446th AW passes Seahawks' 12th-Man flag to Coast Guard

by Dean Seimon
Northwest Guardian

9/11/2014 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A "change of command" ceremony took place Tuesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. But instead of the colors of a unit being exchanged, a light blue flag with the number 12 passed from leaders of the 446th Airlift Wing on McChord Field to those of the U.S. Coast Guard's 13th District in Seattle.

In front of service members from the units as well as Seattle Seahawks, cheerleaders and team representatives, the Coast Guard became the official "12th Man Unit" for the 2014 season during the ceremony held inside McChord Field's Hangar 9.

"We are going to proudly display (the flag) up and down the (Pacific) coast and wherever we may travel," said Rear Adm. Richard Gromlich of the 13th District.

For the third season, the Seahawks of the National Football League are adopting a local military unit as a way to recognize the service members of armed forces in the Pacific Northwest. In 2012, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division on JBLM was the inaugural honorary unit before "passing the colors" to the 446th AW. It turned out to be the season when Seattle won the its first National Football League championship.

Many in the Seahawks front office and throughout the organization know what it means to be deployed and serve in the military, including Mike Flood - vice president of military affairs for the Seahawks and a former Coast Guard Aviator.

"We're here to serve you for the selfless service you provide to our country," Flood said. "We love the military and we treasure our relationships with the Air Force and the Coast Guard."

Before handing over the flag, 446th Airlift Wing commander Col. Richard Grayson and Command Chief Master Sgt. Tony Mack thanked the Seahawks for an unbelievable season that concluded at Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey with a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos.

They also had some advice for the newest 12th Unit - carry the flag proudly.

"Hang on for a great ride and cheer them on to another Super Bowl (trophy)," Mack said.

Throughout the aircraft hangar, some service members from both branches wore their respective standard uniforms. Others donned jerseys, T-shirts and other clothing with the blue, green and grey.

There were longtime fans from both branches in attendance, excited for the chance to get autographs and pictures from each of the rookie Seahawks, including wide receiver Paul Richardson and offensive lineman Justin Britt. While the service members were excited to meet players of their favorite team, the players were equally pleased to meet them.

"This is my first time on a military base and I'm amazed at what they're doing on a daily basis," said Demitrius Bronson, a native of Kent, Wash., and son of a retired Soldier.

The Seahawks are looking for a Super Bowl repeat this year. A 36-16 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 4 has them looking as strong as they were last season. They play the San Diego Chargers at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.

And while there might be some pressure taking over the 12th Unit command as the defending champions, those in the local Coast Guard community are embracing the title while proudly wearing their team's colors.

"Right now, this is the era of the Seahawks," said Art Graddy, Morale, Welfare and Recreation of the Coast Guard's 13th District - wearing not only a Seahawks jersey, gloves and hat but also his own 12th Man flag as a superhero cape. "It's special to be a part of Seattle."