Q: How did you end up in the Navy?
A: I graduated high school in 2015. After that, I moved up to Colorado and originally tried college at the University of Colorado. But it wasn't the best fit for me. I didn't really know what I was gonna do in life at that point. I knew I had to do something, and I didn’t believe college was a good fit for me. I wanted to travel, see the world, and serving was always in my head as a back-up plan. So I decided to join the Navy a couple of years later when I was 21.
Q: What was your role?
A: I was on the USS Iwo Jima LHD-7. I did two deployments and a NATO exercise in the Arctic. During my five years in the Navy I spent about two years out at sea. I worked in the hangar bay and on the flight deck moving aircraft. During my final deployment I was in charge of the night crew in the hangar bay. This was the time when the most movement of aircraft would happen. My job was to ensure I had a plan every night for all movement of aircraft, keep everyone safe on my crew, and to properly train new sailors.
Q: Can you describe your transition into the Navy?
A: I did it pretty quick. You go into a delayed entry program before you’re actually in the Navy, and then you go to boot camp. The Navy boot camp was two months long. It was more mental than physical. The toughest part of boot camp was going through a thing called Battle Stations, where you practiced on a fake ship like you were at war. You had to stay up 36 hours or so. After that, they send you to your specific training school. Since I was moving aircraft on the flight deck, they sent me to Pensacola. After that, I was sent over to Jacksonville to meet my ship, and then they sent me to the Middle East to meet the ship that was on deployment. I spent five years on the USS Iwo Jima.
Q: What was the toughest part of the process?
A: I would say during my second deployment because I was married at that point. The majority of that deployment, it was hard to talk to my wife because we were doing the Afghanistan pull-out. We had very little contact with the outside world during that time, and I was unsure when I would be able to return stateside.
Q: What was that sort of isolation like?
A: On my last appointment, I was in charge of the nighttime shift. It was 12 hours on, 12 hours off. I worked nine months straight without any days off. You almost turn into a robot during that time.
Q: What caused you to leave the Navy?
A: Within the first two months, I knew I wasn’t going to stay in the Navy long-term. Serving is good, but I felt I was meant for more in life than doing just that. I knew it wasn’t completely for me. That’s why, while I was in the Navy, I finished almost two years of school online at Southern New Hampshire University. It was a good start for me ‘cause it helped me figure out where I wanted to go. For a while, I was thinking I wanted to be a park ranger, and then I bounced around three or four different things before I finally settled on sport management.
Q: What made you want to apply to U-M/Kines?
A: I suggested to my wife that we move up to Michigan because I like the cold (I play a lot of hockey), and it was close to her side of the family. And I knew the sport management program at the University of Michigan was one of the best in the country.
I applied for the fall semester of 2022 and didn’t get accepted. Then I talked to LaJoya Orr [the managing director for recruitment & admissions in Michigan Kinesiology’s Office of Undergraduate Student Affairs], and she let me know the things I was lacking and how to fix them and to try again for this past winter semester. When I got in, we bought a house and moved up here, and I started school right away.
Q: How’s the program been so far?
A: It’s been awesome. I definitely like the University of Michigan and being in the School of Kinesiology. I’ve enjoyed most of the classes I’ve had. They’re challenging, but you learn a lot of good content and you can tell the teachers care. They’ve set me up with figuring out where I’m trying to go.
Before coming here, I knew that I wanted to go into some sort of law. During my internship in corporate partnerships this past summer with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, a Tier I junior hockey team, I was able to see a lot of contracts and deal with a lot of businesses and see how they go about getting their sponsorships. So seeing that made me realize that I want to become a sports lawyer, whether that’s with a players association or a team. So I’ll be applying to law school after I graduate here next fall.
Q: What do you think your experience in the Navy has done for you in terms of positively impacting the way you’re now approaching school?
A: I think it really matured me. Or maybe getting older matured me. Either way, I’m a lot more mature with my decisions. Academically, just realizing how mentally tough the Navy was and then going back to this and doing school — I’m way happier doing this than having to be in the Navy and dealing with that every day. During the Navy, you weren’t able to make your own decisions. So now I’m very independent, and pushing myself in the direction I want to be, and that’s helped me be academically successful. I’m very motivated being here, so it’s kind of funny how it all turns out in the end.
The classes are challenging, but you learn a lot of good content, and you can tell the teachers care. They’ve set me up with figuring out where I’m trying to go.