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Former Saber attends AF Prep Academy

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- -- She just scraped by at her high school in Atlanta. She failed 50 percent of her classes her senior year; graduating at the bottom of her class in 2004. After joining the Air Force, she turned her life around and now this former 52nd Fighter Wing command post controller is attending the Air Force Academy Preparatory School with what could be the future leaders of America and has her sights set on the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Cadet Candidate Corinne Milien, who served here from January 2005 to June 2006, is returning to Spangdahlem Air Base to educate Airmen about her ongoing journey to her officer commission. She is scheduled to give two briefings at the Spangdahlem Professional Enhancement Center Monday at 10 a.m. and noon. She said she's come a long way from high school and the command post and vows not to forget it. 

"I carry around my high school transcripts to show myself, 'Hey, you messed this up before ... don't do it again,'" Cadet Candidate Milien said. "I never thought I could do this. I never thought I'd be saying, 'I have an engineering project due tomorrow' or 'I went to jump class today.'" 

Thankfully, others believed in her and encouraged then Airman 1st Class Milien to apply for the Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development program. 

The LEAD Program is an on-going effort to give the Air Force's best and brightest Airmen the opportunity to excel by offering them appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. The program, initiated by former chief of staff of the Air Force Gen. Ronald Fogleman in 1995, delegates authority to unit and wing commanders to nominate highly-qualified Airmen to attend the prep school with the intention of academy appointment to follow. Commanders have the opportunity to identify outstanding and deserving Airmen with officer potential for this commissioning program. 

"Chief Kelly and (then) Colonel Goldfein (previous 52nd Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Jimmy Kelly and wing commander Brig. Gen. Dave Goldfein) encouraged me to apply for the program, saying how much of a leader I was and that I would benefit from it," Cadet Candidate Milien said. "The paperwork sat in my drawer for about three months. I was asking myself if this was something I really want to do." 

After deciding it was, she put together her package and waited, and just eight days before she was due to head downrange, General Goldfein told Cadet Candidate Milien she was accepted to the program in front of a crowd during a Volunteer of the Year awards banquet. The sharp Airman was there accepting an award that day herself. Her first order of business was a call to her mother. 

"I called my mother and she was just silent ... and then she started crying," the 20-year-old Cadet Candidate said. "I think she wanted it more than I did; anything for me not to go downrange, so it was good for her." 

In fact, it was one year before that memorable phone call that Cadet Candidate Milien fulfilled a promise to her mother and started taking college classes with the University of Maryland. 

"I promised my mom when I turned 19 I would go to school somewhere, somehow," she said. Her mother, Martine, and father, Marcene, came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1986 so young Corinne could take advantage of the American dream. 

"That is why they came to America - to have the best opportunities and the best opportunity here is education," she said. 

So Airman Milien made a trip to the education office and by chance discovered the LEAD program. 

"I walked in and was like, 'Hey, I'm an Airman and am interested in entering the academy," Cadet Candidate Milien said. She attended a briefing on officer commissioning programs, but said little attention was given to the academy or the LEAD program. "I was lucky; however, because many of the people who were helping me with my package and providing recommendations were academy or prep school grads." 

Unfortunately, the LEAD program is pretty under publicized and that is why Cadet Candidate Milien is accompanying thePrior Enlisted Cadet Association to help spread the word about the program. The 52nd FW career assistance advisor wants to boost support for the LEAD program, as well as other career advancement options the Air Force has to offer. 

"LEAD is just one of several programs that provide our enlisted force the opportunity to excel and give back to our country on another level," said Master Sgt. Tom Hartswick, 52nd FW Career Advisor and Professional Enhancement Center Superintendent. "It's a win-win program because its gives commanders the opportunity to nominate Airmen they feel have the potential to be Air Force officers to the Air Force Academy. This is a unique opportunity to hear it not only from someone who is in the LEAD program, but who was also a Saber! 

"She is giving her own time to brief our folks. She paid for the trip herself and is using her own leave to come back home to Spangdahlem because she wants to give back to the 52nd FW," Sergeant Hartswick said. "She believes in the LEAD program, our Airmen and the U.S. Air Force. I applaud her effort, and want to make sure all of our young Airmen have the opportunity to hear it straight from one of our own." 

Lt. Col. Michael Pitts, 52nd Mission Support Squadron commander who has been an officer for 19 years, believes a lot of Airmen would like to make the transition. He recommends attending one of the two briefings Monday to hear Cadet Candidate Milien's personal story. 

"When you're at your 20-year-point, what you don't want to do is look back and ask if an officer's program was something you wanted to do," the 52nd MSS commander said. "Here's a success story; like an athlete who returns to their hometown and says, 'You can be where I am. It can happen.' So give it a shot." 

Cadet Candidate Milien said she is still amazed at how far she has come and often ponders the outcome of her decision to "give it a shot" and where it has taken her.
"There are no words to describe this feeling. I have this view of the mountains from my room where I sometimes sit back and wonder, 'How did I get here?'" the Atlanta native said. "I don't believe it sometimes. I never thought I would be learning aeronautical, mechanical or electrical engineering, but I am. And I'm attending school with people who were at the top of their game in their hometowns, be it academically or physically, and here I am, right alongside them." What seems to please Cadet Candidate Milien even more is that it has made her mother so happy. "She hasn't stopped smiling since I got accepted and that's the best feeling." 

For more information on the LEAD program, Cadet Candidate Milien's briefings or general career advice, call Sergeant Hartswick at 452-7829.