Marcel has his wings!

Marcel Melo at his graduation from flight school; copyright Samuel Giordano, 2012

Marcel (top right) with his classmates from the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Aviator Course Fort Rucker; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012

Story by Susanna Melo

Exactly a month ago today, on March 8th to be exact, Samuel Giordano (Marcel’s uncle and godfather from Brazil who came specifically for the graduation) and I had the privilege of pinning Marcel’s wings on to his handsome, dark blue uniform. Marcel now has his Helicopter Commercial License, which he worked extremely hard to achieve over the past year and a half!

You would be amazed at the amount of information learned over such a short period of time if you personally saw the heavy handbooks of hundreds of pages these aviators have to study. You would also be amazed if you attempted to fly in a simulator helicopter, as Sam and I experienced, for there are hundreds of knobs, gears and other electronic features one has to master in order to fly.

This is not all. These graduating aviators went through one of the toughest feats of their training: SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) School. Thrown in the wilderness for 2-3 weeks with no water or food, these aviators had to survive a conflict/war simulation.  Another challenge this graduating class of men and women underwent was to exit a helicopter submerged under water while being blindfolded. I cannot imagine the physical duress these soldiers had to endure in order to achieve their wings, but also the courage and persistence to overcome such difficult and stressful moments of their studies and training.

Marcel’s graduation was so full of emotion! Smiles, laughter and tears building up in my eyes were just some of these emotions. The graduation took place at Fort Rucker’s U.S. Army Aviation Center. At first, the ceremony was quite solemn, as one would expect it to be; therefore, I could not understand when the officer in front of me turned around to chat. He was trying to tell Sam and me that we should be joyful and “make noise” for this graduating class. I was still unsure until he went to the podium. While speaking into the microphone, he said he had addressed the parents of an aviator (at this point I did not hesitate; “Melo,” I screamed from the audience and the crowd began to laugh) encouraging us to cheer for our graduates and be more enthusiastic. This officer was the Commanding General/Commandant MG Anthony G. Crutchfield who addresses the President of the United States directly! So having his final “blessing,” the crowd went from silent to exuberant!

Permit me now to brag about my son. Marcel joined the National Guard in 2007 much against my wishes, but he had my support thereafter, even though, I must admit, it has been a little difficult for me, especially when he was deployed to Iraq for a year. He has risen up to every challenge, but most importantly, he underwent very rigorous training to fulfill his dream to fly. Marcel will not stop here, though. He will soon achieve his Airframe and Power Plant License, which will allow him to work mechanically on any aircraft. His next accomplishment will be to conclude his degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which is rated number one in aviation and aerospace college education.

Presently Marcel is working in Columbia, but during the summer, he will be going to another state to undergo further training before being deployed overseas once again. At that point in time, Marcel will become Chief Warrant Officer 2! Upon returning from overseas, Marcel has set further goals for himself, and knowing my son, he will certainly achieve them.

What else can a mother ask for? Professional fulfillment, health, and happiness for one’s child. Marcel has it all, and I have had the privilege to see all of his stages of development and to be a part of it all. I just wish his father had, too, for I know Cecil would have been just as proud as I am of our son!

Some of Marcel Melo’s friends from flight school; copyright Susanna Melo, 2012

Samuel Giordano, Marcel Melo, and Susanna Melo at Fort Rucker

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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