Ryan Kerns and Luke Louderback have been friends since their days at Sangre Ridge Elementary School. Today, they take that friendship to Colorado Springs, Colo., where they begin basic training at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The Stillwater High School graduates received full scholarships to the four-year academy, with Kerns planning to study engineering and, Louderback, political science.

Along with his academics, Louderback, the Pioneers’ starting quarterback the last two years, will also play football.

“Sometimes, the academics will be tough,” Louderback said. “But football will keep me in line.”

Louderback added though going to a new place far from home is difficult, having Kerns there will help.

Kerns and Louderback decided on the Air Force in different ways. While Louderback’s decision was more recent, Kerns said he has wanted to enter the Air Force since the eighth grade.

Both started the strenuous application process last summer, which included having to formally apply to the academy, get letters of recommendation and contact U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-3rd District.

Kerns’ mother, Susan Kerns, said her son first heard from Lucas in December, and in January, he received word he had been appointed.

Susan, who went with her son to orientation a few weeks ago, said she is very proud of her son for taking on such a big commitment.

“You do feel proud that he’s willing to do that and to serve his country after,” she said.

It wasn’t until a year ago that Louderback decided he wanted to go into the Air Force.

“I could have stayed at (Oklahoma State University), but I knew somewhere down the line I wanted to serve the country,” Louderback said. “It felt like you fit in more (in the Air Force).”

Louderback, whose step-brother is back from his service in Iraq, said the football coaches and the scenery helped in his decision to attend the academy.

The most exciting part of playing football for Air Force will be during the rivalry games against Navy and Army, Louderback said, when he’s on the field in front of thousands of service men and women.

Louderback’s mother, Brenda Cunningham, said she thinks it’s a wonderful opportunity for her son, adding “the leadership training they receive there is priceless.”

Cunningham said she plans on going to visit her son during the academy’s Parents Weekend at Labor Day. Parents can attend class with their children and see their regular routine, she said.

Cunningham said although Kerns and Louderback grew up together, they are quite different: Kerns was in the marching band while Louderback played football.

However, both will mature during the six weeks of basic training before classes start in the fall, Cunningham said.

Trending Video

Recommended for you