I was born and raised in Maryland. Before Prep, I spent a lot of time in the pool and traipsing through the woods behind my parents' house in Silver Spring. We spent a lot of time in the summers crabbing and fishing on the Patuxent and I grew up with a strong affinity for the water. That love of most things nautical is what led me to choose the Naval Academy and a career in the Naval service. Even though I knew I wanted to fly, the Air Force Academy or a career in the Air Force was never really high on my priority list because I knew I wanted to be near the water. Ironically, while a lot of my training took place near the water in Pensacola, San Diego, and eastern North Carolina, my deployments were to desert locations far away from any oceans.
After graduating from Annapolis and just before I got my wings in 2006, I married my best friend. Christina and I grew up going to the same church and had known each other for years, but things never moved beyond that. I took her to prom at Prep in the spring of 2000 and we've been together ever since. For those that don't know, there's a "2% club" at the military academies – which is the approximate percentage of relationships that stay together for the duration of the four years. I've been very fortunate that I have a partner who has put up with not only all my shenanigans, but the challenges imposed by the Academy and the Marine Corps as well.
I deployed twice to Iraq, first with HMLA 773 and then with HMLA 167. I learned a ton, forged relationships with friends I'll treasure for the rest of my life, and racked up a lot of flight time. The biggest challenge about deployments was being away from home and family. Technology allowed us to stay connected to a far greater degree than our predecessors in previous wars, but nothing replaces holding the people you care about in your arms.
After several years flying helicopters, I received orders to be the Executive Officer of Recruiting Station Raleigh. Many Marines try to avoid recruiting duty, but despite the very long hours and challenging mission, I enjoyed my tour. I also had a great boss who taught me a lot about leadership; he helped me become a better Marine and a better person. We lived in Durham and that town will always hold a special place in our heart. Christina and I also welcomed our first son, Sawyer, during these years so it was definitely a fulfilling time in our lives.
Due to a medical condition, I couldn't return to the squadron and my flying days were over. If I wanted to stay in the Marine Corps, I had to figure out a new job. I applied for an intelligence officer designation and after training received orders for Marine Corps Intelligence Activity in Quantico, VA. While learning some of the new tools of the trade, I was fortunate enough to have another incredible boss who continued to provide valuable leadership lessons, pushed me to get another Master's Degree at the National Intelligence University, and entrusted me with a command. We welcomed our daughter, Charlotte, and our youngest son, Lincoln, on this tour and continued to fill our house with laughter, joy, and craziness.
Separate medical issues ended up resulting in a medical separation from the Marine Corps, but with my recent training and location in the greater DC area, I had a great selection of jobs to choose from. Our family of five (plus our dog Bella the boxer) is happily engaged in our community in Alexandria and we'll be here for years to come.
What have you done since graduating from Prep?
I graduated Prep and planned to attend Villanova and pursue a commission via ROTC. I had been waitlisted and then rejected from the Naval Academy, so I was busy enjoying my summer when I got the call that if I was still interested, the Academy had a spot for me. A whirlwind 48 hours later (including a great sendoff from some of my Prep classmates), I started Plebe Summer and my Naval Academy adventure. I graduated from Annapolis, though academically I often struggled, and in 2004 commissioned into the Marines. After six months in Quantico, I attended flight school and earned my wings in June of 2006. I deployed twice to Iraq as a UH-1N pilot, served a stint on recruiting duty, redesignated as an intelligence officer, got out of the Marine Corps, and now I'm working as a DOD government civilian.
What was one of your favorite memories during your time at Prep?
It's hard to pick just one. Walking the yard between classes, sports practices with friends, Dr. Ochs' U.S. History class, dining room shenanigans, the Vice Principal's big day broadcast from the Dean's office a week or two before we graduated, football games, lacrosse games, I have way too many wonderful memories to settle on just one. If I had to, it would be Kairos - both going on my retreat as a junior, and then everything that happened our senior year when I was supposed to lead the retreat and had to pass the baton to my good friend Alex Golden due to some knuckleheaded antics on my part.
How did Prep prepare you for your career in the military?
Prep is obviously more than just a school. We learned life skills and human interaction that goes far deeper than a typical educational experience. So while the academic rigor at Prep was great preparation for the Naval Academy, flight school, and a couple Masters degrees, the intangible "people skills" that we learn have also played a big part in my success. Understanding things from someone else's perspective is a very important skill to have as a leader in any field. So many personal and professional facets of my Marines' lives required me to know and understand them and to genuinely care. Empathy is tough to teach, but Prep provides a great environment to let students develop it.
What impact did Georgetown Prep have on you?
I grew up going to church, but my spiritual development really took off at Prep. The classes, retreats, meditations, services, and opportunities for self-reflection were really critical to my spiritual development and I'm glad I at least took advantage of those opportunities, even if I didn't take a similar approach to my studies. Prep's basic philosophy of "men for others" was also a driving influence in the choices I made for my life and career. Putting others first is a key tenet of service and leadership; one of the key recurring phrases a young officer hears is "it's not about you."
What advice do you have for current Prep students?
I'll slightly re-phrase the question because I don't want to be the old guy telling students to study harder. But if I could write a note to my 16-year-old self, I would say that I regret not taking more advantage of the incredible academic opportunities at both Prep and at Annapolis. My focus as a teenager and a young 20 something was never in my studies (until I got to flight school), and I didn't fully appreciate that I had some very smart people trying to teach me some important and interesting things. Not to mention that my only responsibility for the most part was to be a student. After having gone through a couple masters programs and learning a couple languages while working full time and raising young kids, I would jump at any opportunity to be a full-time student again.
My other piece of advice is to hold on to your friends. I had great friends at Prep and I had great friends at Navy. Life happens and we drift apart - colleges across the country, military deployments, jobs, kids, and all the other wonderful and mundane things that we spend our days on. Try to fight that natural pattern to drift apart. Stay in touch, make plans to get together when you're all back in town, check in on each other. I engage with a handful of Prep classmates from time to time, but Matt Inzeo '00 is really the only one I have regular contact with.
As I am now closer to being the parent of high school students than being a high school student myself, I'll also say - take a moment to appreciate everything your parents are doing for you. I understood in an abstract way that my parents did a lot for us, but now that I'm running kids to & from school, swimming, music lessons, lacrosse, baseball, birthday parties, etc. it's a lot. So while it's probably impossible to get this perspective until you are a parent, an unexpected hug and "thank you" will probably make their day.