NEW YORK, NY — On May 18, 2017, just over 24 hours after graduating from Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, sabre fencer Chris Ahn received another certificate. As Ahn's diploma signified the end to his college career, this one represented a new beginning: Ahn was commissioned as a second lieutenant to the US Air Force.
The commission ceremony was held at Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University. Ahn was the sole member of Columbia's Class of 2017 to be commissioned to the Air Force. Kelsey Lynch ‘17BC was commissioned to the Navy and James Ward ‘17GS was commissioned to the Marines at the same ceremony.
After completing a fencing career that includes two NCAA Championships, four Ivy League team titles and a 99-73 career record, Ahn will now put down his sabre and leave fencing behind. In October, he begins Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at the Laughlin Air Force Base in his home state of Texas.
“Fencing gave me a lot of skills,” Ahn said. “I have so many memories from fencing and I'll keep on following my team at Columbia. I'll still have the sport in my heart but I think I'm ready to move on to the Air Force and fully embrace what it means to be a pilot.”
Ahn is the first fencer to be commissioned to the Air Force under seven year Columbia Head Coach Michael Aufrichtig.
“It's really amazing that he will represent Columbia and our national championship fencing team in the Air Force,” Aufrichtig said. “I know that he will take a lot of qualities and things that he learned on our fencing team and bring them with him to the Air Force.”
Ahn was selected to become a pilot in the US Air Force after completing the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program at Manhattan College's Detachment 560. He was the only NCAA Division I athlete in his detachment.
“Chris is so strong on being a pilot that there is not going to be anything that stops him from doing that,” Captain Carpentieri, Ahn's ROTC Captain said. “He's conquered the first challenge which is just get selected for it. When he goes to his pilot training, I am sure that his confidence will allow him to succeed as he's done with fencing at Columbia and as he's done in the ROTC.”
Ahn shared that fencing at Columbia gave him strong self-confidence and the ability to thrive under pressure. Most importantly, it taught him how to be a winner. He will definitely take those qualities with him as he soars on to his next chapter.