RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Four more Rio Rancho residents have congressional nominations to military service academies, according to information from U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján’s office.
Cleveland High School students Brandon Vasquez Gonzales, Sidney Robey and Tyler Bouton, and Evan Watry, a Rio Rancho resident attending Explore Academy charter school in Albuquerque, received nominations from Luján, D-N.M.
Local students Natalie Dempsey and Jared Montgomery, and Eric Borrego, a Rio Rancho native attending the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, received nominations from Luján and one of the U.S. senators from New Mexico. A panel of veterans interviews each candidate, who has already submitted a lengthy application and two 500-word essays.
The vice president can also nominate students for service academies, but the Observer has not yet obtained his list.
The nominations are necessary for appointments to military academies, with the exception of the Coast Guard Academy, but don’t guarantee admission. Most candidates learn if they were accepted to an academy in March or April.
Bouton, the son of two Air Force veterans, said the hardest question the panel asked him was why he wanted to serve in the military when the nation was headed in a direction some would consider negative.
“I said I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to be part of the difference,” he recalled.
He estimated the interview took about half an hour.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking because it was my first interview ever,” Bouton said.
He thought his leadership on the CHS track team influenced his nomination. He hopes to continue running track at the Air Force Academy.
“I really want to go into the military, so I figure the best way is to shoot high for the Air Force Academy,” he said, inspired by his parents’ service.
He likes the prospect of a military lifestyle, seeing the world, making lifelong friendships and being challenged.
“I don’t want to go to school and just breeze through it,” he said. “That would be really boring to me.”
Bouton hopes to major in computer science and handle communication between aircraft and ground troops.
While waiting to learn if he’ll be accepted, he’s lifting weights to prepare for track season, keeping his grades up and making a backup plan to attend New Mexico State University if he doesn’t get into the academy.
Robey, a CHS cheerleader, wants to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, get a degree in aeronautical engineering and become a pilot. That dream started after a 2016 trip to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where she attended a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and talked with veterans.
The visit led her to decide she wanted to protect and serve her country in case anything like that attack happened again.
On the same trip, Robey’s brother-in-law told her about his job as a Navy pilot and introduced her to the academy.
“Ever since then, that’s where I wanted to go and I just fell more and more in love with it,” she said.
Robey visited the Naval Academy in March and shadowed a student, who was also a cheerleader, for a few days. Then, she was invited back in June for a two-week summer program.
Her father, Rio Rancho Police Lt. Tim Robey, said she received a third invitation to visit but couldn’t go.
For now, cheerleading is keeping her busy three or four hours a day, five or six days a week, and she’s working on getting in shape for the academy’s version of basic training, hoping she is accepted.
“Sidney did it all on her own,” her father said, recalling that she began the application process online on New Year’s Day 2018.
He said the family was proud and happy with Sidney’s goal and progress toward it.
Evan Watry is hoping for an appointment to the Air Force Academy, where his father is an alumnus, or the Naval Academy because he wants to “serve my country and really do something,” he said.
He added that regular universities don’t have the same opportunities, such as learning to fly gliders, that the academies do.
Watry wants to become a pilot, but doesn’t have a preference on the type of aircraft.
“I’d be fine flying anything, to be honest,” he said.
He expects to major in engineering. Watry said he’d been thinking about attending a service academy for a long time, and last summer, he decided “to get a jump on the application.” The process is long, but he said he focused on one piece at a time to keep from getting overwhelmed.
Lately, he’s been making sure to do well academically and on the ACT, was well as playing soccer with Explore Academy and working out.
“It doesn’t surprise Evan’s dad and I that he would’ve set his sights for this because he’s very driven,” said Watry’s mother, Julia Watry, adding that her son doesn’t quit when he sets a goal. “Whether he does receive this appointment or not, we’re very proud of him that he’s reached this level.”
She said she’s also proud of the other young people who also received nominations.
“They’ve worked very hard to get to this place,” Julia Watry said.
She said those students will succeed in life.
Vasquez Gonzales was not available for comment.