Largent pushes sailors to adopt 'commitment to excellence'


Friday, December 17th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- About 1,100 sailors at Tinker Air Force Base stood in a mob to shake hands with Rep. Steve Largent, after he urged them to make a personal "commitment to excellence" Thursday. The Republican and former Seattle Seahawk receiver used the slogan of his former National Football League foe, the Raiders, to describe the kind of drive it takes to succeed -- whether in business, the military or politics.

"If we could have leaders in our country that had a commitment to be excellent in everything they did -- in the public eye and when nobody's watching -- then our country would be stronger, our country would be safer and our children would be more secure," he told the sailors assigned to Strategic Communications Wing One at Tinker. After the speech Largent helped re-enlist two sailors and took a tour of the unit's facilities. He then hopped a military flight to Tulsa that included a tactical refueling and communication exercise.

Sailors in the strategic communications wing at Tinker are responsible for maintaining and operating E-6 Mercury aircraft, which allow top military leaders to communicate with remote missile silos, nuclear submarines and bombers. Many sailors said it was inspiring to meet with Largent, though most admitted they were more interested in Largent as a Hall of Fame football player than as a three-term politician. "I was a fan of his growing up and it's an honor just to meet him," said Petty Officer 2nd Class David Rudd, who took there-enlistment oath read by Largent. "I have to say this is one of the most memorable days of my life."

Throughout the speech, Largent spun tales from his 14 years with the Seahawks, touching on characters as diverse as former Seattle teammate Brian Bosworth, Raiders owner Al Davis and Walter Payton. He joked that his transition from football player to politician was made easier because many participants in both arenas "have more brains in their belly than in their head."

Largent praised those in attendance for their perseverance and duty, saying the military will always be a source to fill what he called the "leadership vacuum" in the United States. "I think today's military is one of the last institutions that still recognize the importance of dedication, discipline, hard work and reverence for authority," Largent said in an interview. "I just don't think an individual can get that kind of trainin ganywhere else."