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From the farm to the skies

By Spc. Derrik Tribbey 10th Mountain Division

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AL ASAD, Iraq, April 11, 2017 — U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Sellers graduated high school on May 23rd, 2015, and saw two choices, join the military and pursue his passion for aviation or become a farmer.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a long-endurance platform able to fly for nearly 27 hours at a time at speeds of up to 150 knots while carrying up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. U.S. Army Soldiers with Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, provide air fire support to the Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Photo Credit: Spc. Derrik Tribbey)
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a long-endurance platform able to fly for nearly 27 hours at a time at speeds of up to 150 knots while carrying up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. U.S. Army Soldiers with Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, provide air fire support to the Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Photo Credit: Spc. Derrik Tribbey)
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a long-endurance platform able to fly for nearly 27 hours at a time at speeds of up to 150 knots while carrying up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. U.S. Army Soldiers with Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, provide air fire support to the Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Photo Credit: Spc. Derrik Tribbey) From the farm to the skies
The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a long-endurance platform able to fly for nearly 27 hours at a time at speeds of up to 150 knots while carrying up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. U.S. Army Soldiers with Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, provide air fire support to the Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Photo Credit: Spc. Derrik Tribbey)
Within 20 days of his graduation, Sellers enlisted in the U.S. Army as an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operator.

As a UAS operator, Sellers pilots the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, one of the U.S. Army's larger unmanned aircrafts. 

Seller's first attempt at flight was as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

"I wanted to have a cool job and fly something one day," Sellers said.

Unfortunately, he was brought back down to Earth. The U.S. Air Force said his eyesight did not meet the standard to become a pilot.

"I wanted to fly," Sellers said. "But at that point I was ready to give up and ready to go back to the farm."

Sellers grew up moving all around Georgia with his mother, and every summer he farmed with his father at Flat Top Mountain, Tennessee. 

Since the age of 12, Sellers was working with his father 50 to 60 hours a week, Sellers said. 

"I didn't mind the long hours because I enjoyed it," Sellers said. "It teaches you how to be independent at a young age and how to take care of yourself. Splitting trees and logging in the summer time was the toughest."

Sellers said his parents always taught him, "If you work hard now you won't have to work hard later."

The principles his parents instilled in him helped him stay grounded on the farm and in school.

One day, a recruiter came to his school and spoke with him about joining the U.S. Army. 

"I like excitement and the adrenaline rush," Sellers said. "I thought the military was honorable and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be an airborne ranger but I had a talk with my mom and she reminded me that I like to fly."

Sellers told the recruiter about his passion for aviation and the recruiter talked to him about flying as a UAS operator in the Army.

"The job was the closest to aviation," Sellers said. "I saw on the news about UASs and their capabilities. I thought 'That looks interesting… that is something I want to do.'"

Now, at 19-years-old, Sellers is trusted to protect people's lives and operate multi-million dollar equipment, all while only being with the Army for a short amount of time and with his unit, Company D, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, for an even shorter amount of time.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley Jones, a fellow UAS operator with D Co., 10th Avn. Regt., 10th Mount. Div., is currently serving with Sellers, supporting the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command -- Operation Inherent Resolve.

She described Sellers as being a great Soldier to work with.

"He is always willing to do whatever it takes to get the mission accomplished," Jones said.

This is Sellers' first deployment and it has been a humbling experience for him, Jones said.


"I honestly never thought I would be doing what I am doing now," Sellers said. "It's satisfying knowing I'm helping the Iraqis in their fight to annihilate ISIS and take back their homeland."