Captain Jack

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On our recent trip to San Diego to give back to our military heroes, we were surprised to hear that we were being hosted by the Padres for a game against the Cardinals. We found out that the man behind the gift was Captain Jack.

To San Diego fans, Captain Jack is the well-known Director of Military Marketing for the San Diego Padres – reportedly the only such position in professional sports. The military is a fixture at Padres games, thanks to several corporate sponsorships and Captain Jack, the fellow who coordinates it all. Players sometimes even play in camoflauge uniforms instead of wearing their home jerseys as a tribute to those who serve.

Jack Ensch, his real name, is a fixture at several military events in the area including Fleet Week and other military-related venues. But it wasn’t until I did a little digging did I discover that there is much more to Captain Jack than a Padres parking space.

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Captain Jack Ensch (far right) poses with wounded warriors during Fleet Week 2007 (DOD photo)

Captain Jack Ensch, USN (retired) was commissioned in 1965. A year later he received his wings and designation as a Naval Flight Officer. Thus commenced a career spanning three decades in service to the country.

But that’s not the half of it.

According to a Fleet Week news release, Captain Ensch flew 285 combat missions and was credited with shooting down two MiG-17s before being shot down by a Surface to Air missile in 1972. His pilot, Mike Doyle, was killed but Jack survived and was held as a POW in Hanoi until his release in 1973…the last group of POWs released.

After recovering he returned to duty and completed a sterling career that included Top Gun and command of the Naval Training Center. He had over 800 carrier landings, but as Tom Cushman of the San Diego Union said, it was, “one short of a total he’d prefer.”

The Padres eventually took him on to attract military families to the game, and the rest is history. His impact has been so significant that the team is unofficially known as, “The Team of the Military.” (Fleet Week news release)

When USS MIDWAY was moved to its final berth across the bay from Coronado, destined to become the USS MIDWAY Museum, Jack and his wife were aboard. On the carrier’s deck sat an F-4 Phantom, the same type of aircraft in which he had once flown. (As it turns out, he had actually logged twenty hours of combat in that very jet.) Under the NFO’s window was painted, “LT Jack Ensch.”

When Jack was shot down many years ago, he had flown off the deck of USS MIDWAY. He told the San Diego Union, “It was the first time I’d been aboard since the day we were shot down. That was the only time I took off from a carrier and didn’t return.

“So, when I walked back onto the ship (32 years later), I counted it as my last landing. That finally closed out my logbook.”

Captain Jack continues his support of the military to this day. Through his efforts the public learns about the sacrifices military members and their families make every day. And servicemen and women are reminded how much they are appreciated.

Captain Jack Ensch, USN (ret) is our hero of the week.

(For a fantastic article about CAPT Ensch, read Tom Cushman’s story, “Captain Jack salutes Padres’ military outreach efforts.”)

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  1. What a wonderful project on the part of Capt Jack Ensch. I will soon start a similar recognition effort for our service members in the Seattle area with Air Force Colonel George Cargill, a vice President of Triwest, the Medicare contractor here.

    We attended the Seattle Storm women’s basket team game with the Minnessota Lynx recently at Quest Field in Seattle. We will soon be planning other recognition events for our military members to include some of our wounded warriors here at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis and possibly the Navy facilities at Bremerton, Key Port and Bangor.

    We will have a ways to go to even come close to Capt Jack’s success around San Diego. i wish to applaud what Capt Jack has and is doing.

    Major General Patty Horoho, Commander of the Western Medical Region and the Army Nurse Corps recently joined the VetswithVettes & Corvette Owners Association primarily due to the clubs support of the Wounded Warrier program at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.
    I also signed Dr. Bonnie Dunbar as a Club member.

    I am a charter member of the Club. I wrote the bylaws and letter of incorporation to establish our organization officially with Alabama. We have no dues, just a $10 initiation fee to join. You don’t have to own a vet to join, just an enthusiasm for the popular American sports car.

    General Horoho recently relinquished Command of Madigan Army Medical Center in order to concentrate on her other duties. She invited me to a community leaders luncheon recently. I joked with her by asking her what she was going to do with all the extra time now that she will no longer be the Commander at Madigan and we laughed about it. Obviously, she won’t have any extra time.

    I am still trying to have both General Horoho and Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, a retired NASA Astronaut, meet over lunch or dinner. I had s luncheon set for June 22nd but General Horoho was called to DC on short notice and couldn’t attend.

    I will try to set the luncheon or dinner this fall. Dr. Dunbar is the President and CEO of the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. I met Dr. Dunbar at a USO Gala last December. I won her auction of a personal tour of the Museum of Flight. I have stayed in contact with her and we had her as our speaker at the Northwest Youth Leadership Conference here in June.

    She also attended the annual Massing of the Colors here in March at my request. Many of the Cadets in attendance at the ceremony had their picture taken with Bonnie. She flew in space five times. I am considering recommending that we plan a tour of the Museum of Flight for our Wounded Warriors and other military members locally.

    Regards, Jack Jory

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