Cadet BC prepares for Air Force officer path

A LESSON IN PERSEVERANCE: Cadet Battalion Commander Poythress, Class of 2015

On May 9, college sophomore David Poythress of Leeds, Ala., received his degree from Marion Military Institute (MMI), a milestone marker on his long path to joining the U.S. Air Force. A home-schooled, Oxford Christian Academy 2013 graduate, Cadet Poythress began his journey to join the Air Force by enrolling at MMI as a Service Academy Program self-prep cadet—a back-up plan after being turned down by the Air Force Academy as a high school candidate. Despite the hardship of the initial denial, Poythress showed up at MMI with a dedication that stood out immediately. “You’ve got to continue to take things seriously even when you are disappointed,” said Poythress. “I wanted to finish what I had started.”

Poythress, very quickly rose to the top of several leadership positions at MMI, carrying a maturity and composure that stood out amongst his peers from the beginning. He was elected a Company Commander his freshman year at MMI and rose to the highest cadet rank of Battalion Commander his sophomore year.  He received the TAC Officer’s Exemplary Leadership Award, the Commandant of Cadets Citizenship Award, the John Hunt Morgan Leadership Award, the Wilkerson Award, and the Honor Company of the Battalion award.  Academically, he excelled as well. He was on the President’s List for two semesters, he was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, was a peer tutor, and had a GPA of a 4.0. 

All of these awards and accolades are above and beyond what most cadets achieve while at MMI, and all of these achievements were forged in the face of disappointment. After Poythress’ first year at MMI, he again applied to the Air Force Academy and felt confident with his outstanding resume that this time he would succeed.  But again, he was faced with the disappointment of a rejection letter. Instead of shifting his goals and turning away from his path towards the Air Force, Poythress found the silver lining—that the Academy did not have to be his sole route to becoming an Air Force officer. Through MMI’s self-prep program, Poythress realized he already had two years of Air Force ROTC under his belt. Many cadets that have traveled this road have turned away, deciding that two rejections were enough.  But Poythress saw the set-ups more so as stepping stones.  He embraced the military environment, leaning on his peers all while supporting them in reaching their own goals, many of whom were Air Force Academy bound. But for Poythress, that wasn’t a tough pill to swallow:

I wanted to get on with my life, and so I decided to put 100% of my effort into getting a field training slot, which is a prerequisite to continuing with Air Force ROTC. And so I decided to focus all of my energy on that and basically put all of my eggs in the basket of AFROTC, and that ended up paying off.  I’ll commission a year before the sponsored Academy cadets that I was here with. Which is cool.

Poythress leaves MMI with a firm grasp on the value of persevering despite set-backs, a skill that will no doubt serve him well as he heads to Maxwell Air Force base at Camp Shelby, Miss., to go through 27 days of intense and physical field training.  Upon completion, Poythress will continue on as an officer-in-training at the University of Alabama for the next two years. 

Poythress credits his upbringing, his leadership training in the Boy Scouts, and the environment of MMI as the paramount factors in getting him into a position to capitalize on the opportunities provided.  “Everyone [at MMI] showed up with the attitude of ‘now, I’ve got to earn it,’” said Poythress.  “They were all motivated, willing to help each other; those are some of the strongest bonds, the most motivated and dedicated people you will ever find.”

With that strong foundation, Poythress hopes to succeed in his military training and begin a lifelong career in the U.S. Air Force.