BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With a Wall of Honor at the high school and Purple Star designations for each of its buildings, Anthony Wayne Local Schools continues to show its support for children of active-duty military personnel and for those who decide to pursue military careers.
As part of a series following the careers of AW graduates, The Mirror is focusing this week on those who are currently serving in the military or are enrolled in a military service academy.
David Atkinson, a 1992 graduate, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
At age 17, David early enlisted in the Ohio Air National Guard with a goal of becoming a pilot. He is currently a C-17 pilot at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the Operations Group deputy commander with 30 years of service.
“Anthony Wayne did an outstanding job to get me ready for my military career,” he said. “The highly motivated staff provided me with a well-rounded education, and I encourage all to take advantage of the awesome education Anthony Wayne provides. Thank you to all the dedicated staff members who prepared me to reach my goals.”
Brianna Binkley, a 2012 graduate, has three different jobs in the Air National Guard, working from the 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio.
In addition to her job as a technical sergeant (E-6), Brianna works as a recruiter, highlighting how the Air National Guard can fulfill applicants’ needs and enlisting them into a position that best suits their skills and interests. As honor guard program manager, she conducts and coordinates military honors for funerals and ceremonies.
Brianna’s initial interest in the Air National Guard was financial – knowing that if she enlisted, 100 percent of her tuition to a public in-state university would be covered. She didn’t want to go into debt while pursuing a degree at Bowling Green State University.
“During my initial enlistment, I learned about service before self and what it means to be an American. I found a passion for those things in the military, so after graduating from BGSU, I decided to stay in the military and make it a full career,” she said.
As a student at Anthony Wayne High School, Brianna said she witnessed moments when the community came together to support one another – whether it was a health crisis or for moral support. This set the example of the camaraderie she experiences in the military, she said. She sees the strengthening of trust and friendship in community.
Being on the AW cheerleading team – one that prepared and won the state title – showed her the value of teamwork.
“Teamwork prepared us to (strive for) a common goal and that is what set us apart from other teams,” she said. “When you have a cause and purpose tied together by unity, the team is unstoppable. I was able to take those skills and utilize them toward creating dynamic teams, which produced growth and development for all airmen.”
William Curtin, a 1983 graduate, retired on November 1 after almost 38 years in the Army.
“I decided to join the military because I wanted to serve my country,” said Bill, who spent 19 years in the Army Reserves and then signed on full time.
Bill trained as a 12H40 construction engineer and a 12B40 combat engineer. His duties included executing training schedules, forecasting ammunition for the ranges, enrolling soldiers into military schools, tracking training for all soldiers, and preparing for and leading training meetings. He retired as a sergeant first class and operations and training non-commissioned officer.
“Anthony Wayne prepared me for going into the Army by teaching me to be a team player – knowing that if I worked hard and did not give up, I would succeed in accomplishing the mission,” he said.
While in the military, he gained skills including organization, discipline, teamwork and to never, ever quit.
“My goals that I will take into retirement will be to stay connected to my fellow vets and to reach out and help them in any way I can.”
Thomas Hilt, a 2018 graduate, is a senior at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
He currently serves as a cadet captain and cadet company commander of 117 cadets in Company D-2 and is also the commodore (team captain) for the Army rowing team. Since arriving at West Point, Thomas has qualified in basic rifle marksmanship and combat lifesaving skills and also completed the basic mountaineering course at Camp Ethan-Allen in Vermont.
After graduation, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant and complete the infantry basic officer leadership course, airborne school and ranger school. This will prepare him to move to Fort Richardson, Alaska to join the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division.
Thomas decided to join the U.S. Military Academy for three reasons: seeing the camaraderie between cadets, seeing how cadets hold each other to a high standard and learning of the opportunities available to an officer in the U.S. Army.
“The reason I’ve stayed at West Point is because I want to lead America’s sons and daughters, America’s national treasure, in the U.S. Army through peacetime or through war. As a future officer, it will be my role to lead them to be prepared to take on any challenge our nation asks of us,” he said.
Thomas said AW prepared him for West Point by providing academically challenging courses and leadership opportunities, and by supporting club teams. He was involved in DECA, crew and many academic organizations at AW.
“These teams and the entire program at Anthony Wayne helped me to develop an open way of thinking that required teamwork to succeed. The lessons I learned at Anthony Wayne are applied every day here at West Point in the classroom, on the teams I’m a part of and during training exercises.”
Cole Ragan, a 2018 graduate, is in his senior year at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“I joined the military to help and protect others,” Cole said. “While I always knew I wanted to serve my country, the people are the reason I joined and why I stay. It is truly something special when hundreds of thousands of people are united under one common cause, and because of this, the bonds that you make with your fellow airmen, soldiers, Marines, sailors and guardians are very strong.”
As a cadet, his job is to attend classes, conduct military training and prepare for commission into the Air Force as a second lieutenant after he graduates in spring 2022. He hopes to have a job flying remotely piloted aircraft and leading others.
Cole said Anthony Wayne classes and sports prepared him for the military by teaching him the value of hard work and critical thinking. While at AW, Cole was involved in football, wrestling and track and field, which allowed him to learn how to deal with adversity and helped in developing himself as a person and leader.
“Some of the skills that I have gained in the military are interpersonal communication, conflict management and the ability to manage my time more efficiently to complete tasks in a timely manner,” he said. “My goal is to make a career out of the military.”
Gavin Rinto, a 2019 graduate, is a private first class in the Ohio Air National Guard. He is currently an airborne-qualified infantryman assigned to Fort Bragg for further training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
“I have wanted to join the Army since I was a child, both to continue the family legacy of service (dating back to the Revolution, where my ancestor actually fought under Gen. Anthony Wayne) as well as to give back to the land that has given my family so much,” he said.
While at Anthony Wayne High School, Gavin said he was grateful to the faculty members who helped shape him into the man he is today.
“I learned the importance of service above self as well as perseverance, which has helped me greatly in my military career,” he said.
Since shipping to Georgia in July 2020, Gavin said he’s learned a lot about himself – mostly that there are no limits to what he can endure.
“Whether it’s leaping from an aircraft in flight to moving 25 miles under load, there is nothing limiting you but your mind. I would also say that the Army has taught me to better appreciate the little things and has further instilled in me the discipline required to achieve success,” he said.
Kristin Savage, a 2008 graduate, is a photographer, videographer and writer with the production office at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), a NATO base in Belgium.
“I’m currently a staff sergeant and my responsibilities at SHAPE include writing web stories, taking photos and recording videos of NATO events and exercises,” she said.
While at Anthony Wayne, she learned teamwork and discipline, which have helped her in her military career, but it wasn’t until 2016 that she decided to join.
“I was lucky enough to have a lot of military service members in my family. Growing up, I would hear my dad and his cousins talk about their time in Vietnam. They were proud of their country and service. It was always in the back of my mind, but I never went through with it,” she said.
Then, in 2016, she was visiting a cousin in England, where he was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. Hearing his stories gave Kristin the push she needed. So, she met with a recruiter, then went through medical testing to make sure a heart condition wouldn’t deter her plans. In 2017, she was deemed healthy enough to join.
Since then, Kristin said she’s learned a lot about working as a team to get the mission done. She’s also become a more confident leader, especially when it comes to public speaking. She was able to go back to school to get trained in emotional intelligence.
“My goals are to continue my education and progress in my career and my leadership skills,” she said.
Samantha Schofield, a 2020 graduate, is a sophomore studying computer science at the U.S. Naval Academy, where she plays on the Navy basketball team.
“The classes I took at Anthony Wayne helped prepare me for the high academic expectations at the U.S. Naval Academy,” she said. “Being on the basketball and soccer teams also helped me understand my role as a part of a team, as that has a huge role in my life here at USNA.”
Sam decided to join the military because she was attracted to the high-achieving, busy lifestyle and she also wanted to challenge herself – even though she knows that the path will not be easy. This has taught her to better manage her time.
While she’s not sure which service she will commission into after graduation, her goal is to find a field that is rewarding and challenging.
“The end goal is to serve a greater cause,” she said.
Cameron Smith, a 2018 graduate, is a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I chose to come to the academy so that I could contribute to a cause larger than myself. Here, even on my difficult days, I know that everything I do will be a victory for the American people,” he said.
The Navy is the most important branch in the military since the United States is separated from the rest of the world by water, said Cameron. After graduation, the officers are commissioned into active duty in submarines, surface ships, aviation, Marine Corps ground forces or special warfare. Cameron has chosen submarines, which he sees as the most crucial platform in the future.
“I hope to become involved in the Navy’s underwater robotics and unmanned vehicles programs, especially those employed by submarines. I look forward to leading people onboard submarines and contributing to our country’s defense abroad. Throughout my military career, I also want to travel the world and to be an informal diplomat to America’s allies,” he said.
The Naval Academy strives to develop midshipmen in three areas: moral, mental and physical. Cameron and other cadets attend classes, train physically for two hours daily and serve in leadership roles. In the summer, midshipmen travel the world alongside active-duty military members and hold internships to learn professional skills that will benefit their future careers.
In addition, Cameron said he’s learned martial arts and the ability to balance his own physical and mental development with those of the people he leads.
“With a full load of activities every day, I must handle the work with enough ease that I can still direct my teams toward a vision,” he said. “I also enjoy the comitatus at USNA, the values and like-mindedness that make every midshipman my friend and teammate.”
Anthony Wayne gave him a firm foundation that has helped him balance leadership development and coursework comfortably, he said.
At AW, Cameron was involved with Interact, band, sports and student council, and these early leadership experiences gave him a jump-start into positions where midshipmen are also given significant room to take initiative, he said. Academically, Cameron said he was set up for success and was able to test out of coursework the summer before starting at the academy. This opened up his schedule to try other courses, such as undergraduate research and humanities electives, he said.
Getting to know some of the teachers with past military experience helped Cameron have a vision for his future – in particular, he cited Dave Johnson.
A physics teacher, Johnson was in the Navy from 1988 to 1993, trained at Naval Nuclear Power School and then served on the USS George C. Marshall, a nuclear ballistic missile submarine. Johnson was a petty officer second class machinist mate and an engineering laboratory technician.
“I’ve chosen to become a submarine officer so that I can be surrounded by more people like him,” Cameron said of Johnson. “I’m grateful for my experience at AW, and I attribute a lot of my undergraduate success to the teachers and coaches who invested so much time in me while I was there.”
Kaleb Wymer, a 2021 graduate, is in the U.S. Navy as an E-1, or seaman recruit.
“My job is to deal with all different kinds of ordnance. I load ammunition to ships and put the ordnance into aircrafts so they can be armed and ready,” he said.
While at Anthony Wayne, Kaleb said his grades weren’t the best, but the teachers helped him develop skills that are important in the military – such as time management, problem solving and quick and effective learning. He sees the military as a viable option for many young men and women.
“I decided to join the Navy simply because college wasn’t exactly the right fit for me,” Kaleb said. “I wanted to do something that would improve not only my life but also the lives of my future wife and children. I think that’s something that’s possible with the Navy.”
His goal is to eventually start a business of his own while balancing family life and volunteering as a coach.
Robert Zarnick, a 2017 graduate, is a corporal in motor transport operation in the Army National Guard, operating various vehicles to transport troops and equipment.
“I joined the military to serve my country and to better the world today,” he said. “Anthony Wayne helped me gain a teamwork mentality, especially through sports programs.”
While in the military, Robert said he has gained many mechanical skills and has had opportunities all over the world – including assignments in Kuwait and Iraq this year.
Editor’s Note: This is one in a series about AW graduates in different fields. If you would like to be included on a contact list for future articles, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests for information were posted on Anthony Wayne-area community Facebook pages.