New And Blue

Renovated Roller Coaster Honors Military Members

 E.B., a female European buzzard or hawk, spreads her wings at the grand reopening of the Blue Hawk roller coaster on Thursday at Six Flags Over Georgia. The Air Force themed roller coaster honors the military. Staff - Emily Selby

Service members from Dobbins Air Reserve Base praised Six Flags Over Georgia's newest rollercoaster, Blue Hawk, for a smooth and thrilling experience in its inaugural ride on Thursday.

Bagpipes, a live hawk and red, white and blue decorations helped the theme park unveil the newly renovated roller coaster, which replaces the Ninja, to a crowd of park guests and military members from Dobbins. 

With a new coat of blue and silver paint, enhancements to the 2,800 feet of track and new shoulder restraints, the Air Force-themed attraction, named through a poll of park guests, honors the military. Service members and their families were the first to ride the new coaster.

“We are so proud to have a great neighbor and to be able to share Cobb County with Dobbins Air (Reserve) Base and all the great things they do around the world supporting our missions,” said Park President Dale Kaetzel.

The Ninja, which opened at the park in 1992, was notorious for being a rough ride for park goers. Six Flags staff addressed this issue with adjustments to Blue Hawk. 

“We listened to you in several ways,” said Gene Petriello, the park’s spokesperson. “We added two new coaster trains with over-the-shoulder, soft vest restraints which will make the ride much smoother than you’ve come to know with the Ninja.”

Kaetzel addressed those concerns as well saying, “We think you’ll find that the ride is much faster, much smoother, more enjoyable and, most importantly, more repeatable.”

First riders enjoyed their experience, with many saying the roller coaster is an improvement from its bumpy predecessor.

“It’s great and much smoother than the Ninja,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Gabrielle, adding that the park’s support of the military is “awesome” and that “the picture of the Blue Hawk is definitely Air Force.”

Lt. Col. Chad Corliss with the 94th Air Medical Evacuation Squad said the coaster is “a good ride” and is “a lot of fun.”

Corliss’ wife, Amy, said she “felt very safe and secure” with the new shoulder restraints and was “very thankful” the family was able to come to the park.

Their son, Jackson, described Blue Hawk as “amazing.”

Throughout the month of July, the park will continue to honor military members by allowing them special access on Blue Hawk: Active and retired military service members can show their military ID card and bypass the line for the roller coaster with one other guest. 


This article and photos were originally published in the Marietta Daily Journal in June 2016. 

PDF Download

Father's Day 

Holiday Special for Two Military Families 













Father's Day is always a special day for dads, but for two fathers in the 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, it will be extra-special simply because they are home. 

 Lt. Col Hosman sits at his desk in front of hand-drawn pictures from his daughter. 

Lt. Col Hosman sits at his desk in front of hand-drawn pictures from his daughter. 

Lt. Col. Kyle Hosman, of Powder Springs, has had three deployments in his 28 years in the Air Force. During that time, he and wife Michelle have home- schooled a 13-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son, the latter of whom wants to pursue a career in the Army. In the past four years, Hosman has lived in three different places.

“When you ask them where they’re from, my kids claim many states,” he said. 

With a military father and a long line of service men and women in the family, Hosman said often a military career “is a family business."

“At no point do I remember my son not having a desire to go into the military. The only question was what branch of service and what he would pursue,” he said, adding despite his son’s choice, a military career is not something they "push" on the kids. 

“He has always known the Air Force. He has always seen a father in uniform. Every single day, he sees me in uniform ... and ideally, every son would like to be like his dad.”

For Hosman, explaining his job to two teenagers is easy. 

“We talk about it so often. They are fully aware of the importance of the mis- sion and this wing and the Air Force and the military overall,” he said.

But with age comes understanding and Hosman said his daughter “is already dreading” his upcoming deployment.

“There’s a lot of civilian career fields that require a lot of travel that split up families often. But the key difference for military personnel is we send these guys to dangerous places,” he said, explaining that instead of sending men to “Madison, Wisconsin,” he could be sending them to “Chad, Africa.”

Hosman said that fact “is certainly not lost on our spouses” and as teenagers get older and begin to pay attention to world news, it is not lost on them either.

 Tech. Sgt. Brad Harrell, his wife Amber, and their two sons, Luke and Jameson. 

Tech. Sgt. Brad Harrell, his wife Amber, and their two sons, Luke and Jameson. 

Tech. Sgt. Brad Harrell, of Dallas, has been in the Air Force for 14 years. 

Married for 10 years to his wife, Amber, they have a 5-year-old son, Luke, a 2-year-old son, Jameson, and are expecting twin girls in October.

“They don’t fully grasp time. So it’s hard to explain to them ‘Hey, I’m going to be gone for five months.’ Five months to them is tomorrow. There’s no concept of it,” he said.

Harrell added that as they get older, they begin to question more, and Luke has started asking when dad is coming home when he works late shifts. He said he and his wife try “to allow them to figure it out
in their own heads and not explain it in an adult way — it’s easier for them to
figure it out.” 

With three deployments in 2005, 2012 and 2015, Harrell missed birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and his son’s first steps.

“My first Christmas away in 2004 was a hard one. I remember thinking, ‘my family is at home Christmas Eve doing the whole family get together and here I am 19,000 feet above Bosnia,’” he said.

As an aerospace maintenance technician, Harrell goes wherever the plane does, which can mean “trip after trip after trip.” In addition to working as a reservist on base Monday through Friday, he works one weekend every month away from his family.

According to Hosman, this schedule “causes you to really focus in on the important events that you are home for. We miss, not every birthday, but a lot of birthdays, so when you are home, you maybe make a bigger deal than you may normally.”

Harrell could attest to this, saying that his son’s fourth birthday, which he missed, was “low-key,” but with his fifth birthday they “went all out. We had a bouncy house with an inflatable slide that attached to it; we went crazy with it,” he said.

Both men agreed that the hardest part of being a military father was being away from family.

Hosman left for officer training school just six days after his first child was born.

“Officer training school was downright simple compared to leaving behind a 6-day-old baby,” he said.

But with deployment comes homecoming, and Hosman said he remembers each of his three homecomings “vividly,” saying that they “stick with you for the rest of your life.

“The exhaustion and the heat and any discomfort you’re feeling whatsoever after being on an airplane for three days — it evaporates the second you see your family. You feel like a million bucks,” he said.

For Harrell, each deployment has been “unique” as his family grows.

“With my 2012 deployment, my first son had only just turned a year old, so to see his features change and having him kind of waddle out to see dad was fun ... You’re panning, trying to find your family in and amongst all of the craziness. You just hold and embrace and cry and do all that. You just want to savor that moment,” he said.

Harrell also described homecomings as “bitter- sweet” because of the military family that is left behind. As they work “day in and day out” together, Harrell said those on deployment have a strong sense of camaraderie, and Hosman added that the 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron could be de- scribed as the “biggest and weirdest family (he’s) ever been a part of.”

Having that sense of family with them overseas makes deployment easier for the fathers, but as they both said, it’s harder for the families they leave behind.

“For her, day in and day out, taking care of the kids, taking care of the house and the car — it’s easier for me. They definitely have it way harder than we do,” Harrell said.

His wife, Amber, met Harrell in high school and never experienced military life before him.

She compared deployments to body surfing, saying, “You pull your legs up and you just let the rapids take you. Whatever happens, happens, and you don’t fight it and you just go with the flow ... it’s normal life.”

Like Harrell, Amber said each deployment was different and added that “each time, emotionally, it almost got easier because you know what to expect ... but the loneliness doesn’t go away.”

Family members who live nearby are able to help Amber while Harrell is away, and Amber said their church “is an extended family that is invaluable.”

Despite her lack of ex- perience with military life, Amber said she “has no complaints.”

“Brad’s a great man, so he’s a great father. Being in the military just adds to the pride. He does a really good job serving his God and his country and his family.”

This year for Father’s Day, both men will be home. Hosman will be with his wife and kids on vacation and Harrell said Sunday will be a “typical day” and will be “just family time.” 

This article and photos were originally published in the Marietta Daily Journal in 2016. 

PDF Download

Local Students Runs Own Business






















A University of Georgia student and Cherokee County native was selected out of nearly 700 candidates to run his own painting business this summer.

Christian Starling, 20, is a branch manager for College Works Painting and will be painting residential houses in the area this summer.

“I have to operate this business by myself from the ground up,” Starling said. “This includes flyer creation and distribution, marketing, sales, and just about anything one can imagine when running a business.”

Starling has been in training for the last six months and has been certified in training by Sherwin Williams.

“I’ve been learning pretty much everything there is to learn about exterior painting, along with how to do everything properly and to make sure we don’t cut corners,” he said.

A business management major at UGA, Starling first heard of the College Works programs through his management class. He then applied and proceeded to go through five rounds of interviewing before he was one of 20 selected.

“ I have been given an extraordinary opportunity with this internship to not only give back to the community by raising home values, but also to learn important business skills at the same time,” he said. The company donates $5 from every paint job each year to charities including Augie’s Quest, a charity working towards finding a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Starling has already put work in to his business, even before the summer started, with 15 projects already lined up.

“I have been advertising and I also have been managing for about four months now a marketing team that has gone door to door talking to individuals and offering free paid estimates, which I would then go out and arrange,” he said.

“I’ll work with about 20 to 30 clients over the course of the summer, and that allows me to focus on each client individually and give them personal attention, Starling said. “That’s unlike many contractors in the industry who are just trying to burn through contracts.”

As branch manager, Starling will be hiring painters, painting houses, organizing payroll and managing customer relations. College Works Painting has a customer satisfaction rate of 97%, which is unparalleled in the industry, he said. He wants to go above and beyond however and wants to aim for 100% customer satisfaction for the summer.

Starling is a sophomore at UGA and is on track to graduate in the spring of 2016. After graduating, he wants to attend Life College to become a chiropractor and run his own chiropractic practice.

This article was originally published in the Cherokee Ledger News. 

Cherokee County Bands 
































It’s almost time to head back to school, but music is already ringing from the parking lots as Cherokee County marching bands prepare for the upcoming season.

While many students are only just now getting ready for school, Cherokee County band students have already been working hard for this fall. Many bands started practicing right as school ended with once a week practices beginning in June. In July, students practice every day for one to two weeks during band camp for 12 hours or more.

During band camp, students begin to learn the themed show for the fall season. Morning and evening rehearsals are spent learning the drill for the show, or the patterns that are formed as students march around the field. Music rehearsals in the middle of the day ensure the music is being played with accuracy and is memorized by the band students.

“Students in the band are so dedicated,” said Michael Foxworth, band director at Etowah High School. “Marching band kids don’t get anything extra except for the joy of competing. The trophy isn’t the reward; the reward is intrinsic. I really admire them and thank them every day for all the work they do.” Etowah’s show will be based on Dante’s Divine Comedy and is called “Afterworld.”

Once school starts, bands across the county will begin their regular practice schedules during after school hours.

While putting on the show takes time and a lot of hard work, there is a lot to look forward to during the season. With football games, competitions and occasional field trips, all of the students’ hard work this summer will surely pay off.

Sequoyah Band Director Casey Eubanks is looking forward to the upcoming season saying, “I think we’re going to be competitive and I am looking forward to continuing our tradition of excellence on the field and cheering on our Sequoyah Chiefs. In previous years we have gone to Chicago and New York, and this year we were invited to play at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, so the whole season is sort of culminating to that point.”

This year, the Sequoyah marching band will be performing a pirate themed show entitled “The Quest”. The 115-member band will be on a hunt for treasure, and Eubanks said a pirate ship prop is currently in the works.

Another action themed production is planned for Woodstock High School, who will be preforming a James Bond inspired show.

“I think it is a show that will appeal to all audiences,” said Woodstock Band Director Bob Loehr. “It’s a dedication to 50 years of James Bond; we are having a lot of fun putting it together and the talent level of these students is amazing.”

Performing entertaining and unique shows makes for a fun and enriching experience, but marching band also can have many other advantages.

“The benefits to marching are endless,” said Creekview Band Director Stephen McCarthy. “It establishes a sense of camaraderie, and with everyone working towards one major goal, it reinforces that sense of friendship.”

Creekview plans to show their patriotism with their show, “Land of the Free”. “It has original music comprised with familiar melodies that everyone will recognize,” McCarthy said. “I am looking forward to seeing our progress and the final product, but I’m more interested in the journey we take to get there.”

Regardless of how Cherokee County bands reach their destination, it is certain that a lot of hard work will have to be put in. However, it is also clear that these students and directors are dedicated and love what they do, so it will certainly be worth it in the end.

This article was originally published in the Cherokee Ledger News. 

High School Students Practice Nursing 












































Five Cherokee High School students are a step ahead of many college students before they even graduate.

Sydney Beck, 18, Thomas Brubaker, 18, Catherine Dionicio, 18, Morgan Fortson, 17, and Paola Mucino, 19, are the first group of students to complete Cherokee’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program. After three years of classes, they have met all the requirements necessary to take the CNA exam, which, if they pass, will qualify them as a CNA.

It has taken three years for the program to become fully functional, with requirements from both the Board of Education and the Board of Nurses needing to be met. Necessary lab equipment such as bed pans, hospital beds, mannequins, and a number of machines had to be acquired to be used by the students, all part of the Board of Nurses’ requirements. Cherokee and River Ridge High School are the only two schools in Cherokee County to offer this program. Creekview High School is planning to begin a similar program next year.

Dianne Argonis-Basto, Cherokee High School’s healthcare teacher and head of the CNA program, helped her students throughout the program. Beginner and intermediate classes are required before students are allowed to move on to the final class, which includes clinical sessions at Canton Nursing Center.

“We spend half the year of that final class in the lab working with the mannequins and practicing on each other. The second half of the year is spent doing clinical two days a week,” Argonis-Basto said.

The students met at the nursing center at 7 a.m. and worked for several hours before returning to school to start regular classes at second period.

“That takes a lot of dedication, especially from an 18-year old,” she said, adding students also spent three or four days working eight hour shifts at the residence which counted as field trips and excused them from classes.

“The facility was a little skeptical at first because the students are so young, but after they saw what the students could do, they were more than willing to help out. Nurses mentored students and the families were very welcoming. The patients lit up when it was our day to come in,” she said

Argonis-Basto explained that it takes a high level of maturity for an average teenager to succeed in the program. “This program has a big gain of insight and maturity. It takes a very mature 18-year old to bathe a 90 year old patient. I have really seen the students grow,” she said. “At the beginning, I could tell they were nervous and a little scared, but when it was all finished they were sad to leave.”

Sydney Beck, who is graduating this May, said she was nervous in the beginning because she didn’t know the patients even though she was going to take care of them.

“Now I know what it feels like to work with an actual live patient. We got to know them, hurt with them, and heal with them,” Beck said.

Catherine Dionicio also felt anxious starting clinical session because of the other nurses at the facility. “They know what they are doing and we weren’t sure if we were doing everything right,” she said.

After going through the process, she says that she “learned just how much there is to do in order to help, and we were able to see how much impact we made on their lives.”

Most of the students said they joined the program because they want to become a nurse or are interested in the healthcare field. Now, the students have goals of becoming a nurse practitioner, or doctor.

“There’s something big I want my students to have: options,” Argonis-Basto said. “When they leave me they’ll have a high school diploma and, once they pass their exam, their CNA certificate. Many of them won’t do this for the rest of their lives, but it’s a step in the right direction. They can do this part time to make money to pay for school, and they will be able to see what’s being talked about in class. Many college students won’t have that.”

The five students already have their test dates scheduled, many of which are planned for June after graduation. The test has a written and clinical portion. The clinical portion tests five different skills chosen at random. One will be some type of measurement, such as blood pressure, but the other four can range from bathing a patient or using a bedpan, to walking a patient with special equipment. There are specific steps to each skill that must be checked off, and the students only have 25 minutes to complete all five skills. After taking the exam, students will find out whether they passed on the same day.

“That’s a big ordeal for these young kids,” Argonis-Basto said.

Argonis-Basto said while the CNA program is a big undertaking for a high school student, she feels it gives her students a step ahead of others.

“The first years of this training are critical. You learn dignity, privacy, and gentleness. I wouldn’t let any of my students touch a patient if I felt that they didn’t have those qualities,” she said. “When you see your students take the hand of a 90-year old, help them out of a wheelchair, and take a stroll with them down the hallway – that’s my paycheck. That’s what it’s all about.”

This article was originally published in the Cherokee Ledger News.