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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.