Northview Grad Serving With Navy Strike Fighter Squadron

March 29, 2015

A 2014 Northview High School graduate is currently serving with the U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 122, also known as the “Flying Eagles”, stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore.

Airman Willie Owens is an aviation ordnanceman with the squadron, which the Navy designates as VFA-122, and works with the Navy’s most lethal and versatile strike fighter aircraft, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

“I am responsible for handling and maintaining the F/A-18 Super Hornet weapons systems,” said Owens.

The Super Hornet takes off from and lands on Navy aircraft carriers and is capable of conducting air-to-air combat as well as air-to-surface combat. It is approximately 61 feet long, has a loaded weight of 51,000 lbs., and a max speed of 1,190 miles per hour.

Operating from the sea aboard aircraft carriers, the Super Hornet gives the Navy the power to protect America’s interests anywhere, at any time. The versatile jet has the ability to destroy targets located hundreds of miles inland, without the need to get another country’s permission to operate within its borders.

“I enjoy the people and learning experiences the most,” said Owens.

Owens said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the squadron’s 1140-member team, helping to protect America on the world’s oceans.

“My job trains the pilots to fly with and operate the weapons systems on the Super Hornet,” said Owens.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied in VFA-122. Approximately 220 officers, 660 enlisted and 260 civilian men and women make up and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly — this includes everything from maintaining aircraft airframes and engines, to processing paperwork, handling weaponry, and flying the aircraft.

“The Sailors here are the epitome of a team,” said Cmdr. Ernie Spence, VFA-122’s commanding officer. “Everyone here is professional, skilled in their job, and they are great team players which enables us to accomplish our mission.”

The Flying Eagles are the Navy’s West Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. They train aircrew and maintainers to prepare them to go to the fleet and join the squadrons that fly the Super Hornet. VFA-122 trained aircrews have flown combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

“I’m proud to be in the Navy and I’m glad I’m serving my country,” said Owens.

Submitted article and photo by Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs for

Tate Hosts District Special Olympics (With Photo Gallery)

March 28, 2015

The 19th Annual Escambia County School District’s Special Olympics Spring Games were held Friday at Tate High School with over 500 student athletes. Over 600 Tate student volunteers assisted as “buddies” and event workers.

The event began with Special Olympic athletes running with the Special Olympics Torch around the track.  There will was also an Olympic Village with plenty of fun and games, and even a petting zoo, for the athletes to enjoy after they completed their track and field events.

Athletes received the traditional gold, silver and bronze medals for top finishes, plus a participation medal for all athletes.

For more photos, click here. photos, click to enlarge.

Weekend Gardening: Hit A Home Run With Knock Out Roses

March 28, 2015

by UF/IFAS Extension

Landscape shrub roses will not make you great cut flowers, but they will give your landscape an abundance of rose flowers for the majority of the year. They practically bloom non-stop during the growing season, from March to November in Northwest Florida. Also, they are much less prone to blackspot disease than the traditional hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses.

The Knock Out family of roses was started by rose breeder Bill Radler when he crossed seedlings of ‘Carefree Beauty’ with ‘Razzle Dazzle’ to create the original Knock Out rose. The family now includes varieties that range from blush to vibrant red and even yellow.

In general, Knock Out roses are drought tolerant, self cleaning, and resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. Since they require little maintenance, they are ideal for gardeners who enjoy roses but who aren’t interested in the upkeep required to grow hybrid tea roses. The only drawback of Knock Out roses is that they don’t have a strong fragrance. According to the Conrad Pyle website, the only true fragrant Knock Out is the yellow ‘Sunny’ cultivar.

Like all roses, Knock Out roses need to be planted where they will receive at least six to eight hours of sun each day. It also helps to have a site with good air movement and well-drained soil that falls between pH 6.0 and pH 6.5.

Knock Out roses generally grow three to five feet tall and equally as wide, but some sources say they can reach eight feet tall if not pruned, so be sure to space them appropriately.

After planting, water them regularly until they get established. Apply a three-inch layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil, pulling the mulch back from the stem of the plants. Be sure to avoid overhead watering which can increase the chance of fungal leaf spots. They prefer a deep watering every once in a while rather than frequent light waterings.

Knock Out roses are referred to as self-cleaning meaning that the spent blooms will fall off on their own. They will re-bloom every five to six weeks regardless of your deadheading practices. Deadheading is the removal of faded blooms. Most gardeners have found, however, that occasionally deadheading will create and maintain a tidier, more attractive plant.

For more information on rose pests and diseases, refer to the University of Florida/IFAS online publication at or contact your local Extension Office.

Most Of ‘Landmark’ Ernest Ward Middle School Now Gone

March 27, 2015

Demolition of the old Ernest Ward Middle School is almost compete. Thursday, crews demolished the former main entrance to the old Ernest Ward High School, including the landmark “Ernest Ward” script lettering over the door.

The building had stood at the center of the Walnut Hill community since 1945, replacing a campus ravaged by fire in 1943. That old school had been constructed to replace an Ernest Ward School that first opened in a log cabin in 1896.

The remainder of the old school is expected to be demolished by Friday afternoon, with work next week to haul off the debris. Most of the area will become a parking lot.  Students moved into their new $20 million state of the art Ernest Ward Middle School, located behind the old school, the first week of February.

For more photos, click here. photos, click to enlarge.

On A Quest For A Freshwater Giant: Alligator Gar On The Escambia River

March 26, 2015

The quest is on to find one of Florida’s most mysterious fish with a prehistoric look in the Escambia River.

Finding alligator gar can be a challenge, but it’s one biologists with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute are taking on to learn more about the population of the fish in Florida.

Alligator gar have historically resided in rivers and brackish waters throughout the southeastern U.S. from the Florida Panhandle – from the Apalachicola River west to the Perdido River – to Texas and Mexico. Since the mid-1900s, alligator gar numbers have declined, leaving populations in only half of the 14 states they once inhabited. The FWC acknowledged this in 2006, prohibiting harvest of alligator gar for all but scientific purposes.

Since 2010, FWRI researchers have been tagging alligator gar in the Escambia River to learn more about their movement and habitat use. Using large-mesh gill nets, researchers collect adult alligator gar and fit them with telemetry tags before releasing them back into the river. These tags transmit information through radio and sound signals, allowing researchers to track each individual’s location for about two years.

Three years into the study, researchers have tagged 22 alligator gar ranging from 11 pounds to a state record 132 pounds; tagged fish average 60 pounds. Researchers are trying to identify what habitats these fish prefer, how far they travel and whether they return to the same location over time. Preliminary tracking data indicate alligator gar are highly mobile and can travel more than 40 miles in a single week.

The data also reveal their movement and habitat use varies by season. In winter, the tagged fish tend to reside in a slough – a cove off the main river with no current – and move very little. As the season changes to spring, they begin traveling the river’s main channel but return repeatedly to the slough. Only in late spring did the gar venture from their home-base slough and begin cruising. Biologists recorded alligator gar moving as far north as Century and the Alabama state line and as far south as Escambia Bay during this time.

No population data for alligator gar in Florida currently exists. However, data from this tagging study are helping biologists develop a strategy for estimating the population size of alligator gar, first in the Escambia River, then possibly in other rivers in northwest Florida’s coastal plain.

Pictured: Alligator gar research on the Escambia River. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Sheriff’s Office: Track Your Valuables With Online Tool

March 25, 2015

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is introducing a free online system that will help keep track of valuable personal property. ReportIt is a free, secure online service which will allow citizens to record serial numbers and upload images for phones, electronics, and other valuables. Should those items ever be stolen, investigators say, having the information will go a long way in accurately and quickly identifying your property.

The ReportIt service is a part of LeadsOnline, the online system that works with police across the country to track and recover stolen property. ECSO Investigators use LeadsOnline to help track and recover stolen property —- everything from jewelry to sporting equipment to electronics, computers, cameras, and other items such as designer clothing, collectibles, and other items with invaluable personal worth.

The system allows detectives to search for the items using a variety of parameters, including item descriptions and serial numbers. When an item is sold to a pawn or secondhand shop, the product information is entered in the LeadsOnline database and is immediately viewable by participating law enforcement agencies across the country.

Citizens can store an unlimited number of serial numbers, item descriptions, pictures, and scans of receipts so items may be more easily identified in the event of theft. This record may also come in handy when filing claims with insurance providers in the event of loss.

Citizens wishing to participate in ReportIt can register for the free service at and begin building their personal property inventory list.

FFA Members Attend Ag On The Hill

March 24, 2015

Students from Northview High School attended the annual “Ag On The Hill” event last week in Tallahassee. The local FFA members were able to visit with state leaders, including Sen. Greg Evers and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, at the Florida Capital.

Ag on the Hill is presented annually by the Florida Association of Agricultural Educators, The University of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Pictured top: With Sen. Greg Evers are Northview FFA members Haylee Waver, Mitchell Singleton, Courtney Weekly, Kaitlyn Kleinatland and Tiffany Cruce. Photos for, click to enlarge. Pictured inset; Mitchell listens to Evers. Pictured below: The Northview FFA students “on the hill”. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Roll Out The Unwelcome Mat To Formosan Termites

March 24, 2015

Rep. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) is hosting several free public workshops for area residents to learn necessary steps to protect their greatest investment from costly Formosan termite damage.

Annually, Formosan termites cause $1 billion in damage in the United States, and our surrounding areas of Escambia, of Santa Rosa and Okaloosa countis are known hot spots for these aggressive pests. Florida’s temperate climate provides a perfect environment for termites, and immediate signs of structural damage to a home may go undetected for long periods of time. Springtime serves as the breeding season for most species of termites, and Formosan termites will be swarming in May, so it is important for residents to understand what they can do in advance to protect their homes.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is collaborating with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Extension Offices in the Panhandle to educate homeowners about Formosan termites. Homeowners can learn methods for controlling this structural pest and protecting their homes by attending one of four educational meetings being held in the month of April. Homeowners are also encouraged to bring their pest control contract to one of these workshops for review.

Specific topics include:

  • Formosan termite biology including simple ways to identify them
  • Available Formosan termite pest control protection for your home
  • Florida law and building code pertaining to termites
  • What you can do to recognize and fix the weaknesses in and around your home
  • Bring your pest control contract for review by FDACS experts

Registration is encourage, but not required, for meetings that will be held as follows:

Escambia County Meeting

Tuesday, April 7,  6 – 8 p.m. at Escambia County Extension, 3740 Stefani Road, Cantonment. Contact Beth Bolles to register: or (850) 475-5230.

South Santa Rosa County Meeting

Thursday, April 9, 6- 8 p.m. at Tiger Point Community Center, 1370 Tiger Park Lane, Gulf Breeze, Contact Johanna Welch to register: or (850) 363-5845.

North Santa Rosa County Meeting

Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 6- 8 p.m. at Santa Rosa County Extension, 6263 Dogwood Drive, Milton. Contact Johanna Welch to register: or (850) 363-5845.

Photo courtesy UF/IFAS  for, click to enlarge.

Panhandle Equine Rescue Awarded $4,200 Grant

March 23, 2015

Panhandle Equine Rescue in Cantonment has received a $4,200 grant to use towards a barn for additional hay storage.

The grant was awarded by 400 Paws, a group with a missing to raise funds for qualified non-profit animal organizations; to educate the community regarding animal welfare; and to emphasize the need for financial assistance within local animal shelters and rescue groups.

The only horse rescue in Escambia County, Panhandle Equine Rescue was founded by a small group of concerned citizens with a mission to rescue, rehabilitate and provide adoption services for abused, neglected and abandoned equines.

Submitted photo for, click to enlarge.

Molino Park Math A Thon Raises Money For St. Jude Children’s Hospital

March 23, 2015

Almost 40 students from Molino Park Elementary School recently participated in the St. Jude Math-A-Thon for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Sponsors donated money to student who completed math projects, allowing the students to gain valuable math experience while helping others. Molino Park raised a total of $880 for St. Judes. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Next Page »