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Student sets sights on Air Force career
Stafford student is so focused on his future he earned his pilot's license at age 17 so he'd have a better shot at flying fighter jets for the Air Force

 Mac Barnes, 18, goes through a preflight check on a Cessna 172 before taking off from Shannon Airport recently. Barnes, a senior at Colonial Forge High School, is working toward his goal of attending the Air Force Academy.
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Date published: 10/15/2012


When Mac Barnes says he wants to be a general in the Air Force one day, it's not just wishful thinking.

The teenager is outlining his plans for the future--plans that included getting his private pilot's license when he was 17 so he would be one step ahead of others who want to fly fighter jets one day.

"I consider it an investment," Barnes said about the $8,000 his family spent on flying lessons. "And it looks great on college applications."

Barnes isn't just focused, he's also a bit of a Renaissance man. And his list of accomplishments isn't limited to flying solo at an age when some kids still don't drive by themselves.

The 18-year-old senior has a 4.2 grade-point average and is in the top 5 percent of his class at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford County.

He has a black belt in tae kwon do and several medals from national competitions.

He plays tenor saxophone in two of the school's premier bands.

Barnes also became a certified lifeguard over the summer.

"Mac seems to have a very clear focus for his life and works relentlessly to attain those goals," said P. Duane Coston, his former band teacher and the current associate director of athletic bands at the University of Virginia. "He has quite a bit going on, and in my experience, the busiest kids are more focused and stay out of trouble."


Barnes also is one of the politest students Coston said he's ever met.

Deidre Walker, Barnes' chemistry teacher last year, said he's just the kind of guy she'd like one of her three daughters to bring home. Considering they're 3, 9 and 11, "they better not bring any boys home for a few more years," she said.

Walker said she wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if Barnes had stars on his uniform one day.

"Mac is a wonderful young person with a bright future ahead of him," she said.

All he has to do is get through high school. Grades aren't the problem; the "tedious" dramas that seem to consume people his age are.

He keeps it in perspective.

"I understand high school is a necessary checkpoint for getting on with everything else," Barnes said.

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