Alexander receives nod to join US Air Force Academy

Molalla High School’s Austin Alexander has been accepted to join the United States Air Force Academy’s Class of 2020 after receiving a nomination Friday from Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.

Alexander was notified in an email that he could expect to receive an official letter from Merkley this week, giving him the final piece needed to complete an application process that started nine months ago.

“It means the world to me,” Alexander said. “I’ve always wanted to serve my country, and getting accepted into the Air Force Academy is the perfect start to that.

“It’s amazing that I’m getting a full-ride scholarship to receive one of the best educations around. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Alexander, 18, said he received a letter of assurance from the Air Force Academy on Dec. 18, telling him that he had been accepted as a prospective cadet, provided he could secure a congressional nomination.

He only told a few people about the letter, because the admission process wouldn’t be complete without a nomination, and he “didn’t want to jinx anything.”

Two weeks ago, Alexander received a glowing review after doing a 15-minute phone interview with a retired Navy officer who had called on behalf of Merkley.

Alexander was on his way home from a Molalla FFA road clean-up project Friday morning when he received an email notifying him of Merkley’s nomination.

Actually, it was his mother, Gina Bilyeu, who saw the email first and was weeping as Alexander walked in the front door.

“That was a pretty special moment,” Alexander said. “My initial reaction … well, I was so shell-shocked by the news that I had absolutely no emotion.

“It didn’t really hit me until Friday night when I posted on Twitter and Instagram, and everyone started to respond a congratulate me. That’s when it hit me that I’d been nominated and I was going to have the opportunity to attend the Air Force Academy.

“I’m definitely very proud, and I know a lot of people are proud of me.”