Cristian Vintimilla has always had a special love for the Air Force, encouraged by a grandfather who served there and made sure a certain little boy was supplied with all the Air Force swag he could hold.
So it is a dream come true that Cristian just learned he has received an appointment to the Air Force Academy and is to report to Basic Cadet Training on June 23 for six weeks of “breaking down and building up,” as he phrased it.
Vintimilla is driven by a patriotism made deeper as a child of an immigrant. His father came to the United States from Ecuador when he was only 18 because he knew there were more opportunities here. Now Cristian feels called to protect that freedom and opportunity for everyone.
“I have always wanted to have the greatest impact and to reach as many people as possible in my service. I look at my nieces now and really want to protect what we have here for them. We should be so grateful for what we are given here.”
It was not until he was a sophomore in high school that Cristian began to look at what he intended to do and where he could have the biggest impact. His desire to be a pilot, combined with his affection for his grandfather (and great--grandfather who served before him) made the Air Force seem like a natural. But it is no easy thing to earn that appointment.
It is legally required for every cadet at the military academies to be nominated by a member of Congress. By excelling in a battery of physicals, tests, essays and interviews, he received two nominations, one from Congressman Josh Gottheimer for West Point and one from Senator Bob Menendez for the Air Force Academy. He knew he had qualified academically for West Point back in September, but had no idea where he stood with the Air Force until last week when his appointment came through.
For him, the choice was easy.
Cristian credits part of his success to what he learned from being a runner in high school, and to a mother who made him join a sport when he advanced from middle school. He said he played every sport up until middle school, then decided to focus solely on academics. When he was coming to the high school, his mother insisted he join a sport, so he tried out for basketball. He didn’t make it.
Disappointed but undeterred, he joined track in the spring and found he loved it. So much so, he became a three-season runner.
“It helped me to develop leadership skills, made me physically fit to test into the military academies and taught me time management,” he said. Cristian also claims that participating in track and cross country actually helped him to improve his academics and his grades only went up. Some other options that appeal to him as career paths within the Air Force include intelligence work, He will major in aeronautical engineering at the Academy and then see where the doors open. For now, he is thrilled to be able to make his lifetime of dreams a reality.