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Friday, October 19 News

Staples seniors prepares for Air Force Academy

WESTPORT — Service has long been part of Scott Adler’s life.

Once a week for the past four years, the Staples High School senior built homes and schools in developing nations. He’s spent time in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala and Nicaragua with the Norwalk-based nonprofit, Builders Beyond Borders.

“I’ve always felt super fortunate living in Westport, and thankful for what I’ve been given, so I’ve always wanted to give back,” Adler, 17, said. “I’ve always been interested in traveling and seeing the world. I gave it a shot freshman year and liked it and kept coming back.”

Adler, who swims, played water polo and violin, will continue serving others after he graduates at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. He is the lone Staples senior to have gained admission to a U.S. service academy.

“I’ve known that I wanted to serve in the military in some capacity for a really long time. I just didn’t know how it was going to work out,” Adler said. As a young boy, Adler’s paternal grandfather, himself a veteran, spoke highly about the military. By the time he was in middle school, Adler had committed himself to enlisting.

While his peers are enjoying summer, Adler will decamp for Colorado on June 28 to start six weeks of basic training.

“You show up, you get off the bus and first thing you know they’re screaming at you, shaving your head, giving you uniforms,” Adler said, with a smile.

Just to be considered, Adler had to apply and interview for a nomination with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. He also received nominations from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy. The academic schedule is rigorous, with little downtime and regular weekend training.

“It’s similar to the day of another college student, except much more packed. You have classes 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.-ish, almost like a high school day,” Adler said. “After that there’s a mandatory athletic period, so you either need to be on a sports team or do some kind of intramural. Then after that, there’s a lot of studying that goes on. Usually, kids are up until 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., at least, and then you wake up at 5 a.m. and do it over again.”

During the school’s 12-week-long summers, Adler will have a chance to go home for four weeks. For the remainder, he’ll have the option of enrolling in military training, like jump school or survival school, or of visiting an Air Force base to shadow an officer.

The coursework is similar to that of any other college, though there are more required math and science classes, to the extent that, even if Adler were to choose a major in the humanities, he’d graduate with a bachelor of science degree.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to study, but I know career-wise I want to be a pilot, so that probably means aeronautical engineering,” Adler said.

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Following graduation, the normal commitment for an Air Force Academy graduate is five years of active duty. For a pilot, the obligation is slightly different.

“There are two years of training afterward, plus the eight-year commitment. But since there’s not really a reserve component of flight, the three years of reserve become active duty. So it becomes two years of training and eight years of active duty,” Adler said.

The work, the more than 10-year commitment and the sacrifice he will be making are somewhat daunting to Adler. But they don’t outweigh his excitement over serving the country.

“It signifies a really great accomplishment. It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and achieved so far, and I’m really happy that I can put that all toward something positive for people other than just myself,” Adler said.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586

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