Maj. Mark Melin, right, renews his commissioning oath at a ceremony marking his promotion to major in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 1, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mark Porter
KABUL, Afghanistan (AFPS - 4/11/2012) -- People join the military
for any number of reasons. For Maj. Mark Melin, the son of a
soldier, grandson of a World War II sailor and the third of three
military brothers, commissioning in the Air Force was like joining
the family business.
"It was definitely my father's example
of service as a Vietnam vet, scoutmaster and community leader that
led me to join the military," said Melin, assigned to New Kabul
Compound here. "He was always doing something for someone else, and
my mother was the same way."
Following graduation from high
school in Livingston, Mont., Melin earned appointments to all three
military academies, but chose to follow his brother, Jess, to the
U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
"He had a car, I did
not," he explained. "It was an easy choice for a 19-year-
old looking to get rides home at Christmas and spring break."
Mark entered the academy in 1996. Though Jess had
enrolled in 1992, he resigned after two years to serve a
church mission in Chile. He returned to school in 1996, so
his last two years as a cadet were Mark's first two.
"It was great to be at [the academy] with my brother," Mark
said. "He provided some insights and mentorship, and because
of his experience, I knew a little bit more than the other
guys of what I was getting into."
"We had little
interaction during the week due to the pace of life for all
cadets," Jess said. "We were able to hang out and go to
church on weekends. What I did enjoy, and now miss, are the
road trips back to Montana together."
drives home were a chance for the brothers to talk and
laugh, and to enjoy their shared experiences. Occasionally,
it also included some adventure.
"I remember one
winter we were driving back home and couldn't wait to get
there," Jess recalled. "The last 150 miles of the drive were
in a blinding blizzard in the dark. I was driving and
couldn't see anything. Mark rolled down his window, stuck
his head into the blizzard and started looking for the
reflectors that [marked] the side of the road.
finished the last half hour of the drive with Mark hanging
out the window and telling me to go left or right to keep us
on the interstate," he continued. "When we did finally
arrive, our mom couldn't believe it. She told us that the
whole interstate had been shut down for hours."
also left school to serve a church mission in St.
Petersburg, Russia. He returned to the academy in 2000 and
graduated with the class of 2002. He then followed Jess to
Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, for pilot training.
Though he hadn't been interested in flying, he said, he was
told over and over again that he had to try it.
glad I did," he said, "because I learned to love it. In
addition to aerobatics or formation flying, just doing a
little cloud chasing is perhaps the most fun thing I've done
in the air.
"Flying is also a challenge," he added.
"Something new pops up on every sortie, and you have to be
flexible to handle systems malfunctions, weather, emergency
procedures, or even a crew member who is not performing up
to par that day.
"Every landing is a contest with
yourself, and every takeoff is a new adventure," he said.
Melin remained in the cockpit for much of his career,
serving as an aircraft commander at McGuire Air Force Base,
N.J., an instructor pilot at Laughlin and during two
deployments. He also has served as squadron executive
officer and assistant operations officer.
in Afghanistan around the start of the year. Though he
deployed twice before as a KC-10 pilot, this is his first
"This is a whole new
experience," he said, "especially as it is a joint
assignment with other services."
From the moment he
arrived in Afghanistan and had to put on body armor and a
helmet for the ride to New Kabul Compound, Melin said, he
knew this deployment would be different. It's been an
educational assignment, he added, and he's learned to enjoy
"flying a desk."
"I've learned that a whole lot goes
into a campaign -- not just the air superiority piece," said
Melin, who is working in the U.S. Forces Afghanistan command
information group. "I've learned how hard the other services
work as well, and that each has a specific skill set, and
that we really depend on each other."
Melin is now
looking forward to taking leave in Del Rio, Texas, this
summer and seeing his wife, Elana, and their four children:
Liana, 8; Sariah, 6; Jared, 4; and Samantha, 2. When he
returns to New Kabul Compound, he said, it will be back to
work and finishing his tour. He said he's hoping for a
follow-on assignment closer to Montana.
retires, Melin said, he isn't sure if any of his children
will continue the family tradition by joining the military.
Elana said their father's absence may have convinced them to
look at other options.
"So far, only our son has said
that he wants to be just like daddy when he grows up," she
said. "He told me he wants to fly airplanes. But he asked if
that meant he would have to deploy. When I told him 'Yes,'
He didn't seem as fond of the idea."
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Porter, U.S. Forces Afghanistan
Air Force News Service
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