MHS student lands spot at Air Force Academy prep school

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Charles Liermann had a thoughtful plan – four of them, in fact – to gain acceptance to his dream school in Colorado Springs. He will start at the U.S. Air Force Academy's preparatory school in August.

A Maricopa High School senior’s lifetime dream of an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy has taken a big leap forward.

Charles Liermann received word March 30 of his acceptance to the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School.

Charles hopes to join, in July 2023, the cadet ranks at the Air Force Academy, the first choice in his plan to attend a military academy. He had sought a direct appointment.

Starting in early August, he and his classmates will begin 10 months at the prep school to hone the academic, leadership and physical skills needed to better prepare them for success as future officers. Cadet candidates are not guaranteed an appointment to the Academy but earn consideration and a recommendation from the prep school commander when the program is successfully completed.

Charles’s acceptance was the culmination of a long, thoughtful process. He was prepared to do whatever it took to get to his dream school in Colorado Springs.

“If I didn’t get a nomination and appointment directly to an Academy, I had plans B, C and D,” he said, adding the Air Force Academy was his first choice. “If I didn’t get appointed, there was a chance they could offer me prep school (which is indeed what happened). In that case, they would pay me an enlisted salary, I would do the prep school, and apply again in 10 months to see if I got in.”

Charles earned a prep school appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, as well.

He also had a “non-Academy” Plan C: attend Grand Canyon University on a full scholarship, then enroll in the Air Force ROTC program through Arizona State University (GCU offers an Army ROTC program) and try to get an appointment through ROTC. The final option, Plan D, was to enlist in the Air Force and apply to the Academy from the enlisted ranks.

Asked why he was so doggedly determined to get into a service academy, the teen didn’t hesitate.

“It started when I was really young,” he said. “I always wanted a military job. Then I found out about the academies, and the fact that you can get free college at some of the best and most prestigious universities in the country. A lot of my family had influence because several of them have served. There are tons of great programs. It was just everything I was looking for in college and a career.”

The U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School is on the campus of the service academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. [usafa.edu]
His mother couldn’t agree more.

“This is wonderful news,” enthused Amber Liermann, the Exceptional Student Services behavioral counselor at MHS and a member of City Council. “We’re ecstatic. I’m very proud of him. He’s been so focused for so long on this goal. It’s so unusual for a 9th grade boy to keep the same goal all the way through high school. Charlie would say I can’t do this or go to that because I have to study for this test. He’s made a lot of sacrifices to achieve this goal.”

Charles said getting into Air Force prep school was due in no small part to his mother’s influence.

“My mom nagged me 24/7 about getting my applications in and doing what I needed to do to prepare,” he said. “She said it’s done the way it is, with the process being so hard, to weed out the people who don’t have the initiative and the drive to stick with it.”

“My mom busted my butt.”

While he didn’t get a nomination to the Air Force Academy, Charles was nominated to three others – West Point in New York State, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Both Charles and his mother said they believe the lack of a nomination kept him from an appointment to the Air Force Academy.

Charles Liermann will graduate in May from Maricopa High School, where he was a member of the Air Force JROTC program. “Without a doubt, his dedication and demonstrated work ethic will take him far in the Air Force,” said Col. Robert Kirksey, commander of the JROTC unit.

“We think it’s possible that the only thing he was lacking was a congressional nomination,” Amber said. “We got an email that said, ‘due to your profile there is one thing missing’ and we think it was because he didn’t get the congressional nomination.”

Charles will reapply for the Air Force Academy toward the end of his prep school year. With an appointment at that time he would become a member of the class of 2027.

Amber said they have been told that 80 percent of cadet candidates at the prep school gain admission to the academy.

According to Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey (Ret.), commander of the Air Force JROTC unit at MHS, Charles is the third student from the school to gain an academy appointment, and the first to the Air Force Academy. He follows in the footsteps of 2017 MHS valedictorian John Blodgett, who accepted a nomination to West Point, and Dylan Hill, who was appointed to both West Point and the Naval Academy in 2018. She also chose to attend West Point.

Kirksey said he thinks Liermann has everything it takes to be a successful cadet and Air Force officer.

“He has always demonstrated a strong desire to serve his country as an Air Force officer, where he can put the leadership and followership skills he has developed in our program to work,” said Kirksey, adding that Charles has excelled at planning, organizing and directing events for Cyber Patriot and AFJROTC.

“Without a doubt, his dedication and demonstrated work ethic will take him far in the Air Force.”

Charles said he is not concerned about joining the military during a time of global conflict.

“In the event it does happen, my military mind says I’ll go out and do what they tell me to do, what I’m trained to do and go home,” he said. “If it was necessary to be out there on the front lines, I’m sure I’d be fearful. But if it’s a necessity and something that needs to be done, we’ll go out there and get it done.”