US Air Force Academy Squadron 26 (The Barons) C3C Vincent LoPiccolo, C3C Jack Giannettino, C3C Matthew Walters, C3C Reese Wendfeldt, C3C Dalton King, and C3C Joel Weber. Through the social media platform TikTok, the “Baron Boot Boys” have ammassed 371,000 followers and 4 million likes on the platform. Photo: USAFA
Photo Caption & Credits

Faces of the Force

US Air Force Academy Squadron 26 (The Barons) C3C Vincent LoPiccolo, C3C Jack Giannettino, C3C Matthew Walters, C3C Reese Wendfeldt, C3C Dalton King, and C3C Joel Weber. Through the social media platform TikTok, the “Baron Boot Boys” have ammassed 371,000 followers and 4 million likes on the platform. Photo: USAFA

A group of US Air Force Academy cadets from Squadron 26 (known as “The Barons”) have become social media celebrities and unofficial Academy ambassadors via the short-video platform TikTok. The “Baron Boot Boys”—C3C Vincent LoPiccolo, C3C Jack Giannettino, C3C Matthew Walters, C3C Reese Wendfeldt, C3C Dalton King, and C3C Joel Weber—amassed over 371,000 followers and 4 million likes on the platform, which the Pentagon banned from members’ use in early January. In a recent group interview with Air Force Magazine, Weber said the videos—which feature choreography pulled from viral dance challenges and satirical takes on different aspects of military culture—are chiefly meant “to make people laugh.” Raising awareness about the Academy is “a nice side bonus.” King said the videos prove that “we’re not all robots up here.” More importantly, Giannettino said the videos have sparked questions from youth interested in learning more about the school.

Staff Sgt. Jahmal Lawson, 30th Security Forces Squadron mobility equipment custodian, displays the silver medal he won at the 2019 Military World Games, Nov. 27, 2019 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Lawson played on the U.S. basketball team during the Military World Games, which were held Oct. 18–27, 2019 in Wuhan, China. Photo: A1C Aubree Milks

SSgt. Jahmal Lawson, a mobility equipment custodian with the 30th Security Forces Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., won a silver medal in basketball at the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China. This marked his second appearance at the games. “I had no idea that I would be competing again, but with the encouragement from my leadership and the amazing support from my team and my flight, I was able to do it once more and represent this base and our country,” he said.

Aircraft commander Captain Julian Gluck stands before a B-52H during a deployment to the Indian Ocean. Photo: A1C Gerald R. Willis

Capt. Julian Gluck, a 29-year-old pilot and USAFA graduate from Shreveport, La., was selected to be part of Forbes’ “30 Under 30–Law & Policy 2020” list. A USAF “pilot who flew air combat missions as part of the campaign against ISIS, … Gluck has also worked as a nonprofit leader and policy advocate to bridge the civilian-military gap,” his Forbes citation reads. Gluck is the executive officer for the 2nd Bomb Wing’s 2nd Operations Group at Barksdale AFB, La.

MSgt. Bryan Whittle, with the 205th Engineering and Installation Squadron, and his wife, Shannon Whittle, after receiving the Airman’s Medal in a ceremony at Will Rogers ANGB, Oklahoma City, Dec. 8, 2019. Photo: SSgt. Jordan Martin/ANG

Air National Guardsman MSgt. Bryan Whittle of the 205th Engineering and Installation Squadron received the Airman’s Medal on Dec. 8, 2019, for his role in helping to neutralize an active shooter at an Oklahoma restaurant in May 2018. The medal recognizes those “serving in any capacity with the US Air Force,” who risk their lives to help others outside of combat. “I was surprised there was an award that honored your actions when you weren’t in a wartime environment,” he said.

Capt. Jay Doerfler talks with local teenagers and their grandparents about what drove him to Air Force service, his personal aspirations to become an aviator, and his experiences as an F-16 fighter pilot. Photo: Alex R. Lloyd/USAF

Air Command and Staff College student Maj. Jay B. Doerfler received the 2018 Lt. Col. Anthony C. Shine Fighter Pilot Award on Nov. 18. The annual award is given to a USAF fighter pilot demonstrating excellence and professionalism while in the air and commitment to service while on the ground. While serving as his squadron’s assistant director of operations, Doerfler counseled youth, volunteered to help charities, and helped provide food for homeless children “all while executing 5,700 sorties and more than 9,300 flying hours,” the service said.

A file photograph of James P. Ostler. Ostler, age 99, a former member of the 36th Bombardment Squadron, was awarded the Legion of Honor Medal from France in a Nov. 21, 2019 Ceremony in Arlington Heights, Ill., for his efforts in World War II as a navigator on the B-17. Photo: courtesy

James P. Ostler, a 99-year-old WWII B-17 navigator who served with the 36th Bombardment Squadron, received a French Legion of Honor Medal on Nov. 21. A recipient of the DFC (as well as its British equivalent), Ostler flew 25 combat missions in addition to counterintelligence missions, and helped test radar-jamming technology that was used on D-Day. “What you did sir, as part of America’s greatest generation, for us is a debt that … we cannot repay,” said the consul general of France to the Midwest.

Capt. Michelle Jilek, is a physical therapist assigned to the 633rd Medical Operations Squadron, but has been embedded part time with the 1st Fighter Wing to help increase mission effectiveness. Jilek is embedded because due to flight schedules and the hospital’s hours of operation, it is difficult for pilots to get the care they need for some of their injuries. Photo: SrA Tristan Biese

633rd Medical Operations Squadron physical therapist Capt. Michelle Jilek is pulling double-duty to help make sure untreated pain doesn’t impede the 1st Fighter Wing’s mission effectiveness. “Ninety-six percent of the pilots at Langley were flying in pain without treatment,” said Jilek, who’s been embedded with the wing to help. After completing her regular duties from Monday-Thursday, she dedicates off-hours and Fridays to treating 1st FW pilots whose schedules make it difficult or impossible to get help during regular hospital hours.

Staff Sgt. Darius Willingham, 20th Comptroller Squadron commander’s support staff, reviews physical fitness (PT) standards during work at Shaw AFB, S.C., on Oct. 30, 2019. After receiving a coin from Col. Derek O’Malley, 20th Fighter Wing commander, for assisting passengers involved in a car accident, he volunteered to take on the additional duty as a physical training leader to help his unit. Photo: A1C Kaitlyn Brewer

SSgt. Darius Willingham, a member of the 20th Comptroller Squadron commander’s support staff at Shaw AFB, S.C., helped to save a life after witnessing a car accident. Willingham pulled a woman from the wreck, contacted authorities, attended to her injuries until first-responders arrived on-scene, and kept her calm. “It is important to serve the community while we are here,” Willingham said.

Airman 1st Class Brandon Ong, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron guidance and control apprentice, stands in front of the C-130A Hercules outside of Little Rock AFB, Ark., on Nov. 21, 2019. Aircraft 56-0518 was the last C-130 out of Vietnam before the Fall of Saigon, which rescued over 450 refugees including Ong’s mother. Photo: SrA. Kristine M. Gruwell

A1C Brandon Ong’s mother, Tammy Ha, was 7 years old when she was evacuated from the flight line at Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam, in 1975 on the final USAF C-130 to leave the country. Now, over four decades later, Ong, a 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron guidance and control apprentice, works on Super Hercules aircraft at Little Rock AFB, Ark., where the A model that carried her to safety is displayed—a parallel he calls “fate.” “This was an opportunity for me to give back to the United States,” he said.