KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
It’s not every day that an 18-year old high school senior has to excuse himself from class to take a call from a senator.
And, it’s not every day you get accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy, but this was exactly the case for Ashton Rubio, son of 403rd Wing Commander Col. Stuart Rubio and his wife Megan.
In April, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker called Ashton to inform him that he was his first choice for a nomination to attend the Academy. A month later, his father presented him with his certificate of appointment to the Academy at an Ocean Springs High School awards ceremony.
“It was pretty cool because both of my parents had similar awards presentations when they were going into the Air Force Academy,” said Ashton, whose mother Megan, a Florida native, graduated from the Academy in 1997, and his father, who grew up in Nebraska and Pennsylvania, graduated the following year, both with Bachelor of Science degrees. “It meant a lot. It was in front of my entire class, and everyone was there; at that point I knew it was real, and that I was going.”
While Col. Rubio begins his journey as the new wing commander this month, Ashton starts his as well as a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet. The U.S. Air Force Academy is a military academy for officer cadets of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Admission is highly competitive, with about 10,000 applications yearly and only 1,200 getting accepted, according to the USAFA website. Applicants must meet high academic, physical, character and medical standards.
For Ashton, he said attending the institution has been his goal for as long as he can remember, but his family’s vacation to Colorado and a visit to the Academy during his sixth grade year fortified his desire to attend the institution of higher learning.
“I was able to see all the places I’d heard about from my parents, and envision myself in those stories and at the Academy,” said Ashton, whose parents met at the Academy.
Megan, Ashton’s mother, met Col. Rubio when she was an upperclassman and was moved into her future husband’s squadron.
“We both spent time in Squadron 25, which is where we met, where we fell in love, and where our story begins,” said Megan, who was an active duty officer and astronautical engineer for six years before she separated from the Air Force to raise her children and work as a volunteer to assist her community.
The Rubios went on to have three children: Ashton, Ethan, and Evan. By the time Ashton was a freshman, he had attended his ninth school, in five different districts, in four states and two countries.
“I’ve grown up around the Air Force, the Air Force way of life and officers, and I’ve seen the life of service they give and that call to service is something I have always felt,” said Ashton, who wants to become a pilot like his father. “I’ve always strived for a career as an Air Force officer, and the Air Force Academy is the best way to go about that and get a strong education. I’ve seen all the amazing people my dad has worked with, and this is what I see myself doing.”
To help him reach this goal, Col. Rubio and Megan provided guidance to what their son needed to do to achieve his dream: earn high academic scores, participate in athletics, and take on leadership roles.
“He had everything that was needed: the academics, athletics, leadership and character,” said the wing commander, who is also an Admissions Liaison Officer, or ALO for the Academy, and interviews candidates and submits reports to the Academy Admissions Office as they select high school students to receive appointments. “He had the high academics, just about perfect ACT scores, all the extracurricular activities with running cross country and lacrosse, and not just that but leadership as the two-year team captain for the lacrosse team. You could see his leadership both on and off the field.”
Ashton was a member of the school band, playing the trumpet and was the drum major his senior year. He was also a member of the church youth group and an officer on the Ocean Springs Mayor’s Youth Council, a service based community organization.
“We are incredibly proud of him, it’s been wonderful to see him set this goal as a young child and then maintain the energy and effort that it takes for so many years to get there,” said Megan. “To know that this was his goal and his dream and see that come to fruition is a wonderful moment as a parent.
“The academies have amazing opportunities rolled into their programs,” she said. “You get a top quality education. The U.S. Air Force Academy is one of the top engineering schools in the country, and in addition to the top-notch education, you are getting leadership training every step of the way, and it’s all covered through the scholarship. And, you have a guaranteed job once you complete your education.”
One of the Rubios' favorite things to do, according to Megan, is to reflect on their time at the Academy and share those memories with their children.
“We’ve been very honest about the challenges,” she said. “Ashton is the kind of kid that thrives on that stuff; he loves the challenge. He sees that ahead of him, and it excites him; and that’s what you have to have to make it through the Academy; not wanting to dodge a challenge but run right at it and get to the other side of it.”
Col. Rubio also stressed to his son the importance of the relationships and friends he will make throughout his educational endeavor.
“I let him know that you are not going to do it on your own, you will have to lean on each other to get through it,” he said.
About 20% of cadets don’t make it through the entire four-year curriculum, but with the mentoring, advice and support of his parents, and that of his future classmates, Ashton said he is ready. He is scheduled to graduate and earn his commission in 2025, a special number for the Rubio’s.
“A really neat thing about the Academy is, as a legacy appointee, Ashton will have the opportunity to request to graduate out of one of our squadrons,” said Megan. “So he could request to graduate out of Squadron 25, in the class of 2025.”