Someone You Should Know

Interview: Nick Francona - Battlefield to Major League Baseball

The following interview is a special provided for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper.  

Nick Francona has returned from the war torn battlefield of Afghanistan to become the Los Angeles Angels’ coordinator of major league player information.  If the last name sounds familiar it should, since his father is the famous baseball manager Terry Francona. had the privilege of interviewing Nick.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business he decided to become a Marine.  He cherishes the fact that the military allows people to accept a lot of responsibility just out of college, something he points out does not happen with many other careers.  He told that he decided to volunteer because of the affect 9/11 had on him when he was a sophomore in high school.  “I think that was very much a defining moment with my generation. A couple of kids at my school lost parents. It made it a little more personal. Each generation has a defining event, and that happened at a very formative time in my life. It changes your outlook on things. In the military I was in charge of a sniper platoon. I learned the basics of leadership including infantry officers course, ground intelligence officers course, and a scout’s commander course.  I went on a broad array of missions from establishing a presence to reconnaissance.”

After retiring he sent his resume to the Angel GM Jerry Dipoto, and was offered a job.  The reason he decided to take it, “I was thinking it is probably not a good idea to work for a team where my dad is a manager. I think it might open a can of worms as far as nepotism which would definitely create for awkward moments.”

Will he be able to use the skills learned in the military in baseball?  Absolutely said Nick.  “What I learned as an officer I will carry with me for the rest of my life, which is how to take charge whether its just concerning myself or leading others.” He will most certainly have to do that considering one of his duties is to be the Angel point person for reviewing instant replays.  He will be the person to call the dugout and say “appeal. As on the battlefield, instincts and making decisions with very little time available will come into play in his new position.

The other part of his job will be to find trends with the use of statistics.  He is looking to see how the other team approaches the Angels and how they can approach the other team, basically identifying strengths and weaknesses to find an advantage.  He cited the example, “To identify where one pitcher might be better suited to face a certain hitter.  We have a lot of new resources available and need to utilize all of them.  That is similar to what happens in the military where you get a ton of information from hundreds of sources, whether it's satellites, drones, guys on the ground. I had to go through that and determine what I could turn into actionable intelligence.  The challenge in baseball and in Afghanistan was to combine the human element with technology. There is the need to put everyone in a position to succeed.  I learned from being a Marine how to take all these inputs and synthesize them to make useful information which I will use in this new baseball job.”

The other aspect of Nick’s job is to sit down with the coaching staff before every series and analyze the data available.  “In the military I became very innovative, bringing different approaches to certain problems.  In this baseball job I will need to filter out information to find what is important and what is not.  How can we take the information on a piece of paper and usefully apply it on the field?”

General Manager Jerry Dipoto is described as someone who is into new-aged statistics while Manager Mike Scioscia is of the old-school mentality, literally a “field” manager. How do you think you will be able to merge the two philosophies?  “My task in the military was to lead experienced guys.  I took suggestions and ideas. I can use that experience here with the Angels.  Mike and I are building a good relationship.  He is the one with all the experience and successes so he tends to do things he has in the past, which is justifiable.  But I think he is receptive to discuss how the organization can be better.  There will be a lot of give and take as well as open discussions.”

Nick wants to have a career in baseball, maybe some day becoming a General Manager. Looking back at his life it is obvious his dad influenced him to be a part of baseball and he has influenced his parents to be involved with the military.  His mom works with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Red Sox to help veterans with TBI.  Nick feels he is one of the lucky ones since he was honored to serve his country and can now serve in a job with America’s pastime, baseball.

You can read more about Nick here, here and here.

From Petty Officer to PinUp - Kelli Serio (Someone You Should Know)

For those of you familiar with the great work of Gina Elise and Pinups for Vets, you know she has a bevy of gals who reenact the elegant days of WW2 Pinups.  (Including period costumes, music, etc).


Among their number is Kelli Serio.  Smart and beautiful and fully in keeping with all things "PinUp". The bonus?  She's also a Veteran.

She's posted a biographic piece on Pinups For Vets, chronicling her transition from the US Navy


to a Pin Up, Model and fledgling actress.


What's great about her is that she's down to earth and fully appreciative of the wonderful things that are happening with her new career.  It is clear that she never forgets her military past and Service folks.  She's a wonderful person I've gotten to know a bit over the last few months.

Gentle readers, I present Kelli Serio - From Petty Officer to Pin Up

PFC Mark Deville - Silver Star Awarded for Actions in 1984! - SYSK

Hires_140128-D-KC128-093Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presents retired Army Pfc. Mark A. Deville with a Silver Star, the nation's third highest military award, for his actions in Korea 30 years ago, at the Pentagon, Jan. 28, 2014. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

In 1984, a Soviet defector escaped across the Korean DMZ, pursued by NORKs determined to kill him rather than let him American down, another South Korean soldier down...and a squad of Infantry arrived to stop the NORKS...they flanked, then, after a 45 minute fight, captured the NORKS and the defector...the squad was awarded Silver Stars in 2000 but no one could find PFC Devine, until now.

Private First Class Mark A. Deville, United States Army, was awarded the Silver Star for exceptional valor and gallantry in action while serving with the Joint Security Force Company, United Nations Command Security Force at Panmunjom, Korea, on 23 November 1984. In reaction to thirty attacking North Korean soldiers in pursuit of a Soviet defector, Private Deville's aggressive actions were instrumental in defeating the enemy. Throughout the intense firefight, Private Deville displayed a complete disregard for his own personal safety while accomplishing his mission. Private First Class Deville's bravery and aggressive performance of duty under extremely hazardous circumstances are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect great credit upon him, the United Nations Command and the United States Army.

Deville's old squad from the Joint Security Force Company reconvened at the Pentagon to see him pinned with the Silver Star and with a Combat Infantryman Badge.  General Dempsey said, "You are gathered together again as a group as you were nearly 30 years ago in support of your country."

Hires_140128-D-KC128-126Former platoon members and Kwi, right, the wife of retired Army Pfc. Mark A. Deville, listen as Deville speaks during a ceremony where he received a Silver Star, the nation's third highest military award, for his actions in Korea 30 years ago, at the Pentagon, Jan. 28, 2014. DOD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

More here from NPR.

The Wise Brothers

In World War II, five brothers of the Sullivan family all died on the same ship at Guadalcanal.  In this war, it is rare to find a family in which two or three have served.  

The Wise family has sent three sons to the war, and lost two of them.  The Washington Post has a long feature piece on them this weekend that is very much worth your time.

Hero - Brit Army Medic, Kylie Watson, Receives the Military Cross


From 2011 - Seriously GREAT story about a Brit Combat Medic, and one of only four females to ever receive the Military Cross, at the Daily Mail UK:

When Lance Corporal Kylie Watson was summoned to the office of her commanding officer for a ‘fireside chat’ she feared the worst. ‘Do you know why you are here?’ he asked the combat medic. ‘Am I in trouble, Sir?’ she enquired. ‘No,’ he told her. ‘You’ve been awarded the Military Cross.’

The 23-year-old, whose tour of Afghanistan’s Helmand province was her first as a fully qualified battlefield medic, was stunned. 

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right soldier?’ she asked. But there was no mistake. The extraordinary heroism she displayed by twice running into Taliban fire to treat wounded comrades had been recognised with one of the UK’s highest honours...

Read more: 

Band of Brothers Nurse Augusta Chiwy - Someone You Should Know - The Night Before XMas in Bastogne

"A black face in all that white snow was a pretty easy target. Those Germans must be terrible marksmen." - Augusta Chiwy on her surviving German shells and bullets while rescuing wounded Americans during the Battle of the Bulge

You probably don't know Augusta Chiwy.  She just didn't patch up paratroopers...she went out to the battlefield and got shot at picking up wounded troops on litters and shelled and bombed in her own hospital...but you may remember this image from the Band of Brothers series (episode 6)...

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

"Anna" - the character name - is the the nurse on the right. Her real name is Augusta Chiwy.  And her story is pretty damn amazing as told by Martin King - a British author who has spent 20 years in the Ardennes researching the Battle of the Bulge. He provided this article to Army News Service and is working on a book about Augusta Chiwy.

African Nurse Saved GIs at Battle of Bulge
By Martin King
Courtesy of Army News Service

BASTOGNE, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2011 – It was a bitterly cold winter morning when Augusta Chiwy's tram pulled into Brussels Central train station, Dec. 16, 1944.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The aid station where Augusta Chiwy volunteered on the Rue Neaufchateau in Bastogne, Belgium, was destroyed by German bombs on Christmas Eve 1944, killing 30 American soldiers. U.S. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

On that very same day at 5:30 a.m., green troops of the 106th Golden Lion Division were rudely awakened from their winter sojourn by a hellish barrage of incoming artillery shells, "screaming meemies," accompanied by the menacing rumble of Tiger and Panther tanks on the move. Just over the German/Belgian border, out in an area known as the Schnee Eifel, three German armies had assembled almost under the noses of the allies.

Brussels was still alive with commuters going about their daily routines when Chiwy arrived at the train station. She had been working at St. Elizabeth General Hospital in the Flemish town of Louvain and was on her way to visit relatives in Bastogne.

Above the din of collective voices at the station, the public address system droned out monotone information about trains, platforms and destinations, adding that, "There will be no departures for Luxembourg or Bastogne. Passengers wishing to reach these destinations should take the 7:50 to Namur."

Chiwy noticed an inexplicable sense of urgency in many of the assembled passenger's demeanors as she boarded the train for Namur about 30 miles south of Brussels. The train stopped there, and passengers wishing to go to the next destination were herded into open cattle trucks and taken as far as Marche. From there, Chiwy hitched a ride from a GI who took her to the center of Bastogne.

She arrived in Bastogne around 5 p.m. and noticed that it was a hive of activity as news was beginning to filter through of an all-out German attack to the north and east of the city. In anticipation of the approaching storm, Bastogne civilians were leaving in droves and all roads west quickly became gridlocked with a seemingly endless trail of human traffic.

Bastogne was an old market town and natural junction where seven roads converged. The German army's high command had decided many months previous to the actual attack that it was going to be a prime strategic objective, but no one there had expected what was about to occur during the coldest winter in living memory.

Chiwy had already decided that it was best to go to her uncle's house first to see if she could gather some more information on the situation. Her uncle, Dr. Chiwy, had a practice close to the main square and the young nurse wanted to know if she could help out. By that time of night the civilians and military personnel still there could audibly make out the booming sounds of distant artillery shells exploding a few miles away.

Within a few days of her arrival in Bastogne, the U.S. Army had sent reinforcements to the city. The first to arrive were 2,800 men and 75 tanks of the 10th Armored Division. The following day on Dec. 18, the 101st Airborne Division arrived around midnight and almost immediately began taking up positions at the allocated roadblocks around Bastogne in support of the existing teams. These groups proved to be a stubborn barrier that would allow the necessary time to build Bastogne's defenses and prepare for the German army's main assault.

Chiwy set to work as a nurse by assisting both civilian and military wounded wherever she found them. These efforts didn't go unnoticed. GIs from the 10th Armored Division were on the lookout for medical supplies and personnel to assist with their Aid Station on the Rue Neufchateau.

On Dec. 20, Bastogne became a city under siege. The ever-decreasing perimeter had reduced a once-beautiful city to a blood-soaked and battle-ravaged collection of skeletal smoldering ruins. The only safe places were the dank freezing cellars of ruined houses where remaining civilians and soldiers huddled together for safety and warmth. They survived on basic rations and shared whatever supplies they could find. Chiwy hadn't had a warm meal since she left Louvain and had also been reduced to this grim subterranean existence.

On the morning of the Dec. 21, Chiwy left the safety of her uncle's cellar and along with Nurse Renee Lemaire, she volunteered to work for the 20th AIB, 10th Armored Division at the aid station on Rue Neufchateau where Dr. John Prior was in charge. The situation there was desperate. There were hardly any medical supplies, save for a few bags of sulpha powder and a couple of vials of morphine.

While Lemaire helped make the wounded soldiers as comfortable as possible, Chiwy dressed their wounds and never once shied away from the gory trauma of battlefield injuries.

On at least one occasion, Dr. Prior asked Chiwy if she would accompany him to a battle site east of the Mardasson hill. She was wearing a U.S. Army uniform at the time because her own clothes had become so dilapidated and blood stained. She was well aware that if she would have been captured by German forces it would have meant instant death for collaborating with the "Amies," the German name for the American soldiers.

During a raging blizzard Chiwy calmly loaded up onto a deuce-and-a-half and went to the outskirts of Bastogne. When they arrived there, she actually went out onto the battlefield with Dr. Prior and the two litter-bearers to retrieve wounded soldiers.

Mortar shells were falling close by and German heavy machine guns were raking the ground around Chiwy's small frame as she tended the wounded, but despite this she focused on her duties undaunted. Dr. Prior said the bullets missed Augusta because she was so small, to which Chiwy retorted, "A black face in all that white snow was a pretty easy target. Those Germans must be terrible marksmen."

The skies above Bastogne had cleared on Dec. 23, and C-47s had dropped desperately needed supplies, but the very next day on Christmas Eve, those clear skies gave the German Luftwaffe a chance to send out a few of their remaining bomber squadrons over the city to cause even further death and destruction.

A 500-pound bomb fell directly on the 20th AIB Aid Station, instantly killing 30 wounded U.S. soldiers, along with nurse Renee Lemaire. Chiwy was in the adjacent house with Dr. Prior and a lieutenant when the bomb hit. She was blown clean through a wall, but miraculously survived unscathed.

On the following day, the remaining wounded were taken to the 101st headquarters at the Heintz Barracks where Chiwy worked until they were all evacuated when Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army arrived Dec. 26.

Surviving members of the 10th Armored Division recently signed a letter of appreciation for her service to them during the battle. Her efforts had never been officially recognized until then.

This month, a letter was also received from King Albert II of Belgium stating that he acknowledges Augusta Chiwy's service and will officially recognize her courage and sacrifice during the Battle of the Bulge.

Which brings us to King Albert II's awarding Augusta a knighthood...Alexander O sent me this photo from Friday, June 24th, 2011, of Augusta Chiwy becoming a Knight (Lady) of the Order of the Crown from King Albert II of Belgium.  Here is a photo of Lady Chiwy:

Here is a video that Martin King put together. 


More about the doctors and nurses at the Bulge after the jump...

Continue reading "Band of Brothers Nurse Augusta Chiwy - Someone You Should Know - The Night Before XMas in Bastogne" »

Home for the Holidays...A Combat Controller and Spouse You Should Know


This story is from Homer News:

When Erin Chambers answered the phone at 6 a.m. Nov. 16, she wasn’t surprised to hear her husband Josh’s voice. The telephone is an important link between Erin, a second-grade teacher at a private school in Seattle, and Josh, a 2000 Homer High graduate deployed with the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan.

This call was different, however.

“He asked if I could get on Skype,” said Erin of a computer program that allows the couple to see each other while talking. “So I got on Skype and he said he had good news and bad news.”

The good news: Josh was coming home.

The bad news: He had been shot in the leg...

Go read the whole story about looking at the bright side (of what life throws or the Taliban shoots at you).  By the way, Josh and Erin were married last June.


More here at the Homer Tribune.

You can send Josh and Erin Chambers well wishes by mailing them to 30212 5th Avenue South, Federal Way, Wash., 98003.

A Newly Minted American Finds Inspiration - Robert L. Howard, MOH

Dave Feherty, is a golf analyst for CBS Sports and - until recently - an Irish citizen. In 2010, he became a naturalized US citizen and penned the following article regarding at least one of his inspirations.

Among his activities, and why he bears mention here on Blackfive, is that he runs Feherty's Troops First Foundation.  

He is outspoken - he and CBS Sports have had some disagreements about some of his political views - but it is clear he is focused on supporting veterans in his now adopted country.

In June of 2010, he penned an article in "D Magazine" regarding Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient COL (R) Bob Howard.  He was shocked he'd never heard of this true hero, and learned that Bob was on short final.  

I'd not want to spoil it - please just read the essay.  It is very interesting.

Dave Feherty's Essay


First (OIF or OEF) Army Officer to Receive Medal of Honor


In case, you hadn't heard, on October 15, 2013, former CPT William Swenson will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions. Swenson will be the sixth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Swenson fought in the same battle as Dakota Meyer and is the first Army Officer serving in the War on Terror to receive the MOH.

From the Army News Service:

...On the morning of Sept. 8, 2009, Swenson and his team moved on foot into the rural community of Ganjgal for a meeting with village elders. It was then he and his team were ambushed by more than 50 well-armed, well-positioned insurgent fighters.

As the enemy unleashed a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades, mortar and machine gun fire, Swenson returned fire, coordinated and directed the response of his Afghan Border Police soldiers, and simultaneously tried to call in suppressive artillery fire and aviation support.

After the enemy effectively flanked Coalition Forces, Swenson repeatedly called for smoke to cover the withdrawal of the forward elements. Surrounded on three sides by enemy forces inflicting effective and accurate fire, Swenson coordinated air assets, indirect fire support and medical-evacuation helicopter support to allow for the evacuation of the wounded.

Swenson ignored enemy radio transmissions demanding surrender and maneuvered uncovered to render medical aid to a wounded Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook. Swenson stopped administering aid long enough to throw a grenade at approaching enemy forces, then assisted with moving Westbrook for air evacuation.

After using aviation support to mark locations of fallen and wounded comrades, it became clear that ground recovery was required due to the proximity of heavily-armed enemy positions to potential helicopter landing zones.

With complete disregard for his own safety, Swenson voluntarily led a team into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on three occasions to recover the wounded and search for missing team members.

Returning to the kill zone a fourth time in a Humvee, he exited the vehicle, evaded a hail of bullets and shells to recover three fallen Marines and a Navy corpsman, working alongside then-Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who on Sept. 15, 2011, received the Medal of Honor for his own actions in the battle.

After six hours of continuous fighting, Swenson rallied his teammates and effectively disrupted the enemy assault.

Swenson was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant following graduation from Officer Candidate School on Sept. 6, 2002. His military training and education includes the infantry Maneuver Captains Career Course, Ranger Course, Infantry Officer Basic, Infantry Mountain Leader Advanced Marksmanship Course and Airborne School.

His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; the Purple Heart; the Army Commendation Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; the Overseas Service Ribbon; the Combat Infantryman Badge; the Ranger Tab; and the Parachutist Badge.   


Amputee earns the Expert Infantryman Badge - 1LT Pitcher is Someone You Should Know

Amputee overcomes physical obstacles to earn coveted Expert Infantry Badge

First Lt. Joshua Pitcher, from Rineyville, Ky., a paratrooper assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, is awarded the coveted Expert Infantry Badge by brigade commander Col. Tim Watson during a ceremony Sept. 6. Pitcher lost his right leg after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during a combat patrol in southern Afghanistan last year. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Armas)

Amputee overcomes physical obstacles to earn coveted Expert Infantry Badge
4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Armas

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — First Lt. Joshua Pitcher, a paratrooper assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was on patrol in southern Afghanistan last year when he was injured by an improvised explosive device that took his right leg from him.

Following his injury, instead of feeling sorry for himself and basking in grief, Pitcher focused on returning to his unit and being with his troopers.

“I wasn’t going to just up and quit because I lost a limb,” said Pitcher. 

“I wanted to get better and come back to be the best Paratrooper that I can be,” added Pitcher, whose father is also a combat veteran and former Paratrooper. 

Pitcher, who is originally from Rineyville, Ky., underwent thirteen months of intense rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center before rejoining the 4th BCT this past May. He now serves as a platoon leader in 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

While he was at Walter Reed, he said that the other troopers there also gave him the motivation to move forward and continue to serve.

“Many of those guys were more severely injured than I was and I know that they would do anything to get back with their units,” said Pitcher. “I was blessed with the opportunity to come back here and show everyone else that I can do exactly what they can,” added Pitcher, who utilizes a prosthetic leg now.

Recently, Pitcher earned the coveted Expert Infantry Badge: an accomplishment that is significant for troopers with two fully functional legs, according to Sfc. Raymond Petrik, who serves as Pitcher’s platoon sergeant.

“It’s an absolutely amazing feat and it’s a testament to his no-quit mentality,” said Petrik, a fellow EIB holder.
Everyone in the platoon is proud of Pitcher’s accomplishment, added Petrik, who claims North Sioux City, S.D. as his hometown.

“He [Pitcher] is a real hard charger and an inspiration to everyone in the platoon,” Petrik continued.

Pitcher hopes that the inspiration that his troopers draw from his injury will help them overcome whatever pain they may feel. “To any infantry Soldier out there who thinks that he can’t earn the EIB, my question to him is: What’s your excuse now?” continued Pitcher.

The Expert Infantry Badge test consists of an Army Physical Fitness Test, a land navigation course that has a day and night iteration and a timed 12-mile foot march. In between those events, troopers must successfully complete 30 infantry tasks in a timely manner and to standard. 

More than 600 Paratroopers from the 4th BCT tested for the EIB during these past few weeks and only a small percentage of those troopers earned the coveted blue badge when it was all said and done.

Pitcher said that the most challenging aspect of the EIB testing for him was the foot march, since his prosthetic leg had trouble staying connected the whole time. He feels that earning the EIB is essential for any leader in the infantry community.

“As an infantry officer, you have to lead from the front and set the example for all of the junior troopers, so I felt that I needed to earn the EIB,” said Pitcher. “Earning the EIB shows that you can properly execute the basic infantry tasks that are required of any infantryman,” added Pitcher.

Ultimately, Paratroopers like Pitcher are standard bearers for what can be achieved if one has the grit and determination to accomplish his or her goals in life. 

Humble in nature and soft spoken, Pitcher said those around him deserve a lot of the credit for his success.

“If anything, I just want to thank God, my wife, my family and my friends for believing in me this whole time,” said Pitcher.

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