Charleroi flyboy Mark Tedrow joins Blue Angels squadron
U.S. Navy Lt. Mark Tedrow has always welcomed a challenge.
And he has followed a basic tenet to achieve his goals.
"Throughout my years involved in athletics and my time spent in the military, I have learned a very simple recipe for success. If you maintain a positive attitude and work hard enough, anything is possible," said Tedrow, a Charleroi native.
That approach has led the 2000 Charleroi Area High School graduate to the Blue Angels, an elite flight demonstration squadron comprising Navy and U.S. Marine Corps pilots.
The squadron was formed in 1945.
"Making the team has been a dream of mine for nearly 10 years," said Tedrow, 29, a 2004 U.S. Naval Academy graduate.
"Now that I have accomplished my goal, I think back to all the hard work that has led to this point, and it just brings a smile to my face. Literally, every day, I realize that I am a Blue Angel, and I smile."
The son of Charleroi residents John and Barbara Tedrow, he is training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., for the Blue Angels' 2012 schedule, which includes June 23-24 appearances in Pittsburgh.
Tedrow previously was assigned to Fighter Squadron 122 at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.
"You have to meet a few wickets to qualify for the team," said Tedrow, who has flown Navy jets in Afghanistan. "The hardest part was the hour requirement. Applicants need 1,250 tactical hours by Sept. 30 of the year they apply for the Blue Angels.
"I think it is important that applicants have a stellar reputation and have done well throughout their careers."
Applicants must be experienced Navy or Marine pilots with good communication skills. Pilots receive intensive training for acrobatic and formation flying. Blue Angel flyers perform for about 11 million people each year.
Tedrow received strong support from Lt. Cmdr. Winston E. Scott.
The Hanford Sentinel, a California newspaper, reported that Scott, in a letter of recommendation, wrote "Lt. Tedrow has tremendous natural ability and great flight discipline. He is one of the finest wingmen I've ever flown with. He is undoubtedly the type of 'ambassador' I would want showing America what the Navy-Marine Team is all about."
Training with the Blue Angels is different from other assignments, Tedrow said.
"It begins the first week of January, when the squadron detaches to El Centro for winter training," he said. "Once there, pilots fly two to three times a day for 10 weeks, practicing maneuvers for the upcoming season.
"Each of those flights is meticulously briefed and debriefed to ensure the team maintains the level of professionalism and attention to detail that the Blue Angels are known for."
Tedrow, an aviation safety officer with VFA-122, said that "deep down," he always wanted to become a pilot.
"Throughout high school, any time I saw a flyover or military jets, my dad would lean over and say, 'You could do that, you know?'" he recalled. "I think that sort of opened my eyes and made me interested in becoming a military pilot."
Tedrow, an honors student at Charleroi Area, was a football and basketball standout. As a 6-4, 175-pound wide receiver, he became the school's all-time leader with 85 receptions for 1,148 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged more than 20 points per game his senior season in basketball.
He was recruited by such schools as Harvard, Lafayette, Johns Hopkins and Allegheny.
"I think I chose the Naval Academy because, to me, it was the best offer," Tedrow said. "It gave me a chance to play Division I football, receive an excellent education and, perhaps most important, an opportunity to serve my country as an officer in the Navy when I graduated.
"It also seemed like the biggest challenge, and I'm always up for a good challenge."
Tedrow received a bachelor's degree in history from the academy.
Tedrow deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009, flying off the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered supercarrier.
He was assigned to VFA-25, a squadron known as "The Fist of the Fleet."
The unit was established in 1943 as a torpedo squadron flying prop-driven Avengers. Over the years, Fist pilots have flown prop-driven Helldivers and Skyraiders and jet-powered Corsairs and F-18 Hornets.
"Being a Navy jet pilot is unique, because while deployed, we operated solely from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier," Tedrow said.
While his unit was deployed, Southern Afghanistan had become a hotbed of Taliban activity, particularly in Helmand Province and Kandahar, Tedrow said.
"We operated in those areas on a daily basis in support of troops on the ground," he recalled.
Viewing his career success, Tedrow looks to his youth.
"My parents have been the most significant mentors and role models throughout my life," he said. "I owe a large part of my success to them for instilling in me the values that I possess today."
He also credits high school coaches Jim Dumm in football and Bill Wiltz and Bruno Pappasergi in basketball, for support, confidence and guidance.
"Mr. Dumm pushed me to pursue a football scholarship and helped me get recruited to the Naval Academy," he said. "Mr. Wiltz and Mr. Pappasergi helped me prepare college applications and also urged me to seek an athletic scholarship."
Tedrow said he "relied heavily" on his roommates at the academy, Peter Langely and James Antoniono.
"They were great mentors throughout school and still are to this day," he said.
Tedrow thanks Capt. Marc Giorgi, a member of the Charleroi Area High Class of 1998 and the academy Class of 2003.
"Marc was a couple of years ahead of me in school and was helpful in many ways," Tedrow said of Giorgi, who became a military aviator.
"We grew up only a couple of blocks away from each other. He lived on Meadow Avenue and I was on Lookout Avenue."
Another role model is Lt. Cmdr. Jim "Zesty" Tomaszeski, one of Tedrow's flight school instructors.
"He's the person who convinced me to apply to the Blue Angels," Tedrow said.
Tedrow has two older brothers, Scott and Brad. He is the grandson of Joan Tedrow and Liberty Romito.
"I have many fond memories of growing up in Charleroi and the Mon Valley," Tedrow said.
"My favorite times came during the fall and football season," he said. "When my brothers and I were just little kids, our parents used to take us to Charleroi's home games.
"I would look forward to those games all week. There was something about the cool weather, the leaves changing and the lights at the stadium shining in the night.
"As I grew older and began playing in the games, it made everything all the more memorable. Those truly were the days."
Tedrow is already looking forward.
"Once I complete my tour with the Blue Angels, I will owe two more years of service," he said. "I would love to continue with my career in the Navy."