If Civil Air Patrol needs an example of a Renaissance cadet, look no further than Cadet Maj. Gabriella Orme of the Michigan Wing.

As if flying as a pilot, running her own aviation welding business out of her garage, and attending community college aren’t enough, she’s also medaled in some 100 martial arts competitions, with an eye toward possibly competing in the Olympics as part of the U.S. Taekwondo National Team.

In January, she captured multiple silver medals and a bronze in an international tournament in Chicago and will represent the United States in March in Costa Rica.

“The biggest thing with martial arts is the discipline and the overall physical fitness that it gave me,” said Orme, named Michigan athlete of the year at the Michigan Amateur Athletic Union State Championship on March 10.

Martial arts affect mentally as well as physically, she said.

“That’s one of the biggest things for me now as an adult is training and competing. It’s about my mental health and self-expression,” Orme said.

And as a young woman, the fighting arts provide self-defense.

“I believe every woman should have that,” she said.

Orme is an instructor in taekwondo, karate, judo, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. She began her training at age 5 and now holds second-degree black belts in taekwondo and Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art.

If a motto described the 20-year-old Orme, it’s in wisdom passed down from her father, CAP Capt. John Orme, a 28-year U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard veteran who’s now an emergency room nurse.

“The biggest thing he taught me [through CAP] is seek the opportunity wherever it is,” she said. “Even if it’s something you’re not sure of it, go out there and do it. CAP has so many opportunities.”

That motto is the North Star for her martial arts and welding ambitions as well. Watching her dad weld while repairing her brother’s drum set sparked an interest in that skill. While dual-enrolled in high school and community college, she learned welding and fabrication.

John and Mary Ann Orme urged their children to march to their own drumbeat rather than be cookie-cutter kids.

“Our education system is designed to pour everybody into a mold and make everybody the same,” John Orme said. “We’re all different. Everybody has their own talents. … What we decided was anything she has an interest in, no matter what, we’re going to let her run with it.”

He added, “We also make it acceptable to make mistakes. If she’s doing something and it doesn’t go right, the question is, ‘Did you learn something?’ If she says, ‘Yeah, I learned something,’ cool.

“Run with that lesson. You have to make your children realize it’s OK to make a mistake. Preferably, don’t make it an expensive one.”

The only thing the Orme kids aren’t allowed to do?

“You’re not allowed to say can’t,” John Orme said. “I forget where I heard this, but success comes in cans, not cant’s.”

CAP has taught his daughter how to strike a  balance in all her endeavors.

“The opportunity that Civil Air Patrol provides you and the networking that CAP provides you is how I was able to balance all of it, because I had so much support — CAP, family, friends. I had support in all of those areas,” Orme said.

By the way, she also drives an hour each way to attend regular meetings of the Livingston Composite Squadron.

In martial arts, her calendar already shows eight Amateur Athletic Union competitions the first quarter of 2024. Her ultimate goal is an opportunity to compete for a spot on the 2028 Olympic team.

“That I see as a very doable thing,” Orme said. “Not this year, but the next go-around, absolutely.”

While discipline and physical fitness are part of CAP’s core values, there’s also a spiritual dimension.

“(Martial arts), whether it’s Taekwondo, jiu jitsu, or Moi Tai, is such a grounding sport. They all have their roots in spirituality. Spirituality is a big thing in martial arts,” the cadet said.

The sports have made her a better welder, pilot, and CAP member. “It’s about attention to detail,” she said.

And the peace she finds in martial arts also surrounds her when she’s in the cockpit of a TG7A Motor Glider, a sunshine yellow aircraft with a wingspan exceeding 59 feet.

“The engine goes off, and you feel this little change in how you’re moving,” Ome said. “It almost seems like a soundtrack should  be playing.

“It’s like this incredible peaceful glide, and  you feel like, ‘I’m a little bit more in control of this now. But at the same time, I’m just kind of gliding. … It’s peace. It’s quiet. It’s an amazing feeling.”

She describes herself this way: “I believe in hard work and dedication. What I do is out of the ordinary.”

And when people ask what she does?

“I tell them I’m a welder and a full-time martial artist,” Orme said. “There’s kind of a ‘Whoa!’ aspect.

“I keep it interesting.”

But more than keeping it interesting, she wants to do more, sparking desire in other young women to be extraordinary. She feels blessed to share what she does, which inspires women in aviation and aviation mechanics and the trades.

“I want to be inspiring.”
And she is. Orme recounts the steady stream of social media messages she receives from women and men. She has some 3,000 followers on Instagram, 500 on Facebook, and a whopping 45,000 on TikTok.

“I get messages from female cadets I’ve never met, telling me I’m an inspiration,” she said.

Orme’s example sparked one young woman to enroll in a welding class, a ticket to independence. Another, a CAP cadet, talked of Orme’s example. Now that youth has applied for CAP’s Cadet Wings program.

“I couldn’t tell you how many [messages] I’ve gotten, but every time I do, I almost tear up,” she said. “It’s such a cool feeling.”

 “CAP is the best place I can put that all out there,” Orme added.

Talk to her dad, and you learn two things at the core of everything she does, whether welding, or martial arts, or aviation.

First, she gives 100% in all she does.

But as her social media footprint demonstrates, something even bigger than discipline and desire is at work.

“She doesn’t feel like she has to push other people down to advance herself,” John Orme said. “She realizes there’s room for everybody to advance, that everybody can do their cool thing.

“And she understands that the best way  to get good at something is to help somebody else get good at something.”

Orme summons a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson when he thinks of his daughter and her desire to help others. His medical training has allowed him to provide aid in places as varied as a service counter at Walmart, a basketball court in Japan, and a refugee camp in war-ravaged Ukraine.

John Orme wears Emerson’s words as a tattoo.

“To think that one life has breathed easier because you have lived is to have succeeded,” he said.

Make no mistake, Gabriella Orme — the welder, aviatrix, martial artist — has succeeded. And thanks to her, others breathe easier.

But as she might say, she’s keeping it interesting.
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Paul South
Contributing Writer