Providence Day exists to inspire its students to excel and to serve — as leaders, athletes, artists, innovators, global citizens. And many are inspired to do so as part of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I never imagined I’d serve when I was younger,” said Eric Cal ’16, “but after being recruited by Navy for football, I saw all of the opportunities available if I chose to attend the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) and serve in the Navy.”
Now a Midshipman Third Class in his second year at the academy, Cal balances more than 20 credits-worth of classes with military obligations while also playing on the Navy Midshipman football team. Majoring in chemistry, he aims to get a medical degree to serve in the Navy Medical Corps.
Academy life places much responsibility and a large burden on one’s time, said Cal, who credits Providence Day with helping him prepare for his many obligations and duties.
“To be a good service member and officer, you have to be a jack of all trades. There are specialists in every field, but as a leader you are expected to be able to assess any situation and handle it correctly,” he said.
“Providence Day pushes their students to expand their knowledge and skills and provides the vast array of opportunities to do so,” he said. PDS’s goal to “create well-rounded students, who are dedicated to learning and improving themselves helps prepare them for every aspect of life, including the military.”
Jonathon Conlan ’15, a Coast Guard seamen apprentice, said the way PDS helped prepare him for his SATs allowed him to ace the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a test administered by the U.S. military to determine qualification for enlistment in the Armed Forces.
“My ASVAB was high enough that I qualified for all the jobs classifications within the Coast Guard,” he noted.
Currently he serves aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sea Fox, a patrol boat that protects Navy ballistic submarines in the waters off the coast of Washington.
“Once I pass all of the exams for operating the ship, I begin the process for law enforcement and boarding team,” he said. “These qualifications will allow me to board other vessels suspected of wrongdoing, mainly drug transportation, and to make arrests.”
After his two-year assignment, Conlan plans to become an intelligence specialist working with Homeland Security.
“PDS helped prep me with critical thinking and communication skills, and by helping me figure out I can do just about anything if I work hard at it,” said Robert Johnson ’00, an Air Force major stationed with 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
Having started his career in Charleston doing aircraft maintenance, Johnson was soon leading a team of instructors. He then worked as a project manager outside of Boston, helping to sustain the U.S. air defense system while managing base security systems and installations.
He went on to study military operational planning and leadership with the Army in Leavenworth, Kan., and spent six months at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, serving as a liaison between U.S. project managers and the Iraqi Air Defense Command working to rebuild the country’s air defense system.
“I gained a real appreciation for the Iraqi people during my time there, and it helped me realize that almost all of us want the same thing — security, the opportunity to take care of ourselves and our families and to have a chance at living better lives,” said Johnson.
“I think the sense of social responsibility was something that really resonated with me from PDS, said Matt Nole ’07, a Marine captain and helicopter pilot currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C.
Nole oversees the training of pilots in HMLA-167, a light attack squadron, ensuring the entire unit is combat ready.
“I try to remind my Marines as often as possible how important the words ‘service’ and ‘responsibility’ are,” said Nole.
“We truly have a responsibility to the American people to support and defend the Constitution and be the best versions of ourselves every day,” he said. “It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of this in the day-to-day grind. I try to take time out of the work day as often as possible to remind Marines of our values and heritage.”
When it comes to serving your country, its flag and way of life, “you cannot replicate the sense of duty and selfless service that soldiers have in the Army, or in any branch of service,” said Ashley (Dieter) Towns ’03, who transitioned out of the Army as a captain in 2015 after 10 years of service.
“The intrinsic motivation soldiers and leaders have in the Army is unparalleled,” she said. “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his brothers.”
Towns’ service included two deployments to Afghanistan and one deployment to Liberia, Africa, in roles such as a Brigade Engineer Office, Assistant Operations Officer, Battalion Airborne Operations Officer an Company Commander. Since leaving the military, she has gone on to work as a Chicago regional operations director for Veterinary Centers of America, an operator of veterinary hospitals in the United States and Canada.
“I have always grown up with pets and currently have three dogs,” she said. “It allows me to still lead and focus on operations, while working for a company that provides the best pet care and quality medicine.”
Russell Bowers ’10, an Army captain, said both PDS’s academics and faculty left lasting impressions on him.
“The teachers at PD are incredible, something you don’t appreciate until later in college,” he said. “I learned so much about how to learn from them.”
Bowers now serves as a battalion engineer officer with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle, Wash. Duties range from managing military construction projects and airfield repair teams to running demolition ranges. While deployed with the battalion, he worked as a night operations officer, coordinating, resourcing and battle tracking nighttime operations.
He credits Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs and former science teacher Derrick Willard, who served as an Army Calvary officer and earned the rank of captain, as a “great resource of mentorship for military service, inspiring me to really explore the opportunity post-Providence Day.”
“The military — especially on the officer side — values how to learn much more than breadth or depth of knowledge,” said Bowers. “At Providence Day, with so much going on and so much to take advantage of, I feel like I practiced learning something new every day.”
Conlan played varsity football for four years under head coach Bruce Hardin, who once served as assistant football coach at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy.
“Coach Hardin suggested that I would be a good candidate for one of the military schools,” said Conlan, who credits PDS athletics with helping him prepare for the intensity of boot camp.
Influential for Towns were basketball coach Barbara Nelson and physical trainer Dodie Montgomery.
They “helped me to be physically and mentally strong,” she said. “They constantly pushed me to work harder and be a leader, on and off the court and field.”
Influential teachers for Johnson were “coach John Patterson, who really inspired me as a nerdy kid to give it my best in a weightlifting class; (lacrosse) coach Mark Fader, whose outgoing and energetic leadership style I try to emulate, “and (English teachers) Mrs. Patsy Steimer and Dr. Clint Crumley, who really challenged my critical thinking and coached me on my writing skills.”
“Rhea Caldwell remains a formative figure from my final years at Providence Day,” said John Horne ’07, a Navy lieutenant stationed with Carrier Strike Group 15 in California.
Horne, whose group trains and certifies deploying ships to meet forward fleet requirements, recalled Caldwell asking students to write the answers to their calculus homework on the board in front of the class.
“The true lesson from this had nothing to do with calculus,” said Horne. “Instead, you must always take pride in what you do and what you produce. You also can’t wait until the last minute, lest you let down yourself and others.”
“Knowing that the training and evolutions I provide now has a direct effect on ships and sailors deploying means I can’t wait until ‘homework is due’ to start solving the problem,” he added. “Rhea Caldwell wouldn’t accept it; neither should I.”
Nic Iannorone ’05, a Coast Guard lieutenant, credits Kenna Powell, PDS’s Safety and Security director and his mother, as the person who most prepared him for service.
Iannorone is a team leader with Maritime Security Response Team West, a tactical unit that specializes in maritime counter terrorism and high-risk law enforcement, based in San Diego, Calif.
Iannorone is grateful to the faculty and staff at PDS.
“I cannot begin to describe my thankfulness to them. They care. They invest. They inspire and they challenge,” he said. “They come alongside you when you’re struggling, celebrate your victories and help you dust your boots off after defeats. I can honestly say now … (they) helped prepare me for not just service, but for life.”
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