Grissom maintainer earns a spot at Air Force Academy

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

Three men of the Blue family share two things in common: they each have the first name Kenneth and each share a proud history of military service.

However, only one of them is a son of Grissom and is headed to the Air Force Academy. For now, Kenneth Blue III is an aircraft guidance and controls technician with the 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

In late summer, he’ll be a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Chicago native was recently accepted to the academy after completing a demanding application process.

He’s the namesake of his grandfather, a Navy veteran, and his father, an Army veteran.

When Blue was in third grade, the space bug bit. He decided he wanted to be an astronaut and that dream never left him. His interest in flight, space and all things science was so deep that it earned him the nickname ‘Science Boy’ in school.

It’s not offensive to Blue. After all, science and space are what would eventually lead him to the Air Force and later this year, to Colorado Springs.

“My dream always stayed the same, from third grade until now. Being in the Air Force is a huge dream,” Blue said.

Blue held on to the dream of being an astronaut throughout school, but after a conversation with his dad, an engineer and his role model, he settled on aerospace engineering. 

He knew he couldn’t accept a football scholarship to one of the many agricultural schools who had made him offers. He liked football, but he didn’t love it-not like he loved planes or science.

“I want to get up every day and enjoy getting up because I’m going to do something that I love,” said Blue.

His father suggested the Air Force Academy, but the deadline for the application process had passed. So he enlisted in the Air Force and came to Grissom as part of the Development and Training Flight.

While he was preparing for basic training, Blue was working on preparing to apply for the academy. It’s a lengthy process that took about six months, including getting a letter of recommendation from his state Congressional representative.

When he came back to Grissom and began his seasonal training, Blue said his leadership in AMXS and his flight chief from the D&TF were crucial in helping him get his package completed.

“My supervisors, trainers and flight chiefs are all awesome,” Blue said. “It was family working together to get something done. That’s Grissom as a whole. Everyone does everything to help other people out. That’s one thing I’m going to miss about this place.”

Blue applied to the academy as part of the LEAD program –Leaders Encouraging Airmen Development.

It’s a program that reserves a certain number of appointments to the academy for highly qualified Airmen, who are recommended by their commanders.

Blue will spend five years at the academy, including 10 months of prep school and four years of rigorous academic and military training, and professional development.

“The opportunity that the academy is going to give me will fulfill everything I want to do-getting a degree, commissioning and becoming a pilot, and eventually branching off from there,” said Blue.

Literally the sky is the limit and having this opportunity is outstanding.”

Before his last day at Grissom, which happens to fall on his birthday, he’ll check in one last time with Master Sgt. Maurice Everett, who leads the D&TF, and offer his assistance there, as he routinely does on the alternate unit training assemblies.

“I’m extremely proud of him because he said that’s what he wanted to do and he went out and did it,” said Everett. “Words can’t say what an outstanding young man he is.”

That last day will be a bitter sweet birthday present for Blue. He says he’ll miss the people at the 434th the most but he’s excited to get to Colorado and begin the next chapter in his life and career.

“Leaving here is one of the things I have to accept,” Blue said. “I’m leaving on a good note. I’m going to miss these people a lot but having this opportunity to do better things for myself is great.”


The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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