News: High honors awarded to CAB CW4 Stormy Ripley
EL PASO, Texas - Chief Warrant Officer 4 Stormy Ripley, senior safety officer for the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Legion of Merit at her retirement ceremony held at the aviation brigade’s headquarters, Feb. 28.
The Order of Saint Michael recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Army Aviation in ways that stand out in the eyes of the recipient’s seniors, subordinates and peers. Individuals receiving this award demonstrate the highest standards of integrity and moral character, display an outstanding degree of professional competence, and serve the United States Army Aviation community with distinction.
For exceptionally meritorious service to the U.S. Army for over 26 years of exemplary service culminating as the brigade senior safety warrant officer, Ripley was awarded the Legion of Merit.
“Warrant officers are generally considered highly specialized experts and trainers,” said Col. Lonnie G. Hibbard, CAB commander. “Stormy was that and so much more for the CAB with her active leadership and mentorship to our junior warrant officers, soldiers and officers alike.”
On April 1, Ripley retires after 27 years of active duty.
Twenty-one of those years were spent as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot.
Ripley began her Army career in March of 1986. Influenced by her father, a retired Army colonel with 30 years of service, from a young age Ripley knew she wanted to be in the military.
She wanted to be military police before women were allowed to be MPs. When it came time for her to make a decision about her future, that standard had changed.
“The only civilian job that looked interesting to me was being a police officer,” Ripley said. “I figured I could fulfill both ambitions, being a soldier and being in law enforcement, by joining the Army.”
While in college, Ripley was in the Reserve Officers Training Corps training to be an officer, but when her instructor told her officers don’t patrol, or go to investigating schools, only noncommissioned officers did that type of work, she enlisted.
“I was in my early 20s and not ready to be stuck in an office behind a desk,” she said. “I wanted to patrol and train for Special Reaction Team and other special investigating opportunities.”
During her tenure with the military police, Ripley served at Yuma Proving Ground and worked alongside the Border Patrol, and in Panama where her company worked with Special Forces and the Miami Police Department in training the Panamanian National Police force after Noriega’s fall. She also completed Air Assault and Airborne schools during this time.
In 1991 Ripley applied for both Drill Sergeant School and Flight School. Having been introduced to flying by her brother-in-law, and given the chance to test out a simulator, she found herself inclined towards flying and applied to the school without thought that she’d ever be accepted.
“I did not know anything about flying,” she said. “I also applied for Drill Sergeant School, because that had always been one of my plans.”
She said she was surprised she was selected for Flight School and went in with the idea that if it did not work out she could still go to Drill Sergeant School. She completed Flight School in 1993 and her career path was changed and forever set.
Though Ripley’s father was a pilot, it never occurred to her to fly. She spent the next 21 years in Army Aviation.
At her first unit as an aviator, 1/159th Aviation, 18th Aviation Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C., she started out flying UH-1 Hueys.
The unit transitioned to the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in early 1996. While at Fort Bragg she attended the Aviation Safety Officer course.
Her missions as a pilot include a 15-month deployment to Camp Victory in Iraq 2008-2009. One of Ripley’s assignments was working in the Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell at MNC-I.
“We monitored and worked any immediate situations where service members, DoD civilians and coalition forces became isolated, missing, detained or captured,” she said, “and to do all we could with Theater assets to rescue them quickly.” This mission was not limited to the Army, it encompassed all forces in the entire country.
After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ripley deployed there to work in the Personal Recovery Cell to locate and recover the remains of American citizens.
Reflecting on her 27-year career, Ripley said, “The most important part of my career was being part of a team and network of people and organizations that helped locate missing soldiers in Iraq and missing Americans in Haiti, so they could be returned home to give closure to their families and friends.”
Straight from her year-long assignment in Egypt, Ripley went to the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas in 2011. She was a part of the advance party before
the CAB officially stood up in September of that year.
Her job was to establish the Brigade safety program for the new CAB.
“I was a safety educator and coordinator,” she said. “Building safety into the CAB was a huge team effort by all battalions.”
“CW4 Ripley was a great asset to this CAB and the Army,” Hibbard said. “Her passion, experience and personal drive made her the right person for the job to help activate and move this CAB from Fort Hood.”
Ripley said, “My knowledge in safety would not have been successful without the resourcing and empowerment the Brigade leadership allowed me to do my job to standard.”
On Sept. 7, 2012, Ripley made her last flight as an Army Aviator. Her cross-country flight in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was from Fort Bliss to Roswell, N.M. Her retirement becomes official April 1.
Alabama will be the home for Ripley, her husband Jim, retired Army sergeant first class, and 12-year-old son, Shane. She will work on her Masters Degree in Emergency Management and pursue a job in either emergency management or law enforcement, something that does not require chasing anyone or jumping over any fences.