The highlight of Maj. Jameson Lamie's 10-year reunion at the Air Force Academy in 2019 was not reconnecting with former classmates.
Instead, it was seeing a first-generation American from El Salvador in his uniform for the first time. The two met when the cadet was a high school sophomore, and Lamie helped him through the application process.
"That was very satisfying, very fulfilling, for me,'' Lamie said.
After serving on active duty, Lamie, 34, has been an academy admissions liaison officer, or ALO, for five years in the Air Force Reserve. ALOs act as a mentor, sounding board and guiding light rolled into one. Every service academy utilizes them in some form, although the Navy refers to them as Blue and Gold officers and the Coast Guard calls them academy admissions partners.
Whatever the job title, their responsibilities are similar.
They can include:
- Often serving as the first point of contact for applicants
- Spreading the benefits of an academy education at high school events, college fairs, etc.
- Building relationships with parents, counselors and teachers
- Assisting and evaluating candidates for admission by providing written reports
- Conducting interviews for scholarships
"I always tell my candidates that it is a marathon and not a sprint,'' Lamie said. "Don't expect to pull the application up one morning, complete it, click send and be good to go. It's going to take months to get this thing done.''
Applying to a service academy is much more involved than trying to gain admittance to a regular university. Besides the items on a normal college admissions checklist -- test scores and grade point average, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, etc. -- an academy sets physical fitness standards and requires a medical exam.
Lt. Cmdr. Tony Borruso, associate director of admissions for recruiting at the Coast Guard Academy, said its academy admissions partners are a force multiplier.
"They get us to places that we normally wouldn't be able to cover with just five [full-time admissions officers] and the limited travel that we can do,'' he said.
ALOs are assigned applicants based on their geographic region. The Air Force and Coast Guard academies, as well as West Point, have about 1,100 ALOs each -- less than half of the 2,300 Blue and Gold officers in the Naval Academy's admissions network.
ALOs often are volunteers with some connection to their respective academy. Others are reservists. Fifty-seven military academy liaison officers, or MALOs, at West Point currently come from the Army's Individual Ready Reserve program, spokeswoman Elizabeth Woodruff said via email. The rest are volunteers.
At the Air Force Academy, 230 are reservists whose primary responsibility is being an ALO. Other Air Force reservists serve as ALOs as their duties allow.
"When I was a high school student, the ALO that was assigned to me was very helpful and very insightful throughout the process,'' Lamie said. "I was looking for options in the Reserves. The admissions liaison officer [job] was already on my mind, and I did a little more research. Just the idea of helping other high school students like my ALO helped me was a big factor.''
Lamie recently moved from the Washington, D.C., area to his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His duties as an ALO transferred along with him.
No matter where ALOs are located, a common goal drives them.
"There's all kinds of ways that different partners from different walks of the service and different walks of life get fulfillment,'' Borruso said. "The bottom line is being able to work with the best and brightest kids in America and bring them into a service that people are passionate about.''