• Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mary Thach and Senior Airman Marshall Maurer
  • 155th Air Refueling Wing
     An artistic vision hatched at ground level in Stapleton, Neb., will now be visible around the world, after the latest 155th Air Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker nose art was unveiled in a ceremony Aug. 8 at the Nebraska National Guard air base in Lincoln, Neb.
     Mariah Harm, a Stapleton, Neb., native and soon-to-be senior at Stapleton High School, joined a select list of Nebraskan artists when her design was chosen as part of the 155th ARW annual nose art program, a yearly tradition in which the Nebraska Air National Guard nominates one of the state's towns or cities to be commemorated on sheet metal. Entries for the contest are selected from community schools.
    From a young age, Mariah has developed her talents in several ways.
    "I consider myself an artist," said Mariah. "I've been taking art ever since elementary school and into high school. I've been doing a lot of shows, school conferences, art districts and open theater."
    Mariah credited the heritage of her small town, with its population of 305, as providing all the inspiration she needed. The design features two arms extended, shaking hands. Encircling the image is a rope. And in the background, the artwork pays homage to another Stapleton staple--Nebraska's Biggest Little Rodeo.
     "One (individual) is (wearing) a business jacket; one is (wearing) an old farm shirt. That is to represent how business and agriculture come together. In Stapleton, that's a big deal. Agriculture and business are a big part of our little town. I chose the silhouette of the horses in the background because we do a lot of horse work and cattle work."
    The handshake, said Mariah, was front and center for a reason.
    "One of the main parts of my design was a handshake, because the symbolism of a handshake is equality, trust, it's a fair deal. It shows everybody that you're working to do (some) good."
    For Mariah, nose art is familiar and familial.
    Mariah's father, Senior Master Sgt. Toby Harm, developed the nose art program when it was first introduced eleven years ago. Back then, Harm used graphic software and a vinyl imaging machine. When the events of 9/11 required a larger global presence from the KC- 135R Stratotanker, Harm was there to outfit many of the aircraft with unique designs in a hurry.
    Despite his own previous involvement in the program, the elder Harm said his daughter was solely responsible for the winning submission.
    "I didn't tell her what to draw or how to do it," Harm said. "I just told her some of the things to expect if it was selected and she did the rest on her own."
    As Harm enters the twilight of his own career, Mariah's work has taken on extra meaning.
    "It's amazing to me, knowing my time here is very short, but there will still be a piece of family history on this airplane even when I'm not here."
    According to Harm, several onlookers took notice of Mariah's poise and delivery during the ceremony. "A couple officers came up and asked if she'd be a recruit. But she's her own person, and I don't want to influence that at all."
    Wherever Mariah decides to go next, she'll bring a lot of creativity to the table, especially if it includes a drawing board.
    Long before it reached the Cornhusker State, nose art enjoyed a storied history all its own. Originating on the fuselages of German and Italian fighter planes in 1913, the artwork was adopted by American forces soon after. The colorful and creative outlet provided aircrew members with a morale lift and way to express some personality in decades past. A century later, the Nebraska Air National Guard's nose art program continues to accomplish just that.