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Reservists help youngsters soar at AIM HIGH Flight Academy

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner
  • Citizen Airman Magazine


Three Reserve Citizen Airmen are spending their summer in Florida helping a diverse group of young adults grow their love of aviation at the Air Force’s AIM HIGH Flight Academy.

Based at the Peter Prince Airfield in Milton, the academy is hosted by Air Force Recruiting Service’s Detachment 1, which was created as the execution arm of the chief of staff of the Air Force’s Rated Diversity Improvement strategy.

“In the Air Force pilot community, we don’t see the diversity that we see in other communities,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan Rothe, a Reservist assigned to the 944th Operations Group, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, who is serving as AIM HIGH’s director of operations this summer. “That is something General Brown (Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.) has tasked Air Force Recruiting Service with improving. So Recruiting established Det. 1 to inform, influence and inspire young people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to consider a career in aviation.”  


“Air Force Recruiting Service and Detachment 1’s AIM HIGH Flight Academy are in the business of positively changing lives,” said Brig. Gen. Lisa Craig, AFRS deputy commander. “The flight academy exposes participants to this broad range of training, as well as the professional Total Force Airmen trainers and mentors, and creates pathways to potential future service. As a part of our nationwide diversity outreach program, participants come from across the fabric of the nation. For many, they have to ‘see one to be one.’ This program opens that aperture.”

The AIM HIGH Flight Academy is one of Det. 1’s major programs. Over the course of three summer sessions, a total of 72 students have the opportunity to spend three weeks immersed in aviation education, character development and mentorship. They split time between ground school instruction, simulator work and actual time in Cessna 172L/M/N aircraft. About half of the students complete their first solo flight during the academy.

In addition to Rothe, two other Reserve Citizen Airmen are comprising the academy’s permanent party staff this summer. Col. Josh Flatley, a traditional Reservist assigned to the 954th Reserve Support Squadron at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is the academy commander, and Tech. Sgt. Glenda Nathaniel, an Individual Mobilization Augmentee assigned to U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, is the assistant director of operations.

The trio of Reservists are leading a Total Force team of active-duty and Guard instructors during each summer session.  

Flatley said he is amazed by the transformation he sees in the students during the three-week sessions.

“It is so cool to have the opportunity to work with these amazing young people,” he said. “They go through some trials and challenges, and the growth you see from the beginning of the class to the end is just phenomenal.”

Rothe said the academy serves two major purposes. “We’re a STEM-based aviation program designed to inspire the love of aviation in the youth of America, but we also try to ensure the students who come through here leave as better people than when they came,” he said.

The lieutenant said that about 70% of the people who come through the academy have their sights set on an Air Force career, but there is no service commitment associated with AIM HIGH.

“At the end of the day, there’s no commitment, no having to sign on the dotted line,” he said. “We just want kids who want to come down and get some flight hours and some training and help encourage their love of aviation. At the end of the day, we look at these students as our future leaders. Some of these youngsters are going to go on to bigger and better things than any of us. Knowing that we were able to help them on that journey is awesome.”

Full-time high school or college students or enlisted members of any service between the ages of 16 and 23 can apply for next year’s AIM HIGH Flight Academy. If selected, 100% of academy costs are paid for by Air Force Recruiting Service. For information or to fill out an application, check out

VIDEO | 03:52 | Aim High Flight Academy 2022