When I left Beloit College, I moved along a path that was different from many of my counterparts. Others went on to graduate school or jobs in education or the sciences, but only a few joined the military.
My transition to the U.S. Navy’s physical demands was made easier by my athletic endeavors at Beloit. Collegiate sports, even at the Division III level, are highly disciplined. I lettered in cross country, track, basketball, and football, so coaches Dan Copper, Bill Knapton, Cecil Youngblood, and Ed DeGeorge prepared me well for the rigors of military training.
Beloit’s high academic standards and my Greek affiliation helped me prepare for the military’s mental demands. My work focuses on intelligence and national security, which involves a lot of research and analysis, skills that history professor Bob Hodge and others helped me develop at Beloit. I took a wide variety of courses across many disciplines, which have helped me keep pace with the complexities involved in national security decision-making. The influence of my fraternity, Sigma Chi, was also notable, particularly its values and principles of leadership.
Today I am a lieutenant commander, serving as an intelligence officer and training director for the Center for Naval Intelligence in Virginia Beach, Va., which oversees naval intelligence training at two sites on the east and west coasts.
I opted to join the Navy through the enlisted intelligence ranks to expedite my access to the field. This grassroots approach was not the easy route, or glorious, but it was essential to helping me become the person I am today. As an enlisted intelligence specialist, I worked directly with intelligence collection systems and processes that helped me further develop my analytical capabilities.
My initial tour in Yokosuka, Japan, was on a three-star admiral’s fleet staff, providing daily updates on intelligence issues. We conducted operations across Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, including visits to more than 20 countries. While this sounds like a great job, it also involved mopping floors and cleaning dish trays. While attached to this fleet, I was selected to join the officer ranks through the Officer Candidate School for the intelligence career field; I was commissioned an ensign in November 2000.
Now, on my fifth officer tour, I’ve completed tours in Hawaii, California, and England. I earned a master’s degree in National Security Affairs and conducted operational tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I was most recently deployed to Camp Dubs, Afghanistan (named after Beloiter Adolph Dubs’42, an American ambassador to Afghanistan who was kidnapped and killed in 1979 during a rescue attempt). I was aware of my assignment to Camp Dubs just a few weeks before arriving there, but I had known about Dubs for some time. My grandfather, also a Beloit alumnus, had told me stories of a college friend named Adolph who had gone on to do great things.
My focus in Afghanistan was to lead a team of Navy personnel to help develop the Afghan National Army’s Intelligence Training Center in Kabul. It was a six-month assignment with the Combined Training Advisory Group-Army, in which I worked with all U.S. military services and coalition military to help develop our Afghan counterparts. During that time, there were highs and lows, but in the end, I left with a sense of accomplishment. As I concluded my tour, the center was offering instruction to men and women in the Afghan Army’s newly formed military intelligence companies.
The time I spent at Beloit helped prepare me tremendously for the job I do today. I joined the Navy because I saw something I liked in the adventure of seeing the world and in doing the kind of work I do. But it’s not for everyone. I can’t count the number of Christmases, birthdays, graduations, or reunions I have missed, but I have also met some extraordinary people and encountered life-changing moments that I would not change for the world.