By Allen Shaw, Fort Wainwright PAOAugust 19, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - There are interesting and unique people all over Fort Wainwright. One of those distinctive individuals is Stanley Igor Olszewski, Fort Wainwright aquatics director, also known as Stanbo or the Big Lebowski. Olszewski works at the Melaven indoor pool and considers it "the best pool on earth," he said.
"I'm a Hoosier by birth, Alaskan by choice and Polish by the grace of God," Olszewski said. His father, Igor, was a Polish officer captured by the Nazis in 1939 and his mother, Rozalia, was taken from her farm at gunpoint to work for the Nazis in Germany during WWII. The communists occupied the country when the Nazis left, so his parents moved to the United States, seeking freedom.
"Five out of the six of us kids joined the Navy during the Vietnam War," Olszewski (pronounced ol-chef-ski) said.
He served in a submarine and then volunteered to become a "BUD/S", Basic Underwater Demolition/Sea, Air and Land. After graduation he served as a SEAL operator at SEAL team 2, where Rudy Boesch, from the first Survivor (television show) episode was his master chief. Being a BUD/S was one of his greatest accomplishments, Olszewski said. "I truly do miss blowing things up. I mean there aren't many things that can compare to setting off thousands of pounds of high explosives before breakfast. That's the sound of freedom."
"Stanley was one of those individuals with raw, natural ability and an unbelievable work ethic," said Fran Rodgers, a retired master chief of SEAL team 8 and a former member of SEAL team 2. Rodgers attributes that to the Olszewski upbringing and told a funny story about when he first met Olszewski's father, Igor. "This older man, with a thick chest and broad shoulders walked into the barracks and Stanley said, 'Dad, this is my SEAL platoon,' ...he gave us the once over and point blank said, 'You boys should be ashamed, get a real job and quit being a bunch of bums' then turned around and walked away. Stanley just smiled and said, 'that's my Dad.'"
"Stanley was also a cut above in toughness," Rodgers said. "Once he was bitten by several rattlesnakes and his arms swelled so bad they had to make large cuts to relieve the pressure. He was in a coma for quite awhile, but when he was able, came back and started distance running to regain his strength. He has enjoyed running ever since."
Military personnel inspire Olszewski the most. He knows that they and their families make tremendous sacrifices for "my right to shoot off my bazoo," he said. Although Olszewski was admittedly humbled to be in the spotlight, he continued speaking about the many Soldiers who do amazing things and never get recognized for their service. "Soldiers are super cool," he said. As a patriot and proud American, he a takes immense pride in supporting Soldiers and wearing the 'Budweiser' (what SEAL team members affectionately call their insignia) on his chest.
When he isn't injured, he commutes on a bicycle year-round. He often speaks about Sgt. Michael S. Hancock, one of the many Soldiers he befriended over the years. Hancock was an avid tri-athlete and avid biker who was killed while on guard duty with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment Oct. 24, 2003, in Mosul, Iraq. "During any war troops need resources to win, so by riding my bicycle I conserve resources for the war effort, "Olszewski said. "In my heart I dedicate daily rides to the many men and women who have been killed for our freedom." Nearly every day he also walks through the Monterey Lakes Memorial Park where there are monuments to Soldiers from Fort Wainwright who have died. "This truly gives me daily inspiration," he said.
Along with his love for the military, he talks about Elizabeth, "the love of my life," who he met when he was in the Navy, married and has been with ever since. He shows great gratification in his 30-plus years as a loyal husband and beams when he speaks of her. "Her father was a career fighter pilot in the Marines and she has taught civilian and military students in four states, most have gone on to be productive citizens of this great country," he said.
Elizabeth Olszewski described her husband as someone who is athletic and tenacious. "He loves to work out, " she said. "He loves to cook and tinker around the kitchen; he loves to be around friends and family and likes to be outdoors. He doesn't need to have a roof over his head."
He also loves his job and says that work is what he does for fun. "The fun can only happen when the troops are combat ready and recreation is safe. I have been here longer than some of my staff has been alive," Olszewski said. He learned leadership in the Navy and tries to lead the fun from the front. "I work with great people above, below and beside me in my parallel universe," he said, "and I wish there was room enough (in the newspaper) to give a shout out to all of them."
Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Fritz, former member of SEAL team 7 and an instructor at SEAL Qualification Training in San Diego, Calif. said," I owe that guy a lot and am happy to talk about him every chance I get." As a young person Fritz, whose father David Fritz, a contract performance evaluator on post, used to swim at Melaven and eventually became a lifeguard there. "When he (Olszewski) found out I was interested in becoming a BUD/S, he would challenge me with runs, swims and all kinds of crazy stuff. During our off time he showed me how to tie knots and different things I would need to know to succeed. He deserves serious credit for where I am today," said Fritz.
Besides being remembered as the "jackalope who used to run around Ladd Army Airfield in his shorts at 20 below," Olszewski said he "would like to be remembered as a good citizen of the U.S.A and the universe, as well as a good teammate at SEAL team that never let his buddies down."
He said, "Honestly, I'm just so happy to be alive." Olszewski has spent his life fighting for freedom, teaching and supporting troops. He talks the talk, walks the walk and whenever he can, rides his bike. As a huge fan of the great Yogi Berra, he wanted to close the interview by paraphrasing a famous Yogi-ism. "If people don't want to come out to the pool, how are you going to stop them'"