Lt. Col. Lance Brown: Serving Two Forces at Panther Creek

  • Name: Lance Brown
  • Age: 49
  • Organization: Panther Creek High School

Author: Patrick Kinas, creator.

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(Photo: Panther Creek assistant coach Lieutenant Colonel Lance Brown.)

The game of football has long been seen as a euphemism for war. Comedian George Carlin’s 1975 baseball-football bit still apropos today. For the Panther Creek Catamount football team, there’s nothing comedic or entertaining about it. One of their coaches is living the real thing, right now, while they enjoy one of their finest football seasons in recent history.

The 14-18 year old Catamount kids play for their defensive line coach Lance Brown. For two months, the Catamounts were winning, but had no idea where Lance was. But he remained in their hearts every day of the week, culminating with Friday nights at Panther Creek football stadium in Cary.

“In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.” – comedian George Carlin, 1975.

The game of the year for the Catamounts is this upcoming Friday. The Southwest Wake Conference title is theirs for the taking with essentially a winner-take-all regular-season finale for the title. Panther Creek has run the table so far, a 9-1 overall record, but an unblemished 6-0 mark in league play. Critical mid-season wins over Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina have set up the Catamounts’ moment in the spotlight on Friday night against second place Green Hope.

A win by Panther Creek hands them the undisputed conference championship and an extremely favorable seed heading into the playoffs in head coach Sean Crocker’s 3rd year.

On that storyline alone would 2014 be memorable for the Catamounts.

However, an unenviable and unexpected challenge surfaced with the season barely a breath old.

A Sunday In September

Sunday, September the 14th, Lance Brown received his orders.

Three days later, the Panther Creek team was trying to come to grips with the sudden departure of a coach, a friend and a mentor. The kids, in many respects, swallowed their first taste of the real world.

He was no longer simply Lance Brown.

He was Lieutenant Colonel Lance Brown and he had just been mobilized by the United States Army.

Those 72 hours were a blur. Lieutenant Colonel Brown packed, was briefed, addressed a stunned corps of football Catamounts and was gone.

He was whisked away. Gone to an undisclosed location.

“Coach Crocker was extremely understanding and supportive, as was the rest of the staff and athletic director, LJ Hepp. Coach Crocker allowed me to speak with the team prior to my departure and the team, as I expected, was equally supportive. I thanked them for the honor to allow me to coach and I encouraged them to continue to work hard the rest of the season.”

“I am currently a member of the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, United States Transportation Command in Norfolk, Virginia,” Brown said. “I am a logistics planner. Basically, we maintain a readiness that enables us to deploy anyplace in the world at a given notice when a contingency arises. In this case, I was mobilized on (that) Sunday and was headed overseas three days later.”

Brown, deployed to Europe five time zones ahead of the Triangle, kept in contact and the Catamounts coaching staff via email. He read about mounting Catamount wins inside the sterility of an email box. He rooted for Panther Creek from thousands of miles away, not knowing when his exact return would be.

His current mobilization was scheduled to expire after 120 days, but thanks to an efficient mission, Brown has just recently returned and is back with the team.

Call it a Thanksgiving blessing come early.

His Story

Brown, 49, is married and father of two. He grew up in Brookhaven, NY and after graduating from Floyd HS, enlisted in the Army in 1985. After spending two years on active duty, Brown attended the State University of New York at Farmingdale, while simultaneously he was accepted into the Hofstra University Army ROTC program.

While attending ROTC, he remained in the Army Reserves assigned to the 5/5th Field Artillery Brigade at Ft. Tilden, New York. He graduated from Farmingdale in 1999 with an AS degree in B.A. and was ushered off to Stony Brook University.

In 1991, he graduated with a BA in Economics and graduated from Hofstra University ROTC with an Army Reserve Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

Brown’s professional career began in 1994 as a police officer with the New York State Troopers. After spending a year there, Brown moved to the Nassau County Police Department on Long Island, New York, ultimately retiring as a Sergeant in 2013.

Somehow Brown found time to volunteer with the Terryville Fire Department in Port Jefferson Station for 17 years, serving as an EMT, Lieutenant and Captain.

In 2006, Brown was elected as a trustee on the Comsewogue School District Board of Education, successfully running two more times and resigned as Vice President of the Board of Education in 2013 after his retirement and relocation to North Carolina.

While a resident of Port Jefferson Station, Brown was a soccer coach with the Terryville Soccer Club for six years, coaching both his son’s and daughter’s teams.

“I truly enjoyed and cherished my time coaching my kids,” Brown said. “However, after having played football both at the high school level and college level at Stony Brook, my passion for coaching has been football.”

Brown’s Army Reserve career has now spanned almost 30 years, and still isn’t over as evidenced by this fall’s mobilization.

“It has challenged me in many ways and has brought me to many places across the globe, particularly after the attacks on 9/11,” Brown said.

“After having worked at the World Trade Center site the days after the attack and having been mobilized to the Middle East and other places, my experiences, particularly over the last 13 years, have made me ever more grateful for my family and my life. I have been mobilized 4 times, twice for Operation Enduring Freedom, once for Operation Iraqi Freedom and the other for Operation United Assistance.”

Brown’s positions have spanned the spectrum. He’s been a company commander, a battalion operations chief, a battalion logistics chiefs, a battalion executive officer and a brigade plans chief.

This career devotion to himself and his country could have put a stress on a wife and family, but that wasn’t the case at all for Brown.

“My wife has been a tremendous supporter of my career while maintaining a 20 year career of her own as a human resources manager for a large pharmaceutical company. She is a large, if not the reason, why I have been able to accomplish all that I have.”

They retired to North Carolina in 2013, with Brown picking up a position as a police officer with the Duke University Police Department, where he now is a Corporal. Old habits die hard for Brown, who found a new fire department at which to volunteer, with the Morrisville Fire Department relishing in Brown’s expertise.

After the Brown’s became settled in Apex, the coaching bug once again bit Brown.

How he landed on the Panther Creek staff is a story of typical Brown karma.

“I helped a current Wake County Board of Education trustee in his re-election campaign by serving as his treasurer,” Brown said. “While doing this, I heard about Panther Creek’s football program and how Coach (Sean) Crocker had done a tremendous job in building the program. I additionally had heard how well he was respected as a person. I went to the school and inquired about volunteering to help with coaching the team. Coach Crocker then reached out to me and we had a meeting about how I could possibly help. He gave me an opportunity to volunteer as an assistant coach helping with the defensive line. I truly respect him and appreciate the opportunity he afforded me. It is easy to see why he is successful and why the players and staff respect him.”

The Surprising Return

While the deployment could’ve lasted up to four months, Brown returned to Panther Creek earlier this week on a 10-day leave and has been on the sidelines for practice in the build-up to their game of the year this Friday.

“I’ll be with them Friday night (against Green Hope),” Brown said Tuesday night.

Brown is slated to return to Europe in January, but will at minimum have the opportunity to see the Catamounts in action as their remarkable season reaches a crescendo.

“As for this Friday, what can you say, (it’s) a special night and I am fortunate to be able to be a part of it. The boys have worked extremely hard and I am hoping it pays off with a win and conference championship. It's been a season from a coaching perspective like none I have ever been a part of, but, very, very rewarding.”

Brown’s return will be short-lived.

He returns to Norfolk, Virginia on Monday, November 10th and will remain mobilized until May, 2015.


Lance Brown 11/06/2014 @ 10:40PM
Thank you Patrick, a very nice article........I am humbled Lance
Tommy Pavia 11/07/2014 @ 05:42PM
Super AWESOME Article Lance!
Kathryn Handley 11/15/2014 @ 07:41PM
Great story!

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