy made him even more interested in applying.

“Meghan was a major influence on my choice there,” he said. “She seemed to like it so much, and it really was a great opportunity. It is a great opportunity to serve my country.”

His interest in the Air Force Academy began to grow around two years ago, he said, as Meghan began her application process and he learned more about the academy. Mikey has always had an interest in aviation, so the Air Force Academy seemed like a natural fit.

When he arrives in Colorado Springs this summer to begin his journey there, Sanford said he is planning on studying astronomical engineering.

“I’ve been interested in space for a long time, and I’ve always had an interest in aviation,” Sanford said. “I’ve been flying drones since I was very young.”

Sanford said to put it in layman terms, it is the study of space vehicles. The field itself is quite complicated.

After his time at the academy, Sanford said he believes his future career prospects are bright. After graduating, he has five years of mandatory service in the Air Force.

“I don’t think there will be any shortage of private space industry,” Sanford said. “… I will be serving there for that mandatory service time… I will probably be working on satellites or something kind of like that. There will be a lot of options.”

The first two years will involve basic study, and by his third year there, Sanford said he will begin more specialized studies.

The application process is a rigorous one when applying to a military academy. From basic information to physical fitness exams to recommendation letters and congressional nominations, the process can take a lengthy amount of time.

Sanford said it took about a month to complete the process. The time span between submitting the application and receiving notice of acceptance (around 4 or 5 months) was anxious, he said, but he was excited when he received a call from U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, telling him that he had been accepted.

The Air Force Academy was the top option all along for Sanford. He submitted an application to the University of Louisville as a secondary option, but he knew he wanted to go to the academy.

“The Air Force was number one all along,” Sanford said.

Sanford said he has toured the academy multiple times—at least three or four times—so he said he feels pretty comfortable with daily life there.

“I’ve seen the dorms and heard all the basic stories, and all of that, so I feel pretty comfortable with the day-to-day life,” Sanford said.

The fitness portions of the application process were unique, Sanford said. For instance, one test involved the ability to throw a basketball 70 feet while kneeling. That was in conjunction with sprint tests, a one-mile run, and other fitness tests.

Sanford said the support from the school, from fellow students to teachers to counselors and administration, has been tremendous.

“They’ve been interested in our college and career plans,” Sanford said. “Mrs. McPherson was great with helping with deadlines and making sure I had things submitted on time. She wrote a recommendation letter, as did Mrs. Benningfield.”

For now, Sanford said he is focused on finishing out the school year and graduating in May, but his eyes continue to be set on what awaits him in Colorado Springs.

Bryce Richardson, Campbellsville High School, U.S. Naval Academy

Campbellsville High School senior Bryce Richardson has known what he wanted to do since the seventh grade.

Growing up swimming competitively, Richardson has always been around the water and was introduced to Mitch Magness, a retired Navy SEAL. 

“I told him I was roughly interested in joining the military and was talking to him about being a Navy SEAL and I asked him what he thought I should do if I wanted to be in the military,” Richardson said. “And he told me that he was stationed at the Naval Academy for a brief time and that was by far the best way to go.” 

Throughout middle and high school, Richardson had his mind set on joining the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. 

The application process to the academy was a lengthy one, Richardson said, including background, medical, and fitness exams, as well as an essay, in-house interviews, and a congressional nomination. 

The fitness assessment includes a kneeling basketball throw, crunches, push-ups, pull-ups, a shuttle run, and a one-mile run. 

The medical exam involves numerous tests, some that would be considered a little unusual. 

“One thing they did was bend your wrist a certain way to make sure it will bend like that,” Richardson said. “There were a bunch of tests they have to do to make sure you are fit for service, and if you fail any part of that, you’re out.” 

For the congressional nomination, Richardson said he applied with Rep. James Comer and Sen. Mitch McConnell, as well as Sen. Rand Paul. He said having a connection with Comer helped because Comer and Campbellsville High School Principal David Petett know each other, as they are both from Tompkinsville. 

Additionally, Richardson said he had to have recommendation letters from his junior year math and science teachers. 

This winter, Richardson was finishing swim practice when he checked his phone to an unknown missed call. He called the number back and realized it was Comer’s office, but Comer was unavailable at the time. He called back later, and that was when Comer notified him that he had been accepted. 

Richardson said they had planned to go out for a family dinner that night with parents and siblings, but he said he was the only one that knew of the acceptance. 

“I had got on my mom’s nerves about something earlier that day, so she was a little mad at me,” Richardson said, laughing. “So I told her I had something that would cheer her up a little bit and I told her I got in.” 

A few tears and a lot of excitement were shared at the dinner table that night. 

Richardson leaves for the academy June 28, where he will begin a six-week boot camp period before going into the academic year. 

Richardson said he has three ideas for areas of study when he gets there, including mechanical engineering, political science, and Chinese. 

He said he has always had an interest in mechanical engineering because it consists of his academic strong suits. Richardson said he has always been strong in math and enjoyed problem-solving, two critical aspects of the field of mechanical engineering. 

“The cool thing about it is that it is really hands-on,” Richardson said. “It gets into drones, touches into robotics, so I can take any creative aspect that I have and can express it through my creations in mechanical engineering.” 

After graduation from the Naval Academy, graduates are required to give five years of mandatory service. Richardson said the plan is to stay in the military for 20 years before retiring and finding something else to do. 

For now, Richardson said he is anxious to get to Annapolis. He said he isn’t too nervous about entering the academy, but said the transition will be an adjustment. He said he is thankful for Campbellsville High School’s help in making sure paperwork was submitted and getting academic transcripts and other important documents together to submit. 

While he continues to look toward June 28, Richardson is also particularly focused on end-of-year festivities for his senior year and graduation coming up in a little more than a month.