STEUBENVILLE - Retired Navy S.E.A.L. Frank Hoagland remembers watching the nightly news on black and white television as a child during the late 1960s, hoping to catch a glimpse of his Green Beret father on the screen during reports on the Vietnam War.
What he remembers most during that same TV time frame, though, were Walter Cronkite's reports on the space shuttle that had landed in the Pacific Ocean.
"I'll never forget as just a little young lad, Walter Cronkite saying 'now watch the frogmen do this' as they're pulling the astronauts out of the water and 'watch the frogmen do that.'"
ANNUAL DINNER HELD — The Steubenville Country Club was the setting Wednesday evening for the Jefferson County Historical Association’s annual dinner, where Frank Hoagland, left, a former Navy S.E.A.L. and Mingo Junction business owner, was the featured speaker. With him are Judy Brancazio, association president, and board member and master of ceremonies Barry Bardone. - Janice R. Kiaski
The experience would be Hoagland's first fascination toward what would become a 21-year military career as a Navy S.E.A.L., an acronym for Sea, Air and Land. Navy S.E.A.L.S were originally known as "frogmen" or UDTs, an acronym for Underwater Demolition Teams.
Hoagland, who achieved the rank of senior petty officer, gave a glimmer minus specifics of what his military experience involved as the guest speaker Wednesday evening at the Jefferson County Historical Association's annual dinner meeting held at the Steubenville County Club and sponsored in part by the Herald-Star. The association is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
That glimmer included the sign during S.E.A.L. training that he'll never forget, the one that assured "The Only Easy Day was Yesterday;" being part of Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama to depose dictator Manuel Noriega, in which he said he lost "two good buddies;" and the 1993 operation to track down Colombian cocaine cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar.
"I've done over a thousand major missions working for the OGA (Other Government Agency), and I don't want to be another Navy S.E.A.L. out there flapping my lips telling things that have to do with national security, so I will refrain from answering questions that have to do with exact places and exact locations and real names," he said toward the end of his presentation as he fielded questions from the audience, including an inquiry on whether he was sworn to secrecy as a Navy S.E.A.L.
A graduate of Buckeye North High School, Hoagland served in the Navy from 1982 to 2003 and has since established his own business in Mingo Junction called S.T.A.R.T. LLC, an acronym for Special Tactics and Rescue Training.
The company provides a variety of specialized services and capabilities to national security and law enforcement to the federal, state and local governments and to private sector clients.
He offers everything from avatar training to concealed weapons classes and also does product research, development, testing and evaluation," according to information in the event program. Hoagland's company also conducts SafeLand and SafeGulf training and OSHA 10 safety training.
In opening the business, Hoagland said he has moved from his dream to serve his country to his dream to serve his hometown.
Barry Bardone, board member, served as master of ceremonies at the dinner meeting, where Judy Brancazio, president, offered welcoming remarks and noted the association has 228 members, 117 of them life members, meaning they have paid $200 for the distinction. The association's museum on Franklin Avenue had 200 registered visitors during the spring and summer, but likely more who didn't sign in.
Future museum plans call for the medical room in a small bathroom to be relocated to a larger area in the lower level to accommodate some donations to it, she said. She acknowledged association officers and board members in addition to several people who share the love of history and as such share it with the public, including Jerry Barilla and Judy Bratten of Historic Fort Steuben and Gloria Renda, who is connected to the Pleasant Hill School House Museum.
Susan Probert gave a financial report as the association's treasurer and noted its members are looking to continue to honor the mission of preserving local history while working to engage younger members to come on board.