CCA student graduates early to enlist in Air Force
Amir Randall of Philadelphia plans to become a tactical air control party specialist.
The first time Amir Randall flew in an airplane, his grandmother took him into the cockpit to meet the pilot. Then at 9 years old, she took him to a Pennsylvania Air National Guard conference, and the pilots showed him around an airplane.
Amir’s grandmother, Gloria Randall, didn’t know it at the time, but she was planting the seeds of a dream. Amir, always a self-motivated student, started researching military branches. He didn’t tell anyone, but he had an action plan.
“Sometimes you take your dreams and aspirations and cook them,” said Gloria Randall. “You can talk the existence out of a dream or aspiration, and it gives people the chance to come in and shut them down.”
The week after Amir turned 17, he took his grandmother – herself an Army veteran – to the Air Force recruiter’s office to sign the papers for his entry in the Air Force Early Enlistment Program. By the beginning of his senior year in CCA, Amir had completed all his school work for graduation and was on his way to training for anticipated service in Air Force Special Operations.
“Education prepares you for any job in your whole life in any job you want,” said Amir, of Philadelphia. “I put everything I had into finishing high school, so later on I have that to look back on. When I feel I can’t complete something, I can say I completed all these other tasks.”
Amir enrolled in CCA in his sophomore year. He had experienced cyber schooling and a private school where he liked the people, “but it wasn’t my style and pace.” He told his grandmother that online schooling would give him his best shot at success, “and she finally gave in.”
“Everything here is at my own pace,” he said. “I don’t think I would be where I am now, physically and mentally, if I went to a traditional school. I wouldn’t have time to do everything I’m doing now.”
As a CCA student, Amir accelerated his academics even while he worked out at the gym for two to three hours a day and attended Air Force training sessions in New Jersey and Delaware. The training can be grueling, but he is learning to break out of his comfort zone, even if it means swimming 500 meters when he doesn’t really know how to swim. Although he’s the youngest in his group, he is already a team leader.
“I never thought I’d be in a position where people talk about me like I’m some kind of beast when I’m working out and they’re trying to keep up with me,” he said. “It’s so crazy that they offer an opportunity like that.”
It’s all aimed at service as an Air Force Tactical Air Control Party Specialist. As a “TACP,” pronounced Tac-P, he’ll be attached to an Army platoon, advising on strategic air support for platoon operations. While he will be Air Force Special Operations, he will be “basically living the Army life,” with opportunities to complete Army Airborne school and train as an elite Army Ranger.
“I joined to protect people,” he said. “I look at students going to college and people having fun, and I’ve always wanted to protect that, so they don’t have to worry about terrorists or not having freedom. I just hope I can fulfill that mission and be credited for helping out and letting people know there’s somebody there to protect them.”
Completion of training will automatically bestow an associate’s degree in information technology. With the addition of college courses, he expects to have his bachelor’s degree in about three years, perhaps in IT or criminal justice. After the Air Force, he has his sights set on applying for the FBI or working for a private military contractor.
With Amir’s goal-oriented mindset, everything is going according to plan, said his grandmother. Whenever he faced difficulties in his school career, she left the decisions up to him, because she knew she could trust his judgment.
“All along, he’s putting his plans in place,” she said. “CCA has been a good challenge for him. He asked to be in English honors. He is very, very academically inclined. His intention was always to be above and beyond.”
And as he embarks on Air Force Special Ops career, his grandmother knows he “looks forward very much to serving his country.”
“I don’t have any fears about it,” she said. “I’m just so grateful that he’s happy about what he’s setting out to do.”