Posted By Sarah Fenske on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 6:35 AM
The video Keath Hausher shot this week in Forest Park is an eye-opener — a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking display now erected on Art Hill.
The installation contains a staggering 7,000 flags, each marked with a photo and dog tags naming a U.S. soldier killed in the line of duty since 9/11. A straight path up and down each row would stretch 10 miles.
And while plenty of photos capture the scene from the ground, Hausher got a different view — one that really puts things in perspective.
Hausher was in Forest Park this Tuesday even before 6 a.m. Volunteers with the non-profit he founded, St. Louis Military Officer Support Foundation, were among the fourteen teams erecting the flags for the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. Once the flags were planted with, well, military precision, the volunteers carefully draped the dog tags and photos, with each casualty in chronological order since September 11, 2001 up until just this week.
Then Hausher got out his drone. A DJI Inspire 1, it expertly captured a scene that isn’t just a tribute to the military personnel who died. It’s also a stunning visual of the loss of American life in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The experience on the ground is just as moving, Hausher says. “If you walk down and the wind is blowing, you hear the dog tags clinking on the metal poles,” he says. “It seems very tranquil, until you realize each one represents a person. It’s tough to a keep a dry eye.”
Hausher’s organization provides free training for service members and those about to enter the service, with courses in everything from fitness to marksmanship. As a result, he’s gotten to know many kids heading to West Point, and older service members too.
The nonprofit is one of four charities benefiting from the display on Art Hill. It’s organized by America’s Heartland Remembers, which sponsored similar installations for the fifth and tenth anniversary of the attacks. But this is the biggest, by far — instead of honoring those killed on 9/11, it includes more than twice as many flags to honor those killed in the U.S. subsequent military interventions.
“This means more to me personally,” Hausher acknowledges. “These are people who signed up with the intent of going into harm’s way. They knew what the risks were, but they signed up.”
The flags will be on display on Art Hill through Sunday.
BY: Julie Murphy, Jun 7, 2013, 5:00am CDT
As a kid, growing up in South County, Keath Hausher had high hopes of joining the military one day. “I couldn’t wait. I wanted to become an officer and do my thing,” Hausher said recently. His father had served in the Army, immediately following World War II, and his uncle was in the Marines at Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. It never crossed Hausher’s mind that the U.S. military wouldn’t take him.
Hausher had set his sights on entering the Coast Guard Academy, but after graduating high school in 1986, he was told that a heart problem (mitral valve prolapse) would automatically disqualify him. A military doctor broke the news: “Son, you’re not going anywhere.” Says Hausher now, “That was crushing for me.”
Despite the early setback, Hausher, now 44, has found a way to serve, by training future and current military officers in physical fitness, military tactics and more. Hausher began this work in 2004 — paying for expenses himself and offering the training for free. By 2008, his program had become so popular he started a nonprofit, the St. Louis Military Officer Support Foundation (SLMOSF).
No stranger to rigorous physical training, Hausher had earlier introduced Shark Fitness, a boot camp for “civilians,” which focuses on building core strength, using resistance bands and calisthenics. On occasion, boot-campers might be seen crawling backward, uphill, even in the mud. The classes are held rain or shine — save for a few weeks in the winter — at parks and other outdoor sites around the metro area. Hausher is the lead instructor and has five other trainers on staff.
In January, Hausher launched yet another venture, Black Shield Defense Solutions, focusing on safety and self-defense. Hausher created the organization in response to concerns of his Shark Fitness clients, following the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Hausher has high expectations for himself — and for his clients. “I use this saying in boot camp all the time: If you’re not willing to challenge yourself one hundred percent, you have no right to expect it from anyone else around you.’”
Who exactly can participate in the St. Louis Military Officer Corps Support Foundation?
SLMOSF provides training to men and women from the Greater St. Louis area who hold or intend to pursue a (officer’s) commission or have an enlisted Special Warfare contract in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Does SLMOSF get referrals from the military?
No. They’re reluctant to acknowledge us because the military is a close-knit group, and we never suggest that we’re taking the place of their training or imply in any way that they don’t provide excellent training, which they do — we just enhance what they do. It has given people from St. Louis an extraordinarily distinct advantage over people who don’t have our training because they learn fitness; they learn leadership; they have a chance to network with officers who have been extraordinarily successful. We train them in how to shoot, how to fight, how to survive in the water, land navigation — all these different things that people typically struggle with the first time they enter the military.
Where does the training take place?
All over St. Louis. We do a lot at Queeny Park. We do our hiking there, our land navigation. There’s an equestrian trail that runs throughout the park, and we’ll have them crawl over and under every obstacle with weights on their backs, with rucks (rucksacks). It’s exhausting. And the fact that these young people are willing to give up their last month of real freedom to train every day — six days a week with us, really intensely — speaks very loudly of their drive. I mean they really believe in a cause, and it’s so refreshing.
What qualifies you to teach military personnel?
A lot of it was through self-study, initially. And then the first three groups that came through … were all in the Special Warfare community, so it was a sharing process. Every time they would go through Ranger School or through BUD/S to become a SEAL, I’d say, ‘What did you pick up and what did you feel you needed more of?’ And they’d say, “Well, I felt that this didn’t work for me,” and I’d say, great, and I’d go take classes or I’d study up on that particular subject.
My shooting skills were developed (starting at) age five. My dad was a country boy. I was raised in St. Louis my whole life, but at age five I was shooting cans with a .22 rifle. My skills were … adapted to military shooting through former servicemen and competitions, and (were) further enhanced by attending various military/law enforcement courses, such as Blackwater.
Can you provide an example of the impact that SLMOSF has had on recruits?
Patrick (last name withheld) had hopes of qualifying for Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) earlier this year. Unfortunately, his physical fitness test score was about 40 points shy of meeting the minimum, 270. After hearing of his plight, 1st Lt. Ray Wagner, who has trained with SLMOSF since before he entered West Point, encouraged (Patrick) to contact me. Six weeks after training with us, he retook the test and scored 284, which resulted in his acceptance into Army OCS. He is currently in basic training and, upon completion, will attend the 12-week course that will result in him becoming a Second Lieutenant.
What is SLMOSF’s budget?
We need to raise approximately $50,000 to $60,000 every year. We’re on a shoestring, but we have no overhead. My office is in my home (in Des Peres). Every dollar we raise goes right to our trainees. Not one single person on the board or myself accepts a dime for what we do.
Talk a little about Black Shield.
I decided to break my longtime rule of keeping my military-specific combat training away from civilians, and they’ve loved it. It’s been very well received. A couple weeks ago, because of the attack in the restroom at Meramec (St. Louis Community College), they contacted me. So I’m traveling to all the different offices and campuses to do a safety and security seminar.
Should teachers or other staff be armed in schools?
I strongly believe that armed personnel should exist in schools. However, in regards to school staff and faculty, those individuals should certainly have extensive training, well beyond simply having the legal right to carry a weapon through a concealed-carry permit. Resource officers from the local municipality are often used, as well as off-duty police personnel. Keep in mind that most mass shootings occur in areas that prohibit citizens from personally carrying weapons. Criminals seek out “soft” targets, those that have the potential to offer little or no resistance to attack.
Hobbies, free time?
I shoot. I have a Harley. I have a Jeep — I love to take the doors off and ride around.
I don’t get a lot of down time, to be honest. I work a minimum of 70 to 80 hours a week.
I have a girlfriend, and we’ll get engaged this year. She has two young boys, and I’m doing my darnedest to go from being a 44-year-old-never-been-around-kids-kind-of-guy to having two boys, four and seven years old. That might be my greatest challenger ever.
What They Say
“The classes that Keath teaches for military personnel are beneficial in that they teach our future military officers how to train themselves and the larger unit they will eventually lead. The military members that go through Keath’s program have gone on to do some amazing things in the military and beyond.”
Charlie Felker, former Captain, U.S. Army
“The best thing about Keath is he’s relentless, and the worst thing about Keath is he’s relentless. He cares about people’s fitness. He really loves what he does — and he doesn’t mince words.”
Tom Gatti, board member, SLMOSF
“His training regimens build strength and enhance one’s fitness level, but his methods and approach build character. I appreciate his absolute commitment to personal integrity, and he takes great pride in celebrating each client’s personal best.”
BY CYNTHIA BILLHARTZ GREGORIAN • firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-340-8114 | Posted: Friday, June 10, 2011 12:15 am
The temperature was in the 90s and still rising as the 17 military officer candidates marched along the path in Queeny Park this week.
Each had a 60-pound rucksack and hydration pouch strapped to his or her back. Each team of three hoisted a 40-pound, 6-by-6-inch timber on its shoulders.
They had been hiking like this, stopping for drills, for 2½ hours. They grunted and dripped with sweat. None complained. If any were cranky, they didn’t show it.
Their leader, Keath Hausher, created the St. Louis Military Officer Support Foundation six years ago. Its mission is to take area men and women entering U.S. military academies, ROTC programs and Officer Candidate School and make them tougher, stronger specimens.
It’s a unique program that has grown from a handful of pre military trainees to 42 this summer.
“Fire mission!” someone yelled. Everyone stopped.
“Wait!” Hausher said, running to mock a trainee as he emptied his stomach on the side of the trail. “I want to see if you chewed it.”
Grueling rucking expeditions are one way Hausher fulfills his mission. He tries to emulate the experiences the teens will encounter at the academies — only his exercises are harder. At West Point, they’ll start with rucksacks that weigh 30 pounds and build from there.
Hausher likes to quote a popular cadet motto: “High school hero, West Point zero.”
“You have to reprove and redefine yourself, because everyone is such an exemplary student there,” he said. “This gives them a distinct advantage, a way to stand out.”
Last week, he bound the trainees’ hands and feet with Velcro and had them jump into the deep end of a pool. They had to launch off the pool floor, gasp for air at the surface, then exhale as hard as they could to expel oxygen, sink to the bottom and repeat several times. It’s called drown-proofing, and it teaches them to remain cool under pressure.
Hausher emphasizes keeping a steady train of thought, says Army Capt. Charlie Felker, a 2006 West Point graduate and Hausher’s first trainee. Don’t get too excited or too low.
Felker has done four tours of duty in Afghanistan, most recently as a Ranger Company executive officer. He has received three Bronze Stars and was nominated for a MacArthur Leadership Award.
Every time he deployed, Felker said, he spoke several times by phone with Hausher and emailed him weekly.
“When you’re in a firefight or ambush, you always try to maintain a calm presence. You take a deep breath and think clearly,” Felker said. “And the more physically fit you are, the better you’re able to do that.”
ON THEIR GUARD
Hausher began the hike in Queeny Park at 9 a.m. with a warning: “This is going to be an unpleasant day,” he told the 15 young men and two young women lined up before him. ”Some of you will have headaches, you’ll get dizzy and nauseated. Let your team leader know, they’ll tell the squad leader, and he’ll tell me. That’s the chain of command.”
Winston Boldt, 18, a graduate of John Burroughs School, was serving as squad leader.
He is headed to West Point this fall, and Hausher calls him a standout among standouts.
Every 10 steps, a trainee called out, “One, two, three, over” and the team hoisted its timber up, overhead and onto opposite shoulders to work both sides of their bodies.
At about 9:05 a.m., Josiah Gulick, the point man carrying a toy rifle, yelled, “Contact! Two o’clock.”
Trainees dropped their timbers and dived off the shady path, lying flat in the tall weeds.
A gray-haired man walked by with his dog, looking confused. This happened a dozen times as walkers, joggers, trucks and tractors passed by.
“Clear,” Hausher shouted as the man and dog passed. The trainees got up, collected their timbers and marched on.
Gulick was home-schooled and is headed to West Point. Hausher said many parents who home-school their children might give them straight A’s. Not Gulick’s. He got B’s.
“These guys are like dry sponges,” Hausher said. “They hang on your every word. You’re never going to find them texting or picking at their fingernails. They’re all deadly serious about this.”
Hausher, 42, a personal trainer, comes from a family of military men. He said his biggest disappointment was rejection by a military academy because of a heart condition.
So six years ago, when Felker began training with Hausher’s Shark Fitness Training boot camps during breaks from West Point, Hausher knew he had found his calling.
In addition to the hiking and pool exercises, Hausher offers tactical training and hopes to begin working with the St. Louis ROTC Gateway Battalion to provide lessons in map-reading.
As an expert marksman, Hausher trains the teens to clean, assemble and shoot weapons. When his trainees graduate and deploy, he sends them care packages.
‘YOU’RE ALL DEAD’
About 9:45 the group arrived at a clearing with several horse jumps. Hausher instructed them to carry the timbers over the jumps.
They had just begun when he yelled: “You guys are dead if I have a machine gun. Are you trying to mate? Come on, spread out!”
There was little joking or chitchat; mostly a lot of strategizing about how to get themselves and the timber over the jumps.
“And by the way, you’re all dead,” Hausher said a bit later, pointing to a pickup truck behind them. Their rear guard failed to notice.
Hausher ordered them to do 10 pushups. With their packs on.
They finished, scrambled up, and Hausher yelled again: “Every minute you screw around, the hotter it gets. Move it!”
Another 45 minutes passed as the trainees drilled.
Hausher turned to Boldt. “There’s sugary crap in my bag. If anyone gets in trouble, give them that.”
Boldt nodded. He was the most intense, carefully watching the others and directing them.
Michael Gans, 18, joked as they navigated a jump that he was glad he had scheduled a physical with his family doctor for that afternoon. His team leader suggested he go directly there without showering. Gans, 18, will enter ROTC at Ohio State University this fall.
“He has a lot of personality,” Hausher said. “He’s a solid guy. A hard worker.”
Hausher’s services are free to these trainees, funded by the foundation that became a nonprofit three years ago. Before that, Hausher said, he was paying about $20,000 a year out of his own pocket, mostly for ammunition and care packages.
He would like to open the training to enlistees as well, but that’s not financially feasible. The program has grown, and so have the costs — to about $50,000 a year, he said.
The foundation raises money with fitness events, concerts and by allowing civilians to pay to play paintball against military officers.
At 11:23 a.m. the trainees were so exhausted that several were having a hard time walking straight. The timbers were stained brown in patches from sweat. Team leaders reassigned them every few dozen yards so everyone got frequent breaks from carrying the additional load.
“Do you have a heavier timber than they do?” Hausher yelled at one team as it stopped to make a switch and the timber fell on the ground.
“Are they in better shape than you?”
“Is it a lack of motivation on your part?”
“Then what’s the problem? Get your (stuff) together.”
Adam Casey, 25, called himself the grandpa of the group. He’s a research assistant at Washington University and has applied to Officer Candidate School.
“I played football at Mizzou, and this is harder than anything I ever did with that,” he said.
The group marched for several more yards when the “Fire mission” call rang out.
At 11:46, they reached another clearing, where Hausher instructed them to dump the timbers and rucksacks and run faux shooting drills, complete with sound effects. They ran, dropped in formation and called out “pow-pow-pow.”
At 11:58, another trainee got sick.
Later, Hausher asked what they liked about vomiting.
“It works the abs, sir!”
Felker said that out of 1,400 freshmen at West Point last year, the three who ranked highest in the Army Physical Fitness Test were trained by Hausher. One was a woman.
Shortly after noon, the cadets rounded a bend and saw the parking lot, their finish line.
Boldt and Larry Toomey, 19, a Parkway West graduate who was recruited to play basketball at West Point’s prep school, were carrying a timber at the rear of the pack.
“Come on, let’s bring it in. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” said Toomey. They began to trot.
A few minutes later, they guzzled water in the shade. But they weren’t done. They still had to run four miles.
Hausher pushes his trainees because he cares about them like family.
“I lose sleep when they’re gone,” he said. “And when they come back, it’s like a huge gorilla off my shoulders.”