If you had asked me three years ago if I thought Tom DeLonge was going to become one of the biggest names in UFO discourse, I probably would have shrugged it off. After all, I grew up listening to his music and spending many nights with friends laughing at the ridiculous lyrics spewing from our CD players. And there’d always come a song that involved aliens or UFOs sprinkled throughout the discography, and my friends would always give me a hard time. “He’s singing to you, Ryan!”
Fast forward over a decade later, I’d learn that he almost was singing to not only me, but the entire UFO community and those who were always curious about the topic. Alongside his sordid music career, his other main interest and hobby was studying UFOs. And just like many who find themselves wrapped in the phenomena’s enigmatic fingers, DeLonge became obsessed. And as the years went on, he pulled away from his guitar and microphone and grabbed binoculars and telescopes, scanning the skies. He’s a diligent rock star who honestly doesn’t care what you think, what I think, or what the public-at-large thinks. He just wants the truth. And he’s well on his way to finding it in his new television series, Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation, produced by the History Channel and To the Stars Academy.
In the official press release, the show is summarized as: “The To the Stars Academy team will break boundaries and perceived government taboo by disclosing information about efforts being made to change government policy surrounding these phenomena, as well as produce tangible evidence to build the most indisputable case for the existence and threat of UFOs ever assembled. “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation will reveal newly authenticated evidence and footage, interviews from eyewitnesses and former military personnel who have never spoken out before and extensive breakthroughs in understanding the technology behind these unknown phenomena in our skies.”
As expected, the premiere episode begins with a rundown of the explosive story that hit the New York Times on December 16th, 2017, titled “Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program”. The article outlines this program which was directed by a former military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo. It became known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a hidden Pentagon government unit. Elizondo eventually resigned after expressing to the government that these phenomena the program investigated could pose a major threat to national security. And this is where the show begins to lift off the page of the New York Times article and is brought to life in a fresh, modern, and informative manner.
Before we get to know the core team that we’ll be following throughout the show, we are dropped directly into the waters just off the coast of California. In the original New York Times article, declassified videos from the Department of Defense had been released as well. One of these videos, shot in 2004, consisted of infrared footage showing a “tic tac” shaped UFO floating just above the water. The main witness to this event, Commander David Fravor, recounted his experience with this unknown object in great detail. What was surprising in the show, however, was that we now get to hear from a brand-new witness to this event. Elizondo, our information conduit, interviews a female witness who served as a wingman pilot that extraordinary day. Her testimony is startling, genuine, and only adds to the mystery of this compelling first case that is covered in Unidentified.
To strengthen the validity and intrigue of these official D.O.D videos, Elizondo reveals the “Tic Tac” video, and several others, to two highly credentialed pilots to review and evaluate. They are retired Lieutenant Colonel, Chris Cook, a Top Gun fighter pilot, and Ross Amer, a commercial pilot with over forty years of flying experience. They conclude that whatever these objects are, and the way they behave, it’s highly likely that they could not be any conventional aircraft with human pilots involved. But what exactly the objects in the videos are is left up to speculation… for now.
Perhaps to some, another surprising addition to the show is that of Bryan Bender. Bender, a National Security Correspondent and Defense editor for Politico, runs us through the career of Elizondo, giving us a swift, yet comprehensive background on the man we’d be following throughout this series. As we learn more about the Tic Tac UFO event, we also get a rundown of several members of To the Stars Academy. We meet Chris Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. We also get a glimpse of Steve Justice, a top aviation engineer for Lockheed Martin, well known to have created Skunkworks, which we know was working directly out of the legendary Area 51 installation. These two, for me, are the most impressive of DeLonge’s TTSA group. Especially when Mellon admits that he’d inquired with several employees out at Groom Lake (Area 51) and asked if they’d ever seen weird stuff going on there at night. He was very surprised to learn that many of them admitted that they’d seen or had been part of highly mysterious projects being conducted there. Maybe we’ll get a glimpse in to this even more with the involvement of Steve Justice in future episodes. Suffice to say, the former careers, and current security clearances of these men speak volumes to the seriousness they are taking the varied phenomena plaguing our skies. But it must be made clear, as many in the group have attested, this isn’t about proving UFOs are extraterrestrial in nature, but to fly in the face of Project Blue Book and show that UFOs could pose a genuine threat to both national security and the world-at-large. And if this is the case, we must certainly learn how these craft operate, who or what is controlling them, and what the motives may or may not be.
Returning to the originator of To the Stars Academy, we are finally introduced to Tom DeLonge in a quick, but powerful fashion. Behind his pop-punk persona, we now see a passionate man, later in life, pursuing the most ambitious goal he could make for himself; finding the truth behind UFOs. He had met several influential people within the military throughout the years, and as he worked his way up the chain, he found himself securing a meeting with a high-level aerospace executive.
“That’s when my life changed completely,” Delonge states in the episode.
This enigmatic aerospace executive would agree to help DeLonge form his team that would eventually become To the Stars Academy. This meeting involved several prominent military officials, including Major General William N. McCasland, a Commander of the Wright-Patterson Research Laboratories. UFO buffs out there will recognize Wright Patterson as the place where the Roswell UFO wreckage was supposedly shipped to, and also the place where Project Blue Book was created. But who exactly was the aerospace executive? Alejandro Rojas, of OpenMinds, suggests it could possibly be another general who was present during the meeting. Retired USAF Major General Michael Carey served as the Special Assistant to the Commander, Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, which is also the home of NORAD. Only time will tell if we ever truly know DeLonge’s original source. Or perhaps we’ll find out in this series. Whether this is the actual aerospace executive or not, the chain ran all the way up to former Presidential advisor, John Podesta. But on the eve of the most recent presidential election, Wikileaks released personal emails from the DNC and beyond, and DeLonge’s correspondence with Podesta was now out in the public. And they included the names of the highly credentialed, and once confidential individuals, he was working with to gather UFO information.
In the episode, DeLonge states that “The one rule they had is that we will help you, but don’t go out and tell anyone who we are. That’s the only fucking rule.” Acting as an invisible college to DeLonge, many either dropped out of DeLonge’s endeavors after their names were made public, or they had to be willing to step up and continue their work with him, sacrificing reputations and careers to continue the search for answers involving UFOs. But many in the UFO community, having seen groups like this form in the past, have been very cautious and hesitant of the motives of DeLonge’s insiders and even the current members of To the Stars Academy. Could this somehow be a disinformation campaign where DeLonge has become either a willing or unwilling participant? This is remarked upon in the episode with another highly credible interview involving KLAS I-Team Chief reporter and investigative journalist, George Knapp. No stranger to controversy involving UFOs, Knapp is asked point blank if he believes DeLonge is being used to promote disinformation from the sources he has and the people he is working with on this highly ambitious project. Knapp responds, saying, “No. I think Tom DeLonge has plotted out his own course. He’s got some really good advisors who are not part of the government. All of these events that have happened are because Tom DeLonge used shoe leather, knocked on doors… made phone calls. What Tom has started in the last year is unprecedented.”
Returning to the bombshell case involving the 2004 Nimitz UFO case (Tic Tac UFO), we hear from the most credible witness involved, Commander David Fravor. At the time, Fravor was stationed aboard the USS Nimitz as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, also known as “The Black Aces.” We get his full account sprinkled throughout the episode, enhanced by stunning recreations of the event as he’s recalling it. But perhaps more importantly, we are hit with the hard and startling question made directly by Fravor concerning his own UFO event and UFOs on a broader scale: “You have to ask yourself, is it ‘E.T’? or is it ‘Independence Day’? What’s the intent? And right now… we don’t know.”
As the episode winds down, Elizondo and Mellon, with the highest security clearances, have been working behind the scenes with the pilots involved with the Tic Tac UFO event to secure a meeting with members of Congress. The collective goal by both the pilots and TTSA members is to make Congress aware of the Nimitz encounter and the potential implications to these UFOs concerning national security. As Elizondo races down the road in hero-like fashion, he gets a call from Commander David Fravor. Elizondo learns that an unprecedented meeting had just taken place with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which included three very powerful senators. What exactly will come of this meeting isn’t revealed in the episode, but could it be leading to the recent announcement by the U.S. Navy that they’d be introducing guidelines for pilots to report UFO sightings? In an official announcement by the military branch, it was stated that “The Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. The new policy will standardize how incidents are reported, and what radar or other data may be gathered that the military can store long term for further analysis.” Again, only time will tell where this thread of the series is heading.
We then get a brief glimpse of what is to come with Unidentified. The TTSA team hits the road to interview both civilian and military witnesses to several UFO events. A clip of former Deputy Base Commander of RAF Bentwaters, Col. Charles Halt, shows us that the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident will be featured, along with what I assume will be other highly recognizable nuclear base UFO incidents. I’m hoping we will perhaps see and hear of some that the public may not be wholly aware of. I was also surprised to see a familiar face pop up in this preview of what’s to come. The individual was Larry Gessner. Gessner, former military and police sheriff, first came forward with his UFO event in my book, Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon. The case continues to baffle me up until today, as I’m sure it has Gessner itself. But his story is one of the most compelling close encounters I’ve personally come across. It needs to be heard on a grand stage that this show can provide. Personally, I am looking forward to any developments with the To the Stars Academy research project knows as the Acquisition & Data Analysis of Materials (A.D.A.M). According to their website, this project “begins the journey to collect, isolate, secure, transport, and successfully deliver materials reported to have come from advanced aerospace vehicles of unknown origin. The further scientific analysis of such alleged materials brings the potential discovery of new metamaterials, which can launch a journey of discovery and breakthroughs that could extend for decades.” I’m hoping that any information now being held from the public will at least somewhat be brought out in the show.
Before closing out this review, I want to warn anyone that if you have been deeply embedded in the entire To the Stars Academy developing story involving AATIP and beyond, this episode may feel like nothing new to you. But for those just hearing about all this, I can understand it being extremely eye-opening as it was when we first heard about all of this. We also have to remember that the premiere episode of any television program serves as an introduction to our story, our characters or participants, and the framework in which the rest of the show will assumably hinge upon. From the opening moments of this episode to the very last, even having known most of the information involved, I found myself intrigued and wanting to see what each minute had to provide as the episode hurdled forward. Years of information were presented in a condensed, concise format with smooth and quick camera shots, extremely high-quality reenactments, and carefully constructed, though genuine interviews. Elizondo is a charismatic lead-investigator/host who I have no doubt will become a staple of the show and beyond. It’s hard to not like a man who is so passionate and articulate about the work he is doing. And while I look forward to following him on this journey, I hope DeLonge will become a stronger presence in the show. His hunger for answers is palpable in the limited screen time he has, but it spoke for so many of us who have found ourselves in his shoes to just get answers to a curious question in his mind, that if answered, could change his entire world view.
As credits roll, we finally get a statement by Senator Harry Reid, the originator of the AATIP Program within the Pentagon: “Thousands of people have experienced Unidentified Flying Objects. It’s time to look into it. You can’t ignore the facts.”
I would have to agree with Mr. Reid. We can’t ignore the fact that UFOs have both invaded our skies and our minds. And with the premiere of Unidentified, no matter your personal beliefs or opinions on To the Stars Academy, it will certainly be hard to ignore the conversations that will arise throughout households around the country upon viewing this. And it is also hard to ignore that we are in a new age of UFO discourse, prompted by a young teenager-turned rockstar-turned UFO hunter who once stared up, as many of us have, and wondered what could be out there somewhere in the skies.
* Military service members who have encountered an unidentified flying object are encouraged to email: firstname.lastname@example.org