Polanco Providing New Type of Aerial Support

In his only full season under center, former Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco led Navy to a 10-win season, the Commander in Chief's Trophy, a national ranking, and a victory over New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl. GoMids.com caught up with now, Marine Corps Capt. Polanco, who is currently serving on the front lines in Afghanistan, to talk about life after Navy football, his mission, and his future.

Two out of every three mornings former Navy football star Aaron Polanco wakes up knowing that his day probably won't end without a flight into harm's way. This sobering reality awaits him most of the time because the former quarterback is now a Marine Corps officer and pilot who is patrolling the skies over Afghanistan.


Polanco, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005, is flying an AH-1W SuperCobra as part of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 currently deployed to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.


Based out of Camp Pendleton in Southern California, Polanco's squadron has been in Afghanistan since last fall.


"We got here in late October. Hopefully, we should be out of here in a couple of months, perhaps the May timeframe," explained the Wimberley, Texas native. "I had been going to flight school until about a year ago when I got to the squadron. And it's been training since then, getting ready to come out here. This is my first deployment."


For security reasons, Polanco could not discuss any specifics in regards to his missions; however, he made it clear that his first combat tour has been a busy one.


"The (operational tempo) has been a lot faster than what I expected. It's a lot different from being at home and doing training. We fly double or triple the amount than during training. There is a lot to learn and it has been a good experience being out here," said Polanco


Part of that experience has included supporting Marine ground units with aerial gunfire.


"There's been plenty of (action). Just being the attack helicopter, we've been called in to support the ground guys (against) the Taliban insurgents that are out there. Our units have been pinned down and have had no way to maneuver…so they call us in and we free up (some space) for them," said Polanco.


Ripping a page from his football playing days, the selfless former quarterback wanted to make sure to give credit, for his squadron's success in Afghanistan, to his offensive line or in this case, the maintenance workers who are responsible for keeping his helicopter battle-ready.


"Our maintainers are doing a great job as well, fixing up the aircraft and getting them ready to fly everyday. They work really hard."


There is rarely any down time these days on the front lines, but Polanco has managed to keep on top of the recent successes of the Navy football team.


"I did watch most of the bowl game (against Missouri). And our CO here was a linebacker at the Academy, so we got a bunch of the Naval Academy alumni together in a tent that had a T.V. to watch the Army-Navy game. It was nice to be around a bunch of guys who knew how much the game meant and to just enjoy it together," recalled Polanco.


Thanks to the Armed Forces Network, Polanco said that he was able to catch a few other Navy games, maybe even an Army one, but it's definitely a lot different then being at home where Saturdays are all about gathering around the television and watching the game. 


"Obviously there is a lot of other stuff going on here," Polanco casually pointed out.


Part of his experience in Afghanistan has included running into or communicating with some former teammates who ironically are part of the very ground units that Polanco's squadron is supporting.


"Every now and then, I'll run into somebody out here. (Marine Corps officer) Dan Wendolowski and (Marine Corps officer) Anthony Picioni – are both with deployed ground units that I have talked with."


"It's a good feeling to be flying overhead of their units. It's crazy because you always hear stories (as a midshipman) from (officers) who tell you that some day you will be flying and hear some guy's voice on the radio that you will recognize (from the past). They were right - it really happens," continued Polanco.


Something that also happens every once is the site of seeing Polanco actually tossing the pigskin around in between combat missions.


"Every now and then I've had a chance to throw a football…I definitely have to work the arm back into shape," joked Polanco.  "It's good to hang out with the guys in the squadron…you have to break out the monotony while you are out here."


End of Part One




In Part Two of my piece, you will read about: what Polanco thinks of current Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs; his thoughts on teammate Kyle Eckel's NFL career to date; how he relates playing football with being a leader in combat; and a funny story regarding Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper. Also in Part Two, Jasper will share his thoughts on his former quarterback.




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