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CHS senior plans to stay in Air Force 30 years

Coeur d'Alene High School senior Nick Wilson practices his baritone euphonium in the music room at Coeur d'Alene High School. 
 (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Coeur d'Alene High School senior Nick Wilson practices his baritone euphonium in the music room at Coeur d'Alene High School. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Carl Gidlund Correspondent

Nick Wilson’s eyes are on the stars.

A graduating senior from Coeur d’Alene High, the 17-year-old will enter the Air Force on July 19 to pursue a career that, he hopes, will put him into space.

Why that service?

“My grandfather, Clifford Fowler, served 29 years in the Air Force. He was in ordnance – even got to sign his name on the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima. He pushed me in that direction.

“Then too, my brother Bryon, who’s been in the Marines for the past three years, said he’d kick my butt if I joined the Marine Corps.”

Wilson moved here from Orangeville, just north of Sacramento, two years ago with his dad, John, stepmother Linda, and stepbrother Zachary Vincent, a Coeur d’Alene High junior.

“It’s really been great here,” Wilson says. “It’s peaceful, everyone seems to get along well, Coeur d’Alene High is a whole lot nicer in terms of classes and upkeep than my last school, and the air is so clean. You can even see the stars at night.”

He is a baritone player in the Viking’s band, and his band teacher, Jim Phillips, also played a bit part in suiting him up in Air Force blue. Phillips is a captain in the Washington Air National Guard, the leader of the Guard’s Band of the Northwest.

“Nick and I talked about the military,” Phillips says. “And I told him that the Air Force treats its people lots better than any other service.”

Wilson is a 6-foot-3-inch 170-pounder, a former baseball and basketball player who looks as though he could easily take care of himself in hand-to-hand combat if it came to that.

But science and technology appeal to him more than rifles, rucksacks and mud.

“I’m going to make the Air Force a career,” Wilson says. “I want to serve for 30 years.”

His recruiter, Master Sgt. Gary Aittama, says Wilson selected his military occupational specialty, missile and space facilities, from among 150 career fields open to enlistees.

After basic training in Texas, he’ll attend a six-week technical school in Colorado, then begin working in his military specialty.

“As soon as I get comfortable in my job, I’ll begin studying for a college degree,” he says. “The Air Force will pay for it.”

His career plans call for a bachelor’s plus an advanced degree and a commission into officer ranks. That will lead, he hopes, to assignments to work on satellites, space stations and other military hardware floating above the earth.

Nick’s dreams don’t stop there. Within the next five years, he intends to start paying on 100 acres in Wyoming where he’ll live after he retires from the service, “Because land’s cheap there,” he says.

“My dad’s a contractor and he’ll help me build a home. I’ll retire on 75 percent of my military pay, and I hope to open a card trading shop then.”

His stepmom is thrilled with his choice: “He’ll always have a roof over his head and will be taken care of,” she says. “His stepbrother already says he’ll follow Nick into the Air Force.”

Aittama shares in Linda Wilson’s pride: “Nick’s a smart young man, and is a great example of what young people can look forward to if they stay healthy, out of trouble, and keep their grades up.”

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