Porterville Military Academy has done it again. For the second consecutive year, a PMA Cadet has been accepted into the Air Force Flight Academy summer aviation training program where he will be soaring high and earning his wings.
PMA Cadet Tristin Galvan, 19, a senior who has attended PMA since eighth grade, has been accepted into the Aim High Flight Academy through the Air Force Recruiting Service where he will earn his private pilot certificate.
With more than 3,000 applicants, an approximate 200 were selected — and Galvan was one of them.
Galvan, who has been promoted to Cadet Major in the California Cadet Corp, a Commanding Officer at PMA, and First Commanding Officer of the Lucky 13 Brigade at PMA, will travel to a yet-to-be-determined college university across the country and spend an approximate eight weeks in training where he will also get 15 flight hours and be guaranteed his first solo flight.
The flight academy is intended to inspire and encourage high school youth toward aviation careers. There's no commitment to the United States Air Force upon graduation. The scholarship program is a collaborative effort between the aerospace industry and the Air Force to address a national pilot shortage.
The interview process, though, was lengthy, Galvan said, and included an essay, documentations, and a biological sketch of life.
He credits Retired Lt. Colonel Fred Dohnke, and Porterville Unified School District Aviation Pathway Lead and instructor Minervo Ramirez, for all the work they’ve done and their commitment to help him achieve his goals.
But from the beginning, Galvan said, he has been dedicated and has worked towards what he wanted to achieve. He said he knows with his training at PMA, it's going to get him ahead.
Galvan said he was at Hume Lake with his best friend Brady Unruh, PMA’s first licensed pilot, during Christmas break when he received an email on his cell phone of his acceptance into the program.
He also noticed he had an approximate dozen missed calls. It was three days after his birthday and the news was a great gift to receive, he said.
“My grandpa is very excited,” Galvan said, and he talked of how his grandfather was once a California Hotshot who fought wildfires.
Joel Galvan said he was proud of his grandson and said he's someone who's always striving to do his best.
“He’s accomplished a lot since he’s been there,” Joel Galvan said about PMA. “When he first joined, he had a hard time integrating but by his second year, he took off.”
And soon he was excelling and loving it, Joel Galvan said.
“All the accomplishments were on his own. He really advanced and understood the qualification for progress,” Joel Galvan said. “He volunteers for everything and he shot up in rank so fast. He wanted to be Battalion Commander and he’s done it all on his own. His own initiative really propelled him. He’s really accomplished a lot. He just wants to serve. And the school has given him a lot of maturity.”
“Cadet Galvan has been a leader at this school since its beginning. It was great to see him get selected for this very competitive opportunity,” Dohnke said. “I know he will do well and we look forward to his success at CAU (California Aeronautical University) and with what follows.”
For now, Galvan said he's looking forward to the summer program and towards his future — including flying with his best friend Unruh, who was the first PMA cadet to be accepted into and graduate from the same program last summer.
And when Unruh obtained his license to fly solo, Galvan was one of his first passengers.
On October 9, the two friends drove to the Visalia Airport, where Unruh rented a Cesna 152 for the ride.
“I looked over at Brady and said, ‘One year ago, we couldn’t drive on a highway, and now, we are flying over one,’” Galvan said. “It seems like it should be illegal but it’s not, for two (teens) to be in a plane flying over the 99 in a pattern.”
They flew 3 to 4 miles high for an approximate 25 to 30 minutes, Galvan said, adding Unruh also flew up some family members that day.
“It was a great experience,” Galvan said.
And soon, it will be Galvan sitting in the pilot’s seat. But that will be just the beginning.
Both friends have been accepted and will attend California Aeronautical University in Bakersfield next fall, where they will train to be commercial pilots.
After college, Galvan said his goal is to fly for the Tulare County Sheriffs Office, and, like his grandfather, work for Cal Fire. He said he would also like to return to PMA to be a flight instructor.
PMA Principal Doug Ihmels said having two students selected for the program on back-to-back years is wonderful but it all stems back to the amazing opportunity the students at PMA receive.
“Obviously it’s a great feedback for our aviation pathway but also an amazing opportunity for our kids to be able to do this,” Ihmels said. “It is quite remarkable.”
Last year, PMA’s Unruh was No. 1 in the class, Ihmels said, and that helped set the path for another PMA student to enter the program.
“Behind all this work is Colonel Dohnke and Mr. Ramirez, for giving the kids this opportunity,” Ihmels said. “They have to be ready for the intensity of this program.”
The unique PUSD Pathway program isn't a school for troubled kids, as some people appear to believe, he said, but a unique military school offering students opportunities not available elsewhere.
The school’s goal is to develop 21st Century leaders who will be agents of change in business, politics, the community and in public service.
“Cadet Galvan is a great example of the outstanding students here at Porterville Military Academy,” said Dohnke. “That’s the kind of kids we are looking for here.”
Applications for attending PMA are now open. Interested parents can call the front office at 559-782-7300 for more information.