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Wing member’s son heads to Air Force Academy

Erik Ruiz and his father, Master Sgt. Ben Ruiz, check out an F-16 static display in the 162nd Fighter Wing air park. Sergeant Ruiz is an avionics technician with 22 years of experience at the wing. Erik is currently a freshman at the Air Force Academy pursuing his dream to become a fighter pilot. (Air National Guard Photo by Capt. Gabe Johnson)

Erik Ruiz and his father, Master Sgt. Ben Ruiz, check out an F-16 static display in the 162nd Fighter Wing air park. Sergeant Ruiz is an avionics technician with 22 years of experience at the wing. Erik is currently a freshman at the Air Force Academy pursuing his dream to become a fighter pilot. (Air National Guard Photo by Capt. Gabe Johnson)

Cadet Erik Ruiz will trade in his New Mexico Military Institute uniform for the Air Force Academy cadet uniform. In addition to contending with the challenges of being an academy cadet, Erik will play varsity baseball for the Falcons as a pitcher. (Courtesy Photo)

Cadet Erik Ruiz will trade in his New Mexico Military Institute uniform for the Air Force Academy cadet uniform. In addition to contending with the challenges of being an academy cadet, Erik will play varsity baseball for the Falcons as a pitcher. (Courtesy Photo)

Cadet Erik Ruiz will trade in his New Mexico Military Institute uniform for the Air Force Academy cadet uniform. In addition to contending with the challenges of being an academy cadet, Erik will play varsity baseball for the Falcons as a pitcher. (Courtesy Photo)

Cadet Erik Ruiz will trade in his New Mexico Military Institute uniform for the Air Force Academy cadet uniform. In addition to contending with the challenges of being an academy cadet, Erik will play varsity baseball for the Falcons as a pitcher. (Courtesy Photo)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A 162nd Fighter Wing avionics technician is the proud father of a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet.

Master Sgt. Ben Ruiz, recently bid farewell to his eldest son, Erik, 19, who reported to the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 25 to begin his freshman year. Erik's academy appointment is the culmination of years of hard work and represents the first step to realizing his dream to become a fighter pilot.

"His mother and I very proud of him," said Sergeant Ruiz. "We're happy that he's pursuing his dreams."

As a junior at Ironwood Ridge High School, Erik made a conscious decision to apply to the academy. He attended a one-week summer program before the start of his senior year.

"I could tell it was really prestigious and they took great pride in everything they did," said Erik, "I wanted to be a part of that."

After graduating high school in 2007, Erik attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, a preparatory school for many aspiring academy cadets.

"The most important thing I learned at the prep school was time management," he said. "I feel that my year at the institute, in a military training environment, will give me a great advantage when making the adjustment to academy life."

The application process was extremely difficult Erik said. The congressional interviews were competitive and he was still filling out forms until they day he reported.

Erik was interviewed by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Sen. John McCain who endorsed him for selection.

"Senator McCain was really thorough in his interview. He really intended to gage my character," said Erik.

According to Sergeant Ruiz, his son received substantial assistance from the wing while navigating the competitive admissions process.

"Brig. Gen. Rick Moisio, the wing commander, gave Erik a letter of recommendation; the Jimmy Jet Foundation awarded him the Col. James Fiorelli Scholarship which he used at the Military Institute; and Maj. Greg Gaff talked to Erik at length about the benefits of being an Air Force pilot," said Sergeant Ruiz.

"I'm just grateful to everyone who helped me get here," said Erik. "Now I'm ready to get started."