Hanscom master sergeant is going fishing

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Foster
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
"The trip of a lifetime." This is how Master Sgt. Richard Thorpe, 66th Dental Flight NCO in charge, describes the all-inclusive fishing trip he was recently selected to be part of this summer.

Operation Muskie provides recent combat veterans with a week-long, all-expenses paid, fully-guided fishing trip at Baystore Camp, Minn. The only part veterans have to pay for is the flight to Minnesota.

According to www.operationmuskie.com, the program began when Dick Pearson, who wrote a book on muskie fishing and has often been called, "the thinking man's muskie fisherman," contacted Frank and Laura Walsh at Baystore Camp about renting a cabin so he could take a veteran muskie fishing. Walsh said to find 19 more deserving veterans and they would host them free of charge.

With the combined effort and contributions of many people, Operation Muskie was born.

The program that hosts 20 veterans each year, along with 10 muskie guides, is growing in popularity and applying for a spot does not guarantee selection.

"I wasn't selected the first year I applied and that wasn't too upsetting," said Thorpe. "But not getting selected the second and third years I applied was a bit tougher. I completely trust in the selection process, however, and I think me being selected this year is proof that you shouldn't give up if you're not selected the first time."

Thorpe first heard about the program while stationed at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., when two friends applied for Operation Muskie 2 and were accepted into the program.

"The timing wasn't right for me to apply as I was in the middle of a PCS, but as soon as I heard their stories after they came back, I knew it was something I wanted to apply for," Thorpe said.

This year's adventure begins on June 24 when the group will have breakfast with the Patriot Guard riders, a group of motorcycle riders from across the country that support military members at different events. With the riders escorting them, the veterans will head to the fishing site where they will fish 10 to 12 hours a day for three and a half days.

Operation Muskie supplies all the equipment necessary for a successful outing on the water. They even provide a fishing rod to each veteran that is inscribed with their name for them to keep as mementos from the trip.

Thorpe explained that to prepare himself for the challenge of muskie fishing and for the long days out on the water, he is doing online research, as well as watching the fishing programs whose hosts will be guides on the trip.

"Catching a muskie is like catching a fish of a thousand casts," said Thorpe. "It can be pretty challenging and they're definitely considered trophy fish for a reason."

For interested applicants, it is important to understand the commitment when applying. Those chosen will be away from home for a week and it is crucial that veterans have the support from both family members and those at work.

"My wife is my best friend and I've been able to do some of the most incredible fishing trips throughout the years," Thorpe said. "She's excited for me and I understand that without her support, this wouldn't be possible."

Although Operation Muskie is a fishing trip, those involved emphasize that fishing experience is not necessary. Since all required equipment is provided and because it is a completely guided trip, even the most amateur of fisherman would enjoy themselves.

"I've been on a lot of trips and am very fortunate to have had the opportunities that come with being a military member. This is just one example of the many opportunities out there for us," said Thorpe.

The application process starts Jan. 1 of each year and is open for approximately two months. Selections are made around the second week of March and those chosen are notified soon after. Thorpe suggests that anyone interested in applying should start the process early and make sure to include as much detail as possible about their deployment.

For more information, contact Thorpe at richard.thorpe@hanscom.af.mil or visit www.operationmuskie.com.