Air Force Junior ROTC cadet adds to ‘hero’ resume with private pilot certificate

  • Published
  • By Christian P. Hodge
  • Headquarters Air Force JROTC Public Affairs

An Air Force Junior ROTC cadet added a very particular set of skills to her already impressive toolbox when she earned her private pilot certificate through the Air Force JROTC Flight Academy at the University of West Florida in Pensacola over the summer.

Cadet Col. Lexy Ly, Cherokee High School AFJROTC Unit GA-953, Canton, Georgia, successfully graduated from the flight academy on July 22, 2022, where she passed every phase with flying colors and even came within three minutes of the fastest oral exam in the school’s history. 

“My father is an Army veteran, and as a child, we often detoured from vacations to tour military bases. I have always found flight interesting from a very young age,” said Ly. “That is where I fell in love with the CH-47 [Chinook helicopter] as its unique features are often the target of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs.’”

Ly is taking her childhood visions and making them reality.

“I started off dreaming of people one day saying to me, ‘Thank you for your service,’ as they often do to my dad. That dream grew into being someone people look up to, perhaps a hero of sorts. Ultimately, my dream always ended with me being a pilot, fighting for my country and being a hero; that’s how it all began for me. When the flight academy seemed within reach, I realized perhaps my dreams weren’t that unattainable,” said Ly.

According to one of her JROTC instructors, she is well on her way to attaining hero status.

“Cadet Ly is a self-disciplined individual. She does Jiu-Jitsu and Taekwondo and has a couple of world championships under her belt,” said retired Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Bise. “A self-driven cadet, she knows what she wants and goes after it. If she pursues a career in the military, she will make an outstanding officer, and of course, a pilot.”

Developed specifically for AFJROTC high school cadets, the flight academy is an intensive, 8-week summer training course conducted at partnering universities nationwide. Following successful completion, each participant earns a private pilot certification.

The AFJROTC Flight Academy was conceptualized in 2017 as a result of the then-Air Force Chief of Staff’s participation in the National Pilot Sourcing Forum and the Aircrew Crisis Task Force, both of which aimed to develop enduring solutions for pilot recruiting, retention and diversity challenges that impact the Air Force and the aviation industry.

Increasing pilot diversity is key to increasing the strength of the Air Force and ultimately will contribute to the health of the nation.

“I am from a mixed race, my mother is Caucasian, and my father is Hmong, so I have always been different than everyone else, and at a young age I was taught to embrace being different,” said Ly. “I am into my senior year and holding the post of commander of my unit. My goal and dream is to attend a military college, and one day be a pilot in the armed services serving my country.”

Bise said he knew Ly would be a successful cadet as a freshman.

“Thus far, Cadet Ly has done a phenomenal job leading our program. She’s led several meetings with leadership cadets to plan the many activities for our fall semester,” said Bise. “I’m excited to see her lead the Corps of Cadets this year.”

Her parents are incredible cheerleaders for everything she does he added.

“My first couple years [in AFJROTC] I was quiet, hiding in the shadows, never wanting to be the center of attention. My mentors and peers helped me grow confident and stand out as someone they could always count on,” said Ly. “I am ecstatic to have had the honor and privilege of earning my PPC at the age of 17. It is truly a dream come true and a steppingstone for what the future holds for me. It has and will open many opportunities for me, and I plan to embrace them all.”

For more information on AFJROTC and the flight academy go to

Photo caption: Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet Lexy Ly, Cherokee High School AFJROTC Unit GA-953, Canton, Georgia, is presented with her private pilot certificate from Lamar Childs, her designated pilot examiner at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. Ly graduated from the AFJROTC Flight Academy on July 22, 2022, and she said her dream has always been of being a pilot, fighting for her country and being a hero. (Courtesy photo)