New York Army National Guard members Warrant Officer Meghan Polis, left, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Polis -- a daughter and dad flying duo who are both assigned to Company B 3rd Battalion 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion -- pose in front of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Fort Drum, New York, July 22, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jonathan MonfilettoFORT DRUM, N.Y., July 30, 2015 – Army Warrant Officer Meghan Polis, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the New York National Guard, doesn’t remember it but she logged her first three hours of helicopter flight time when she was just 3 months old.
Her father -- New York Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Polis -- and her mother were going to a barbecue in Albany. They lived on Long Island and they decided to make the trip north by air instead of driving. The flight school Stephen Polis worked for at the time as an instructor pilot allowed him to borrow a two-seat helicopter for the day. His wife held little Meghan to her chest and put cotton balls in the baby’s ears. And away the family went.
Sharing a Love of Flying Since then, dad and daughter, both from East Patchogue, New York, have shared a love of flying that extends into their military careers. On July 22, the two Army Guard aviators made their first flight together as pilots, during the 42nd Aviation Brigade’s annual training here. The two are UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, headquartered in Ronkonkoma, New York. They flew as pilot in command -- dad -- and pilot -- daughter -- on a morale flight for the mechanics, fuelers, supply people and other support personnel who keep the pilots of the 3-142nd in the air. The aircraft, Stephen said, was the same one he flew in 2008-2009 when the unit deployed to Iraq.
After almost three years of inactivity, the Air Force recertified the Viper Demo Team and chose Baker to be its sole pilot. "Craig always wanted to be a fighter pilot," said Lindsey Baker, Baker's wife of 10 years. "That, coupled with his desire to serve our country, drives what he does. He puts his all into everything that he is passionate about." From a young age, the Air Force Academy graduate said, he had an itch for the thrill to fly. Air Force Capt. Craig “Rocket” Baker, F-16 Viper Demo Team pilot, center left, stands for a photo with team members and Gen. Hawk Carlisle, center right, commander of Air Combat Command, during the Heritage Flight Certification and Training Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2015. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham"It's what I always wanted to do, and I've been fortunate enough along the way to have family from when I was a kid all the way through my Air Force career, support me along the way to allow what was a dream to become a reality," Baker said. Through the years, the Gray's Creek, North Carolina, native said, he sought the best way to become an Air Force pilot. "I started asking questions, because I really wanted to fly," he said. "Most of the pilot slots were given to the Air Force Academy, so at that point I set my sights on going there."