BLUE ANGEL HONOR One of the most difficult things a person can do is walk away from something he loves. Commander Dave Koss did just that when he voluntarily stepped down last month as leader of the Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron.
His sense of honor required him to do so from a position that he had called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” It’s the type of honor that we rarely see any more. Elected officials continually make excuses for their mistakes–think Anthony Weiner–and refuse to give up their power and prestige.
David Koss put the Blue Angels and the U.S. Navy above his personal interests and desires.
To be named as the commanding officer of the Blues is one of the highest honors for a Navy pilot. Koss, a Naval Academy grad who trained at NAS Pensacola in the 1990s, was selected by a panel of admirals and former Blue Angels team members out of seven finalists to join the team as squadron leader for 2011 and 2012.
At the time, “Boss” Koss was the commanding officer of the VFA-14 Tophatters, a strike fighter squadron in Lemoore, Calif. His previous assignments included conducting training on VFA-122, Air and Maritime Planner to Standing Joint Force Headquarters, VFA-87 on the USS Enterprise, and the VFA-106 Gladiators.
He has been awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Air Medals with Combat V, four Air Medals (Strike Flight), Joint Achievement Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and Lt. Charles Nelson and Lt. Cmdr. Mike Longardt leadership awards. Koss was clearly worthy of the position.
Unfortunately, life threw him a curve. On May 22, the Blue Angels were performing at the Lynchburg Regional Airshow in Lynchburg, Va. when the Diamond formation flew the Barrel Roll Break maneuver at an altitude that was lower than the required minimum altitude. The maneuver was aborted, the remainder of the demonstration cancelled and all aircraft landed safely. The next day, the Blue Angels announced that they were initiating a safety stand-down. Five days later, Koss made his decision to step down.
In his public statement, he said, “With deep personal regret I shared with my command today that I will be voluntarily leaving the greatest flight demonstration team.”
Few of us can truly comprehend how difficult it was for Koss to step down. Retired Adm. Robert Kelly wrote me that Koss, whose call sign is “Mongo,” did so because he believed he did not measure up to the Blue Angel standard, and he did not want to place his teammates in jeopardy.
“This selfless action tells a lot about this extraordinary Naval Officer,” said Kelly. “Many will criticize him, and some of his friends will turn aside, but Mongo’s character and inner strength will surely prevail. He looked in the mirror and made the right call. I for one salute him.”
We all should salute Cmdr. Koss.