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Heading to Air Force Academy: Geerdes earns rare honor

Fairmont High School graduate Tyson Geerdes has won a spot at the U.S. Air Force Academy, after an extensive application process.

Recent graduates of Fairmont High School are about to take different paths. Some will attend a two- or four-year college. Others will enter the workforce. And some will join the armed forces.

Tyson Geerdes is one of the latter. He is heading for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Geerdes, son of Scott and Stephani, stayed active throughout high school. He was involved in band, orchestra, musical performances, hockey, baseball and soccer. He was also a member of the student council, served as senior class secretary, and received the Triple A award, excelling in academics, the arts and athletics.

Geerdes has been interested in attending the Air Force Academy for several years.

“Four years ago, my second cousin was a senior at the academy and invited us for parents weekend. We made the road trip to Colorado Springs to visit,” he said.

Geerdes was immediately impressed by the sight of the base and campus.

“When I was able to visit some of the professors and officers on base and see the resources they have to learn, I really went, ‘Wow.’ When we left Colorado Springs, I set my phone to military time and that’s been my goal ever since,” he said.

Having an early interest was beneficial because, as Geerdes explained, you need to be a well-rounded student and community member to be considered.

“Your academics need to be pristine; you have to be athletically involved so you’re prepared for basic training; you need to be active in your community through volunteering,” he said.

There will be 1,200 students in Geerdes’ incoming class at the academy. More than 9,000 students applied.

The early stages of the process begin before the junior year of high school ends. Geerdes said there is a pre-candidate application in which students self-report test scores, grades and activities. Those are sent in, then students are told whether they can continue to pursue attending the academy.

“Midway through your senior year, your candidate application opens up, which consists of essays, letters of recommendation, candidate evaluation forms, official test scores and grades, and alongside that process you also need to find a nomination to the academy,” Geerdes said.

He went through the senator’s nomination process. He submitted a resume and picture, and then there was a day when candidates from around the state interviewed with the senator’s staff and academy alumni and were graded.

“They only have so many nominations they can make so they are very strategic in how they use them,” Geerdes noted.

Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith presented Geerdes’ nomination to him. He got a letter March 10 that said he received an appointment to the academy. However, it was dependent on getting a previous soccer injury passed through the medical board.

“It was over a week before I heard from the medical board that I passed,” Geerdes said.

On June 3, he had his virtual appointment ceremony at Fairmont High School. Typically, it would be done in front of the entire student body, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from happening so just a few people were present.

The next step is in-processing day, which will take place June 25 at the academy.

Basic training will start a few weeks later. It is two months long and standard to any other enlistment. After that, Geerdes will have just four days to move dorms and get supplies, and then college will start.

“It’s a regular college experience with military training tied in. We’ll always be in uniform. As freshmen, you get one personal item to have in your room. Each freshmen’s room will be identical except for that one item,” Geerdes said.

Geerdes said this will help them focus on schooling without distractions. He will receive an academic grade, athletic grade and military grade.

“I’m planning to pursue computer science for cybersecurity,” Geerdes noted.

After four years of college, Geerdes will graduate from the academy as an officer in the Air Force, a second lieutenant.

“This puts you on a fantastic career path because you start working as an officer,” he said. “After the end of your commitment, you have the ability to leave but because you have all this fantastic training, I plan on staying in.”

Geerdes has kept pretty private about his plans throughout his senior year, but is thankful to the many teachers who helped him along the way, and to his friends.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to be of service to my school. I’m appreciative of my ability to be of service to our community. And now I’m looking for to the opportunity to be of service to our nation,” he said.

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