Ian Gibson’s day starts at 6:30 a.m. when he, along with 4,000 other cadets from the United States Air Force Academy, form in squadrons before breakfast. Then he takes five minutes to eat and has anywhere from two to five classes before noon formation and lunch. The afternoon is spent in briefings from generals, classes on military knowledge or history and then another block of classes before dinner. Every other day, he spends three hours at the airfield, flying his T-51 Cessna as part of the Academy’s flying team. He takes a leisurely 30-minute dinner break. “I’m pretty liberal with my time at dinner. I even get an extra bowl of ice cream,” he said. The food is pretty good, considering that they have to feed 4,000 cadets in 20 minutes, but he swears nothing compares to his mom’s tacos.
After dinner, he goes to the academic building to complete homework and study. He has to be back in his room by 11 p.m. so leaves the academic building 15 minutes prior. He finishes the day by studying or other duties in his room, and falls into bed just after midnight. “By that time whatever I’m doing, I just call it good for the day and get some sleep before it all starts again,” he said.
In his downtime, which isn’t much, he enjoys reading and playing the guitar. He looks forward to coming home to Casper during breaks from the Academy, and tries not to let the tacos get the better of him.
Four years of keeping this grueling schedule has paid off. Gibson will graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics and Spanish in May, maintaining a 3.97 GPA. But his list of accomplishments has merely begun.
He has an interest in serving others; it’s the driving force behind his plan for his life. In 2011, he founded Capital for a Cause, a non-profit which provides micro-loans to impoverished individuals. Capital for a Cause has managed 56 micro-loans in 15 countries.
He was a student fellow at the University of Hong Kong, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic, conducted independent micro-finance research in Italy, the Bahamas, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Ukraine. Gibson was an Aspen Institute Scholar Fellow, an International Georgetown Fellow at the Asia Institute for Political Economy, and won the Truman Scholarship, named for Harry S. Truman and given to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who’re committed to careers in public service.
In November, Gibson was awarded the Marshall Scholarship, which allows American college graduates to complete two years of study at a top university in England. The scholarship is funded through the British government and was named in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Gibson plans to attend the London School of Economics his first year in the program, earning a master’s degree in International Political Economy and hopes to attend Oxford for the second year, completing a second master’s degree which would complement his field of study.
Despite all of his awards and accomplishments, Gibson remains modest. “If I had to choose one word to describe me, it would be blessed. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of success, but I attribute that to the great opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of. It’s less to do with me and more to do with the blessing of good opportunities,” he said.
His parents, Ron and Sue Gibson, are also his heroes. “Going back to why you think you’re successful, a big part is the support I’ve gotten from them. And they serve others and I think that has been my motivation for wanting to serve others as well,” he said.
Another word to describe Gibson would be determined. It takes dedication to log the kind of hours that Gibson does, without ceasing, for four years. He said he was in 7th grade when he decided that the Air Force Academy was where he wanted to be and set out with laser-sharp focus to get there. The first year at the academy is designed to wean out the weak and toughen the strong. “It teaches you to manage your time very well. Unfortunately the ones who don’t manage their time end up with more time, outside of the Academy,” Gibson said.
He said the training starts the minute you step off the bus, beginning with six weeks of basic training before the academic schedules begin. “It’s a very physical, very mental sort of thing, but those are the rigors of the Academy and you’re not alone. You do it with some of your very best friends,” he said.
What does he plan to do with all of the blessings that he’s received? Gibson wants to give back, not just to those who’ve helped him, but to the world. “I aim to become a political military affairs strategist serving with the U.S. Southern Command,” he said.
The Southern Command develops policy initiatives which promote economic development and prosperity in Latin America. He hopes to impact the region on an economic front, with an emphasis on humanitarian aid and economic stabilization. “Improving the living conditions of the impoverished in Latin America is integral to the Southern Command’s work and my life’s passion,” he said.
Gibson would seriously consider an offer from the Academy to return as an instructor. “I would happily teach in Economics, or any other department that would take me,” he said.
It’s hard for him to pinpoint the moment that he realized that what he really wanted in life was to serve others, but he recalls the moment when he saw his father standing on a train platform in the Ukraine, with tears rolling down his face as he placed a few coins into a homeless woman’s outstretched hand. “At that moment, my dad, without knowing, instilled within me the importance of providing for the less fortunate. I hope to look back on my life knowing that I didn’t ignore those in need and that I impacted lives for the better. Only then will I have fully realized my goal,” he said.