NASHVILLE --- Growing up, many kids want to be a superhero. Oftentimes the opportunity doesn’t present itself. For Michael Johnelle Crook, however, the opportunity came in 1979.
Crook, a Nashville native, graduated from Cohn High School in 1972. After high school, Crook then matriculated at Tennessee State University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in social work in 1976. Following his collegiate experience Crook began working at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute.
Crook enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 8, 1978. His service began by completing boot camp in Orlando, Fla. as part of troop number 045. During his time in the Navy, Crook was a member of the USS Wichita AOR-1 ship, an oiler ship that replenished other ships during times of war. Although, Crook did not actively serve in a war, he still became a part of history.
On November 4, 1979 while Crook and 300 of his fellow soldiers were at sea, a group of Iranians captured more than 60 American hostages. Due to the Iranian crisis the members of the USS Wichita crew members were stuck at sea for six-consecutive months as part of the Pacific fleet.
After the Iranian Crisis, Crook was sent to personnel school in Mississippi where he was ranked as a PN-3, also known as a Petty Officer Third-Class. In 1993 the USS Wichita was decommissioned from the US Navy.
“I would not wish the service on anybody but I believe it is necessary that people go into the military,” Crook said. “There were nights when I stood watch and my teeth chattered because it was so cold standing on the deck while we were at sea.”
Crook now serves as a part of the maintenance department and is an essential part of making sure that Tennessee State University has everything it needs for events that happen in The Gentry Center. He works hand-in-hand with the TSU athletic department to ensure that basketball contests run smoothly. Crook spends most of his time outside of work with his church family at the Greater Christ Temple Apostolic Church.
The Ohio Valley Conference will be recognizing a veteran from each institution in the OVC during the Men and Women's basketball conference tournament. Each veteran will receive a $500 packet that includes a two night stay in Nashville, four tickets to the tournament among other gifts.
“He has been instrumental in the sense that his contributions help us function and be able to do the things we do in athletics, ” Senior women’s administrator Valencia Jordan states. “Mike is a huge supporter of the department. He knows the athletes by name. Every day He comes to work and is engaged with what we have going on. The fact that he is an TSU alum makes it even more special.”