10th Mountain Division soldiers fly over stadium before Patriots/Commanders game in Massachusetts
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. November 8, 2023
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Some 10th Mountain Division soldiers had the opportunity to take part in the flyover minutes before the Washington Commanders took on the New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., during the NFL’s week 9 slate of games.
Lt. Col. Sean R. Stapler said it came down as a request to support the “Salute to Service” campaign.
“We’ve been planning this for about three months now,” he said.
Stapler said they were helped by the Norwood Memorial Airport, located 8.4 miles away from the stadium, where they housed the helicopters for a few days before the flyover so that soldiers could rehearse before the game.
Stapler was the air mission commander, which meant he was the one in charge of the event as a whole. He also was flying a Blackhawk helicopter.
Capt. Jake R. Kahoe was the ground coordinator and worked with the Patriots to make sure they hit the right time.
Stapler said they set up a holding pattern about five miles away from the stadium, and then they waited on the cue from the Patriots production team where they received a time of 12:59:15 to be over the stadium.
“There was all kinds of other military entities that were also participating in this event,” Stapler said.
Stapler called the experience “a great opportunity.”
“Not only do we get a lot of good training out of it going through the planning process and working that side of it,” he said. “But obviously just on a personal level, it’s a great chance to go down there and execute a flyover of an NFL game.”
Stapler said there were a good amount of soldiers on the flyover from the New England area, and thus Patriots fans.
Stapler, who is a Patriots fan, said he feels that doing the flyover for the team he loves made it mean even more special to him.
“That’s one of the reasons why we tried to bring along a lot of New England folks to participate in this event,” he said.
Kahoe said he’s not a Patriots fan, but still found the experience to be enjoyable.
“Just being around the NFL in that capacity, and getting to rub elbows with more behind-the-scenes NFL employees was an awesome experience,” Kahoe said.
Kahoe and Stapler are with the 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. Kahoe said it was “incredible” to get the support from the different organizations such as the Patriots, Massachusetts State Police, and the Foxborough local police as well as seeing supporters in the crowd and talking with them about their lives.
“It’s certainly humbling being in that environment in uniform and getting to represent the Army in that way,” Kahoe said.
After the flyover, they flew to Norwood Airport, and then got an escort from the Massachusetts State Police. In the third quarter, the Patriots highlighted the crew that participated in the flyover.
In total there were 31 10th Mountain Division soldiers participating in the flyover.
The Commanders defeated the Patriots, 20-17.
The NFL’s Salute to Service campaign runs during weeks 9 to 11 of the season. This upcoming week is Week 10.
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