Preparing to SOAR: An Airman's calling

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  • 47th Flying Training Wing

To Fly, Fight and Win may be the Air Force’s mission but when the Airmen completing that mission achieve their own goals, the force grows stronger. The USAF provides numerous programs for career and professional development, personal and family support opportunities to make Airmen better.


One of those programs is the Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC (SOAR) program.


The SOAR program allows active duty enlisted Airmen to be discharged from the regular Air Force to enroll into the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. These Airmen receive scholarships to a college or university offering an AFROTC accepted degree for two to four years.


This year, Senior Airman Roy Graham, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron civil engineer journeyman, was selected as a SOAR Program awardee. Graham is planning to pursue a major in aeronautics.


“I originally joined the Air Force to help out my family and I applied for the SOAR program with the goal to become a pilot,” said Graham.


Graham hasn’t always planned to join the Air Force, but his calling led him to become the Airman that he is today, and the officer he plans to be tomorrow.


“Growing up was challenging,” said Graham. “My single mother raised me and my sister. Our father died in 2010; so I kind of became the man of the family. We had our challenges, and growing up with that pressure was tough.”


Graham moved from Jamaica to the United States alone at just 18 years old.


“My thought process moving here was ‘what can I do to alleviate all this stress for my family? How can I give my family and I better opportunities?’” said Graham.


Graham went into aviation maintenance school in 2015, where his calling to aviation first took flight.


“When I was living in Atlanta, in aviation school, there were a lot of past military pilots in my class as well,” said Graham. “Talking to them about their experiences in the military really piqued my interest. My classmates and I graduated and began working at Boeing, but those conversations eventually grew into a sense of calling for me.”


Graham enlisted into the U.S. Air Force February of 2019 as a Civil Engineer apprentice and immediately began applying to commissioning sources.. With only seven slots available within the Air Education and Training Command, the 2022 SOAR program applicants had a lot of competition.


“I applied for the SOAR program back in September of 2021, and received my results in January 2022. I began preparing for the application process roughly six months before I was eligible,” said Graham. “I made sure that all tests were passed and requirements were met.”


Graham’s determination and commitment to his goals have taken him far, and he plans on taking his dreams even further.


“I have a poster board in my room, like a dream board that has all my goals listed,” said Graham. “Commissioning is on there, becoming a pilot is listed on there. Being able to slowly start checking off everything on my dream board is awesome. My advice to anyone is to write down your goals, as cliché as that sounds, and don’t stop working towards them.”


While Airmen work every day to accomplish the U.S. Air Force’s mission, the Air Force is also working every day to help them complete theirs.