October 24, 2011
By Laura Lopez, Texas Military Forces
ARLINGTON, Texas, — With more than 50,000 people in attendance at Ballpark Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and millions more watching at home, members of the Texas Military Forces joined the Texas Rangers in their battle for the Major League Baseball World Series title, Oct. 22 and Oct. 23.
Over the course of two games, Soldiers and Airmen performed on the field and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters flew high above the ballpark displaying both the American and Texas flags.
In game three, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Darby Ledbetter, of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion Headquarters, performed “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. Texas Air National Guard member Master Sgt. Erika Stevens, of the 531st Band of the Gulf Coast, performed the same song, Sunday, Oct. 23, while the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade conducted a two ship CH-47 helicopter flyover following the conclusion of the national anthem.
“It was a huge honor to be given the opportunity to do this for the Texas Rangers organization and to get the opportunity to represent all of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Texas Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. James Hardy, Dallas Army Aviation facility commander.
With a short lead time to execute the flyover mission for millions to see, it took nine crew members on the aircraft, two Soldiers coordinating from inside the stadium and five additional mechanics to prepare the aircraft back at the aviation facility, eight miles away in Grand Prairie. Forced to sharpen their focus and create a plan for execution, this is one mission some Soldiers will soon not forget.
“To be chosen to conduct this mission was a once in a lifetime experience for myself and my crew members,” said Standardization Instructor Pilot with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, or GSAB, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Doug Phillips. “It was an honor to represent the Dallas Army Aviation Support Facility, 2-149th GSAB (Rough Riders) and the Texas Army National Guard in front of the world!!!”
After months of firefighting support throughout the state of Texas, one Soldier on board the trail aircraft was honored to take part in this terrific and rare experience that allowed her to hear the fans down below.
“When we are usually called for domestic support, it is helping our neighbors in their time of need. This was a great morale-building event for a GSAB that has been deployed, to which we were able to add our mark to a great World Series game,” said Capt. Carisa Kimbro, HHC 2-149th GSAB.
While well below the height of the Chinooks’ mission, both Ledbetter and Stevens’ experience performing “God Bless America” near home plate was one that changed their lives. A member of the Texas Army National since 2000, Ledbetter jokingly feels he can now check one item off of his bucket list.
“I was humbled to receive the opportunity to sing at the World Series knowing there are so many great performers out there,” said Ledbetter. “Being on that field was so surreal and an honor to stand in the uniform representing the soldiers, the National Guard and the United States.”
For Stevens, an elementary school teacher in Dallas, receiving the call 48 hours before the game and given the opportunity to perform for millions of people was not only an honor and a privilege, but allowed her to demonstrate how practice and perseverance can pay off.
“It was a nervous and exciting experience all at the same time, but it helped that I did a sound check around noon on Sunday,” said Stevens. “It was an honor to represent the military, my family and all those rooting for me and I really wanted to conquer my nerves because this is the one performance you prepare years and years for.”
Other members of the Texas Military Forces assisted in the unfurling of the American flag on Saturday alongside members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.