It Seems That Country Singers are a dime a dozen today, especially with all the reality-based singing shows. Many of the artists are just ﬂashes in the pan. Staying power is the key to the music business – to any entertainment business, really. Staying relevant is the most diﬃcult part of keeping in the public spotlight. Life for Morgan is no diﬀerent. It is a ﬁght to remain relevant in the country-music scene. Television can seem worse as consumers are bombarded with entertainment options, and the only way to get and keep loyal fans is to continue producing fresh and exciting products that speak to them. Morgan has ﬁgured out a winning formula for he and his fans, and this talent has kept him in the limelight since he ﬁrst entered the music scene back in his Army days.
As A Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and later a member of the 101st Airborne/Air Assault Division, he amassed more than 800 jumps, including combat jumps. If you’re not familiar with the Army, that’s a lot of jumps! Morgan knows the lonely, miserable feeling of being far from home in a hostile atmosphere. At one point, while serving, he entered and won multiple singing competitions, which gave him the conﬁdence to continue. After 10½ years in active duty, Morgan came back home to Tennessee and dedicated himself to a music career, while still continuing to serve by joining the Army Reserve until 2004.
His music career didn’t occur by happenstance. Born in central Tennessee in 1964, his father was a bassist and Morgan was introduced to many of country music’s royalty as a child, including George Jones and Tammy Wynette. He even sang the National Anthem at age 10 with Minnie Pearl in the audience. The way the story goes, Miss Pearl told Morgan, “Son, someday you’re gonna be famous.” Miss Pearl was correct. In 2008 Craig joined the iconic country music institution, The Grand Ole Opry – with Miss Minnie Pearl by his side. An invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry is a high honor for any country music artist.
Morgan hasn’t forgotten his roots, nor his time in the Army. He regularly entertains service members around the world on USO tours – in fact, he was on one as I wrote this article. Although his tour location is a secret, due to security concerns, he has performed multiple times in Southwest Asia over the past decade, bringing joy, entertainment, comedy and relief to young men and women risking their lives thousands of miles from home.
Acting Like A Country Star is simply not in Morgan’s DNA. Speaking to him was like talking to an old friend. Sure, he’s a busy man these days, what with a new album getting ready to launch, the seventh season of his hit TV show Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors airing in on Outdoor Channel in July, a couple of kids in college and a wife, Karen, of 25 years, but I never felt like I was burdening him for his time. He has a guy-nextdoor vibe about him – approachable and kind. He’s also a jokester. His cable hunting series is as much a comedy as it is an adventure. Let me give you folks a piece of advice: If you are on a plane and you see someone who looks like Craig Moran – don’t fall asleep! If you do, you will make it onto his Twitter and Facebook accounts as #SOP – sleepers on the plane. His tweets include selﬁes with snoozing passengers in the background. He takes great joy in catching his fellow sojourners napping. You’ve been warned!
Morgan has had many hits over his career such as: “Redneck Yacht Club;” “International Harvester;” “Bonﬁre;” and “That’s What I Love about Sunday” – a hit that stayed number one on country music billboards for four weeks and was ultimately declared the number one hit of 2005. Morgan just keeps evolving with every album.
A single from his new, yet to be named or released album is out now. “When I’m Gone” is fantastic and has a more emotional yearning to it than some of his previous work. I was fortunate enough to hear the entire album, and in this writer’s opinion, “When I’m Gone” will be big, but the best cut is titled “A Whole Lot More To Me.” The song speaks to Morgan’s multidimensional life. I asked Morgan is expand on this a bit more. “We’ve been stereotyped as rednecks, but it’s our own fault – we are to blame. With this song, I wanted people to see a diﬀerent side to country music. We can like the ﬁner things in life and still be country. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”
The Latest Album Isn’t the only activity taking up Morgan’s time these days. He has been and is still ﬁlming episodes for his show on Outdoor Channel. The show is part reality, part comedy and a whole lot of outdoors. Unlike many outdoor shows, Morgan isn’t about ﬁnding the biggest buck on a hunt, but about having fun while being with his family and friends, all while encouraging his viewers to get outside too. In 2015, his show won the coveted Golden Moose Award for best comedy.
Morgan is a seasoned outdoorsman and his show is proof positive of his interests. Season seven (beginning in July) promises to be even more adventurous and is geared towards everyone who enjoys the outdoors, country music and fun – it’s not just for hunters.
In one of the many upcoming episodes, the show supports Billy’s Place, an organization that caters to griefstricken children and children in crisis and was named after Morgan’s father-in-law, and highlights Billy’s Place 5K Run, Billy’s Place golf tournament and music fest. Craig saw the need for activities like during his time as a deputy sheriﬀ – yes, one of his many facets.
Other adventures you will see include Morgan using various Hoyt compound bows while hunting deer in Illinois and Kentucky and big elk in the enchanted state of New Mexico, and a visit to the Remington ammunition plant, where I hope he will ask what happened to the .22LR ammunition! More bowhunting in Ohio and Texas and then oﬀ to Nebraska for mule deer – the best kind, as far as this Utah writer is concerned. There is some Florida hog hunting, showing that there is more to the Sunshine State than beaches and bikinis, and then all the way up to Canada for black bear. There are even turkey and goat hunts along the way. These are just some of the adventures.
Morgan Also Travels To Hawaii to hunt Vancouver bulls, as well as goats and turkeys. Yes, you read that correctly, Vancouver bulls. You know, cows, but wild. The history behind this is interesting. Captain Vancouver gave King Kamehameha a herd of cattle as a gift. The cattle were killed and eaten rather quickly, wiping out the herd. So the captain gave the king another group, smaller this time, and told him to let the herd grow so he could provide his people with a food supply for a long time.
That was over 300 years ago, and now the islands have a wild cattle problem. Initially, the king issued an order forbidding the killing of the animals, and the herd grew quickly. But what do cattle do if unmanaged? Raze crops and hurt people. An organized hunt was commissioned years later, which thinned the herd, but deep in the jungle, these nonnative animals continue to damage an already stressed ecosystem, thus the hunt. The hunt isn’t easy either. To get to these bulls, one must walk through steep terrain and thick jungle just to ﬁnd them.
Morgan’s international travels also take him to New Zealand for tahr. Similar to a mountain goat, hunting these Himalayn transplants is very diﬃcult due to the terrain and strong winds that blow where these creatures live.
If Hunting Isn’t Your Thing, then tune in for Morgan’s motorcycle racing episode in Indiana and his day at the dirt track racing in Missouri. He’s also headed for the Bahamas on a world-class ﬁshing trip, doing his best Ernest Hemingway impression by catching the big ones.
And what would a season of CMAAO be without music? Craig will be performing in Iowa and Kansas and parts of these shows will be aired during the season.
Craig will also be teaming up with Bass Pro Shops and JP Morris for a cast-and-blast turkey hunt, and will, of course, be participating again this year in the Annual Opry Hunt. This hunt features legends in the country music world out hunting together. In the past the Opry Hunt has been for duck, but rumor has it that this year it’s a riﬂe hunt – what could they be hunting? You’ve got to tune in to ﬁnd out!
Craig Morgan seems to have two speeds – full speed or asleep. When he’s not traveling the world entertaining the troops with the USO, he is performing concerts, recording a new album, going on adventures for his Outdoor Channel show, working with Exodus Road to try and stop human traﬃcking overseas, volunteering with his local sheriﬀ’s oﬃce and spending time with his wife and kids. The old saying is true, “If you want something done, ask a busy man.” Somehow Morgan is able to ﬁt more into his 24-hour day than any other human I’ve met.
Do Yourself A Favor, and check out Morgan’s new shows on the Outdoor Channel starting this summer and watch for his new album to be released sometime in mid-2016. I’ve listened to every song multiple times and can say that as a country music fan, I love this album. His new music doesn’t pigeonhole him as the Bakersﬁeld or Nashville sound. To my untrained ear, he is mixing these polar opposite sounds to create a unique and distinctly Morgan sound.
We throw the term “hero” around a lot. Sports stars, music stars, reality TV stars are being sold to us as heroes. A true hero is someone who can be depended on to do what’s best for those around him or her. A true hero doesn’t calculate risk to life or reputation and they never make decisions based on what’s politically correct. A hero sees what needs to be done and simply does it. Craig Morgan’s life has been lived in this exact manner. Is he a hero? He is to me. AMSJ
Editor’s note: Part I in this series last issue covered the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.
The United States Air Force is a unique service for a multitude of reasons. It was the ﬁrst branch of the service to allow women into combat roles (security police) and has an entire career ﬁeld dedicated to protecting air bases, aircraft, Air Force personnel and nuclear weapons. All of the other services require individual units to provide security for themselves, i.e. an Army aviation unit’s members, including her mechanics, are armed and trained as riﬂemen. In the Air Force, only one group is trained in the art of Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD).
POST WORLD WAR II
In 1947 when the Air Force was officially separated from the Army, the need to protect not only the aircraft but now a cache of nuclear weapons became paramount. The old-time bomber pilot and commander Curtis LeMay saw the need for a unit to function like the infantry, but on Air Force bases. These airmen needed to be versed in the use of small arms, crew-served weapons, and squad- (ﬁre team in the Air Force), platoon- (called a ﬂight) and company- (called a squadron) level tactics. These units needed to be highly specialized in the deterrence and detection of unauthorized people or groups attempting to access a base (especially ones with nuclear missions) or missile ﬁeld. The Strategic Air Command led the way in developing their APs into highly trained soldier airmen, known unofficially as “SAC Trained Killers.”
During the Korean War, very few air bases came under attack. The APs were basically law enforcement on the base and guarded aircraft. No tactical plans had been implemented, let alone training for a base attack. The Air Force was lucky, but their luck would be tested mightily in the next go-around. The SAC model wasn’t followed by units in Korea, as the nuclear weapons were kept stateside.
As the Vietnam War ramped up in the 1960s, so did the need for the Air Force’s presence in and around America’s ally in Southeast Asia. The U.S. focused most of its air bases in South Vietnam and Thailand, with others further away in places like Guam and the Philippines. Those bases located on the mainland endured the greatest risk of attack, as they sat close to enemy forces. Amazingly enough, few of the Air Force bases came under attack in the beginning years of the war. The tactics and mindset were still very Korean War-oriented. Many APs arrived at bases in Southeast Asia to ﬁnd no weapons had been sent for them to use. Other bases had WWII leftovers – Browning Automatic Riﬂes (BARs), .30-caliber Browning machineguns, grease guns, Colt .45 ACP 1911s and M1 Carbines.
I spoke with Senior Master Sergeant Pete Piazza (retired) at length about what the Sky Cops (as they were lovingly dubbed) endured from 1966-72. Piazza served three tours of duty in Vietnam as an AP and then as a SP. He witnessed ﬁrsthand the Air Force go from no real idea of how to defend a base to being awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Bien Hoa Air Base on Jan. 31, 1968, during the Tet Offensive.
Piazza took charge of his bunker when his leader, Capt. Maisey, was killed by a rocket. A staff sergeant at the time, he spent the next eight hours running through heavy machinegun ﬁre, rockets and sniper ﬁre to keep his men fully supplied with much-needed ammunition and water. Piazza was quick to educate me on a couple of little known facts.
“Ninety percent of the SPs that were at Air Force bases when Tet started had never seen combat,” he told me.
He also said something that intrigued me: “The Air Force was the only branch of the service that didn’t have one of their bases overrun by the enemy.”
Why was that? Men just like Piazza. But ask him and he’ll say, “I was just doing what everybody else was doing.” While humility is the true sign of a hero, I will have to disagree with Pete on this one. Silver Stars aren’t just handed out, especially to enlisted USAF airmen.
Undoubtedly, there were others who performed as bravely as Piazza did on that January day so long ago. I can’t possibly ﬁnd and speak to them all; some, including his direct supervisor, Capt. Maisey, were killed on that day and in the days to come as Tet raged on. Piazza certainly wasn’t part of any “chair force.” He was every bit an infantryman that day as Audie Murphy and Chesty Puller.
Ask any soldier and he or she will tell you: Whoever owns the night has the advantage. The SPs were some of the ﬁrst units in the Vietnam War to receive ANTVS-2 scopes, nicknamed “Starlight” because of their use of ambient star and moon light. These scopes were some of the ﬁrst real attempts at night vision and changed the face of war forever. The riﬂemounted scope gave the user night vision out to 400 meters, while a crew-served weapons version, the ANPVS-4, worked out to 1,000, and an off-weapon version, the ANPVS-5, allowed sight out to 1,500 meters. For those airmen who had them, night shifts became a little less nerve racking.
One asset was in great supply, and gave the SPs another advantage at night – military working dogs, MWDs or K9s. The Sky Cops would walk the perimeter at night with their dogs. The SPs couldn’t see any better just because they had a dog, but the dogs could sense the presence of intruders, and on more than one occasion they stopped enemy sappers before they had the chance to breach the perimeter fence. For whatever reason, the Viet Cong also had a healthy fear of these K9s and kept their distance as word spread of their presence on the air bases. At the height of the K9 program, in January 1967, there were 476 dogs deployed. The dog handlers carried a special version of the M16, called the GAU-5/A. It was shorter and allowed the handler to control the dog and ﬁre the riﬂe one-handed if needed.
It wasn’t until after Tet that the Air Force wrote its ﬁrst deﬁnitive, battle-tested, air-base ground defense manual to be used in the years ahead – especially during the Cold War.
THE MAYAGUEZ INCIDENT
On May 12, 1975, Cambodian naval ships captured the S.S. Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant marine ship, in international waters. Negotiations broke down and a rescue mission was planned. The closest unit with combat experience was the 56th Security Police Squadron stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. After the CH-53 Knife helicopters plus some HH-53 choppers left the base, Knife 13 disappeared from radar 40 miles out. It is widely thought that mechanical issues caused the crash. All 18 security policemen and four crew members and a linguist died.
Moments before take-off, a picture of the ill-fated Sky Cops in Knife 13 was taken. Thirty minutes later all 23 passengers were dead. The image leaves a haunting legacy of sacriﬁce and how short life can be in a combat zone.
As the Cold War heated up, America’s nuclear arsenal followed suit. Most nuclear assets came under the purview of the USAF, and more speciﬁcally SAC. SAC was the brain child of LeMay and was arguably the best run major command in the Air Force. SAC operated bases for bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, as well as bases that
supported missile ﬁeld operations. These wings were subject to remarkably stringent inspections, the failure of which would result in the ﬁring of the senior staff of the wing.
The SPs were responsible for several missions on SAC bases: the protection of the weapons storage areas, where the nukes were stored; and the physical guarding of the B-52s and KC-135s, air refuelers, that were on “alert.” Being on alert required the aircrews to live in a special facility next to the aircraft. At the sound of the klaxon, the crews rushed to their aircraft and were ready for take-off to top secret destinations. The SPs guarded all of these locations, day and night, 24/7/365. At places like Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, guard duty tested one’s desire to be a cop.
Missile ﬁelds also demanded the attention of the SPs. These ﬁelds were vast and remote. Cops worked seven days straight, often living out of campers attached to the back of pick-up trucks. The missile ﬁelds weren’t located in tropical locales either. They were spread across states like Montana, Kansas, Wyoming and South Dakota. Working conditions for the cops were less than ideal; in fact, at times the conditions resembled the Arctic Circle more than the continental United States. But defend these locations the SPs did, and to this day, still do. In 1997 security police career ﬁelds of law enforcement and security specialist were merged into one ﬁeld and renamed Security Forces. This change gave the cops more ﬂexibility in manning assignments, as well as providing cross training.
MODERN-DAY WAR ON TERROR
The USAF’s modern-day Security Forces function even more like infantry units than the cops in the past. They have all the weapons of the infantry – the M240, M249B, M4, M9, M203, 81mm mortars and M24 sniper systems. They are the ﬁrst service to deploy female snipers and have now trained multiple women in this role.
The Air Force’s cops continue to become a “high speed, low drag” group. They have a squadron that is airborne qualiﬁed, stationed in Georgia. This group of cops even made a combat jump with the Army into Iraq. Air Mobility Command has also developed a group called the Ravens. In this group of Security Forces, airmen accompany aircraft into dangerous regions of the world where there is no on ground security for the aircraft. These men and women travel the world providing security for these USAF assets and serve as Force Protection advisors to aircrew members. Other major commands have similar.
The Air Force continues to change with the times. It just so happens that the “Sky Cops” are leading the way when it comes to installation, asset, nuclear and personnel security. The lessons learned in the Jungles of Vietnam and Thailand, as well as the lessons of the Cold War in Europe and the frozen missile ﬁelds and bomber facilities of America are the foundation under which the new generation of Sky Cops continue to grow and evolve. ASJ
Worthy, now a deputy sheriff in Brevard County (where Satellite Beach is located), grew up doing what kids in small beach towns do – surf. When Worthy wasn’t surfing, he was wrestling for his high school.
Immediately after graduation, Worthy enlisted in the United States Army on a Ranger track and was assigned to Charlie Company 1/75th Rangers. He attended Ranger School a year later. Ranger School consists of 60 days of sleep deprivation and stress-induced missions. Each mission forces the Ranger candidate to think critically under less-than-ideal situations. The school has three phases, each more difficult than the last. The beginning phase takes place at Camp Darby, Fort Benning, Ga., followed by mountain training at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga., and culminates in the Florida Phase at Camp Rudder and Eglin Air Force Base. The graduation rate hovers around 50 percent or lower, and most have to start over at least once during the course. Worthy completed the course the first time through.
After earning his Ranger tab, Worthy went back to Charlie Company and began working his way through the ranks. He started out as a rifleman and advanced to grenadier, M249 Gunner, M240 Gunner and finished his enlistment as an E-5 sergeant team leader. Worthy found that his favorite weapon system was the MK 48, a light belt-fed machine gun chambered in the hard hitting 7.62x51mm. Worthy told me, “[The MK 48] is an amazingly lethal weapon that saved the lives of many fellow Rangers and prevented the enemy from advancing on us almost instantly.”
During his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan Worthy was involved in an operation that placed he and 30 fellow Rangers in harm’s way. Although the details remain classified it’s easy to surmise that Worthy and his fellow Rangers were doing what they do best – looking for and eliminating bad guys. As is usually the case with special ops units, they were deep in Taliban territory and undoubtedly being watched by the enemy as they made their way through the rugged countryside. Soon they found themselves surrounded by 100-plus Taliban fighters. Their squad leader dead, Worthy and his fellow Rangers fought their way out. Worthy told me that he didn’t do anything differently than any of the other Rangers, but his superiors didn’t see it that way and rewarded him with the Bronze Star Medal with a V for valor in combat. It’s a classification for heroism.
As Worthy’s enlistment came to an end he followed his father’s example and also became a road patrol deputy for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office where his dad has been a deputy for some 30-odd years. The transition from service to his country to service to his community was a natural one for him.
As I spoke with Worthy it was apparent to me that he is a humble, quiet man who didn’t want to talk about himself more than he had to. When I asked him if there was a seminal moment when he knew he had made the correct choice in becoming an officer, he told me he couldn’t think of one, but promised to think on it and email me later. He did as he promised and emailed me a story. That he would rather email the story than say it out loud demonstrates his humility. Here’s the story in his own words:
“I responded to a trespass call at a local gas station. The clerks advised that a homeless male was loitering on the property and they wanted him to leave. When I arrived the man began to pack his things and said ‘You must be here for me. I didn’t mean to bother anyone; I was just trying to stay warm.’ I decided to stay there and talk to him about his situation. It turns out the man wasn’t asking for money. He only wanted to get into one of the local shelters; however, his ID card was stolen, and he stated that the shelter will not accept anyone without an ID. As the male looked down and proceeded to walk towards his bicycle I told him I had to go back to the precinct right quick but wanted him to meet me at the Subway [sandwich shop]. When I met back up with him I gave him an unofficial record of his ID card that was on record from a previous consensual encounter with another deputy. The man began to cry and told me that nobody has ever gone out of their way like that to help him, especially the police. Since he was too proud to accept any cash for a sandwich I gave the money to the cashier to make him one when he came inside. I wished him luck and told him the cashier wanted to ask him a question as I left in my patrol car.”
Singer Don Henley released a song in the 1980s entitled “Dirty Laundry.” The song is about how much the news media loves tragedy, pain and suffering. One line in the song says, “I make my living off the evening news, just give me something, something I can use. People love it when you lose … ”
The song’s lyrics are almost prophetic in describing today’s news reporting. Stories of murder and mayhem abound, and the volume is cranked to 11 if the story involves a cop. There is no shortage of news stories casting cops in a bad light, but what you rarely see are stories like the one Worthy shared with me. My bet is that he hasn’t shared that story with anyone besides maybe his fiancee.
Worthy could have just as easily sent the homeless man on his way without trying to help him out. My experience has been that people who witness war and all its tragic occurrences like Worthy has usually end up one of two ways: 1) callous and uncaring about other people and their problems; or 2) they vow to alleviate as much suffering in the world as they can. It is obvious which path Worthy has taken.
Regrettably, not all calls end in a positive way. Monday, March 9, 2015, was a defining date in the young life of Deputy Worthy. At 9:08 p.m. a 911 call was fielded describing a man standing in the street firing a handgun at random cars and houses. The house from where the 911 call originated was occupied not only by adults but by children as well. The City of Cocoa was the primary agency responding to the call, with Deputy Worthy responding as back-up. It turned out that he was the closest officer and arrived first.
When he got within two blocks of where the shooter had last been seen he stopped to retrieve his Colt AR-15 patrol rifle and approached on foot. His time as a Ranger had taught him that the element of surprise was worth its weight in gold, but like all well thought-out plans his was subjected to Murphy’s Law. The original plan went by the wayside within seconds of his arrival.
Worthy’s car was blacked out, meaning no lights of any kind were on, when he saw a man standing in the street. Worthy turned on his headlights to get a better look at the man. The man, who turned out to be the active shooter, acted as if he was going to run, so Worthy activated his blue lights announcing that he was a deputy sheriff. As soon as the lights came on the suspect reached into his pocket, pulled out a handgun and began firing at him.
One of the first shots came through the patrol car’s windshield and embedded in the headrest, narrowly missing Worthy’s head. Worthy exited and sought better cover behind his car. The shooter, in a highly agitated state, pursued Worthy to the rear of the car, shooting the entire time. At one point the suspect, later identified as 30-year-old Cedrick Bishop, was running towards Worthy and it was at this time that Worthy confronted the suspect and killed him. Worthy’s experiences in Southwest Asia saved his life that night.
Worthy was fighting for more than the lives of the residents in that small Florida town; he was fighting for his future. His fiancée, who was nine months pregnant with their daughter, and her young son were at home. If it were not for his quick response you may very well have been reading his obituary and that of several citizens of Cocoa instead of this article.
As Worthy and I were talking about the shooting he told me that taking a life is never a good thing. I agree, but the decision to take a life that night had already been made and not by him. The active shooter had decided that someone was going to die and ultimately made the decision that it would be him.
It was a privilege for me to interview Worthy. Something that struck me while speaking with him was his desire to deflect credit away from himself and give it to others. He did this when I asked him about his heroic efforts in Afghanistan, and on March 9, 2015. But isn’t this what real heroes do? This modesty is what confirmed it for me. As a father of three boys I can imagine how proud Worthy’s parents are of him. As a citizen I know how proud we are of him. As a son I know how proud his kids will be of him when they are old enough to know what their dad has done in the name of service.
In this age of overpaid, overindulged athletes, entertainers, and other public figures, it is refreshing to know that people of character are out there. These quiet men and women go about their jobs every day never seeking the limelight or fame. They go to work with the singular goal of protecting the citizens in their jurisdiction no matter the cost. These officers deserve our gratitude and support for their willingness to sacrifice all so that we can be safe.
Worthy said it best: “I did what any other law enforcement officer would have done; I just happened to get there first.” What Worthy doesn’t say is that when the shots first ring out, he and his fellow officers (and soldiers) run towards the danger, not away from it, all to protect their citizens. ASJ