KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
One Kirtland officer is so passionate about his alma mater, the Air Force Academy, he spends his free time helping young hopefuls apply to the school.
Maj. Rich Couture, an executive officer with the Air Force Safety Center, also serves as the Air Force Academy deputy admissions liaison officer for all of New Mexico and El Paso. He has been a liaison officer for 11 years over four duty stations and has helped dozens of individuals apply, and get accepted, to the Academy.
“I truly love helping potential candidates,” Couture said. “There is immense satisfaction in helping someone achieve their ultimate dream.”
Couture said the process of applying to the Academy can be daunting. He assists potential candidates navigate that process and helps them avoid some of the common mistakes applicants make.
“It can seem overwhelming, but it’s actually a pretty simple process,” he said.
Part of Couture’s passion in helping Academy hopefuls stems from his own personal experience. Couture initially applied to the Academy in high school, but poor scores on standardized tests kept him from receiving an appointment. So he enlisted in the Air Force and started working to join the Academy through the Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development program.
The LEAD program gives commanders the opportunity to identify and nominate outstanding and deserving enlisted Airmen who are qualified and show potential. Airman under the age of 23 with no dependents, and who have a strong moral background and motivation for being an officer in the Air Force, can be in the running for an appointment to the Academy.
Every year, about 6 percent of the incoming class of cadets are enlisted Airmen, who come to the Academy, either through direct appointment or, like Couture, through the Academy prep school.
“I had a great experience at the prep school,” the major said. “Although you don’t get any college credit, the time counts towards your retirement and increases your chances of receiving an Academy appointment.”
Couture said the three primary areas Airmen seeking an appointment are rated on are academics, athletics and military. When evaluating military service, the admissions team looks at leadership in job positions, self-improvement and community involvement. He said all these things are important, but persistence is the key.
Couture oversees 23 admissions liaison officers in a program that helps high school and college students and enlisted Airmen complete the application process to the Academy. He wants even more people to experience the joy he has felt in helping others, and is hoping to recruit about a dozen new facilitators to the program.
In that effort, he is hosting an Air Force Academy Day April 13 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Air Force Safety Center Auditorium, and Col. Arthur Primas, USAFA director of admissions, will provide a keynote briefing on the admissions process and the Admissions Liaison Officer program.
“It will be a great event. I asked for a heavy hitter as the speaker and that’s exactly what they are sending,” Couture said.
Those wanting more information about the event, apply for the LEAD program or to volunteer as an ALO should contact Couture at 846-2372 or email@example.com. Couture is especially hopeful that many of the Academy grads at Kirtland or in the local area are willing to “pay it forward” by becoming an ALO to help potential applicants.