Casey Johnson, an environmental engineering student and Air Force ROTC cadet, has his sights set firmly on the sky and has taken full advantage of all the opportunities that UGA has provided for him to pursue his passion.
Fayette County High School
B.S. in environmental engineering
University highlights, achievements and awards:
December 2012 — Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps In-College Scholarship Recipient
June 2013 — AFROTC Field Training Unit II Distinguished Graduate
April 2014 — The Military Order of the World Wars ROTC Award of Merit
April 2014 — The Reserve Officers Association Award
April 2014 — USAA National Scholarship Nominee
Family Ties to UGA:
None. I’ll actually be the first person in my family to graduate from college. They all love UGA, though. They’ve seen how much it has done for me and how many opportunities I’ve been blessed with since coming here. However, on Saturdays in the fall you would think I come from a long history of UGA grads the way they cheer on the Dogs.
I chose to attend UGA because...
I always want to push myself to be the best student, cadet and person that I am capable of being, and I knew that UGA would challenge me in all those areas. The beautiful campus, growing engineering program, nationally recognized and awarded AFROTC detachment and by far one of the best, if not the best college town in the nation, made the decision to come here pretty easy.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
The AFROTC program will host active duty or retired Air Force officers to come and talk to us cadets about the experiences they’ve had as an officer. We’ve had fighter pilots to engineers and logisticians to maintainers come and speak. While they all have different specialties, they all share the experience of leading and having been in command. I think that it is an invaluable resource for us as cadets to have because we get to hear firsthand about the mission that we are training to accomplish from the people who are out there accomplishing it right now. I try to make it to as many of these talks as I can, not only out of respect for the speaker but because I know that they will have some helpful advice that I can use not only leading my peers here in college as a cadet but also on active duty where I will be leading airmen. Aside from that, walking or going on runs through North Campus is great because between ROTC and Engineering I spend probably 95 percent of my time on the south end, so whenever I get a chance to go to Herty Field or the Founders Memorial Garden I take it. And of course, Saturdays in Sanford Stadium.
When I have free time, I like...
“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” — Leonardo da Vinci.
I could not agree with him more. Flying gives me a feeling that I’ve never been able to reproduce or really effectively communicate to other people. I tell people that it is a mix of adrenaline, peace, anxiety, beauty and freedom all at the same time. I guess I can see why it is hard for some to understand, but I love every second that I am up there. Every time I go up it just reaffirms that this was where I was meant to be. I’ve been working toward getting my private pilot’s license not only because I love flying but it also looks good on the application package that will get sent to the USAF pilot selection review board next spring.
The craziest thing I've done is...
In the fall of 2013, I got the opportunity to go fly with a gentleman down in Williamson, near Griffin, doing some formation flying as well as some aerobatic flight, which is the kind of flying that you see pilots do at air shows where they roll the airplane, go inverted, do loops and all. I got to do some high-G maneuvers around +4.5 G’s. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time I was up there. It was definitely one of the wildest things I’ve gotten to do.
My favorite place to study is...
When it is crunch time, I go to the second floor of the science library. The study areas up there are tucked away among the rows and rows of books, which makes for a nice, studious atmosphere. Plus no one is ever up there so it is always quiet.
My favorite professor is...
… David Gattie in the College of Engineering. Not only is he a great teacher and mentor, but he is also just a great person. He will do everything in his power to make sure that his students have what they need to succeed both in the classroom and out. Engineering is unique in that once we graduate we’re expected to go out into the workforce and perform, and I believe Dr. Gattie prepares us for that by demanding extremely high-quality work from us in the academic setting.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
I know the question says “anyone,” but I would want to spend it with multiple people—my family. My family is spread out all over the country and I hardly ever get to see them all at the same time, so if I could have them all together in one place for the afternoon, that would make me extremely happy.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from ROTC, especially from those active and retired Air Force officers, is that failure, in our line of work, is not an option. We simply cannot and will not fail ourselves, our wingman, our mission or our country. I have been working on applying this mindset to all aspects of my life and I have had so many opportunities present themselves to me, and I believe that it is a result of not being afraid of failure. I truly believe that if I put 100 percent of myself into something, I will not fail.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
Go to outer space. I think space is so cool. The way things behave in zero gravity and the physics involved in orbiting the Earth get the nerdy engineer in me excited.
After graduation, I plan to...
I have contracted with the USAF for a four-year active duty followed by a four-year Reserve service commitment. If I get selected to become a pilot, then the commitment goes up to about 12 years active duty and another four in the Reserve. So unlike a lot of my friends who are trying to figure out their life after graduation, I have my path set in stone and I couldn’t be more excited.