Honoring our alumni in the armed forces
Captain Gregory J. Stanosz (DB ’70) has dedicated his life to the values of service, sacrifice, and commitment. Proudly serving his country for more than 20 years, Stanosz has received nine honors from the Army and Navy, including the Meritorious Service Medal and General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
“I went to UW-Waukesha when it only had 1,000 students, and I did well academically but I wanted to do something more,” explained Stanosz, whose father and uncle both served in World War II. His uncle often recounted exhilarating “sea stories” from his time as a Navy Captain, and these stories, reinforced by the many TV shows and movies of the time that glorified military service, encouraged Stanosz to reach out to a recruiter.
As an idealistic 19-year-old weighing just 118 pounds, Stanosz had lofty goals when he joined the Navy in 1971. Given his academic success, Stanosz was drawn to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a highly accelerated, rigorous program of science and mathematics. Since misuse of nuclear technology could have catastrophic consequences, this program required sailors with the highest levels of integrity, responsibility, initiative, and intelligence.
“The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program needed sailors who not only had an in-depth understanding of the processes of nuclear propulsion but could also handle the immense and constant pressure, stress, and responsibility,” Stanosz said. “At the time, two-thirds of people who entered the program never finished. And it wouldn’t get any easier aboard the ship.”
After completing his training, during which he earned less than $3.00 a day, Stanosz received orders for what had been the world’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. Now about 20 years after it had been built in 1954, however, the Nautilus was no longer a sought-after assignment.
“By that time, the Nautilus was past her time, hopelessly complicated, and, quite frankly, dangerous,” Stanosz recalled. “When I was handed my orders, there was sarcastic laughter, sad grins, and snarky comments.”
While his time on the Nautilus was arduous, Stanosz believes that his Service, Sacrifice, and Commitment aboard the aging submarine not only helped him mature as a man but to cultivate the values that have since shaped his life.
“Many times, the only reward for a job well done is an internal ‘feel-good.’ But to earn that feeling of accomplishment, there must be sacrifice. There is no appreciation or affirmation if everything is just given.”
On his 24th birthday, Stanosz interviewed for a position aboard the NR-1 nuclear submarine. A full day of interviews in Washington D.C. concluded with a frightening few minutes in the office of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy.” Admiral Rickover, who was handpicking the NR-1’s crew, had personally cut three inches from the front legs of the interviewees’ chair, preventing them from becoming at ease. Given the uncertain world created by the Cold War, Admiral Rickover wanted to test how they would react when confronted with unusual, stressful situations — something they would experience often aboard the NR-1.
In his short but memorable interview, Stanosz demonstrated the qualities sought by Admiral Rickover, and before leaving D.C., Stanosz received notification that he had been accepted for the NR-1. While a step-up from the Nautilus, the NR-1 was far from luxurious; the ship had no shower, and the nine-man crew shared a rack of three bunk beds.
Even after leaving the Navy in 1978 as a Petty Officer First Class and Navy Diver, Stanosz maintained his commitment to public service. While also working a civilian engineering job, Stanosz served as an officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, sacrificing many of his nights and weekends in service to his community. He also deployed overseas multiple times, conducting missions in Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
“Between the Navy and the Army, I deployed nine times and served on five continents,” Stanosz summarized. “I would take a leave of absence from my civilian job because, quite frankly, I found the military to be more gratifying.”
Despite earning many honors during his career in the armed forces and later as a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, where he received the prestigious Award of Merit, it was his commitment to Service, Sacrifice, and Commitment that most inspired Stanosz.
“I never thought about awards or medals as a motivation. The focus was never on myself or some type of personal gratification; the focus was on others and getting the mission done.”
This selflessness served Stanosz well as a Commanding Officer (CO). In honor of his service in Honduras and Turkey, during a 1988 celebration at the Pentagon, Stanosz became the first reserve officer in US Army history to receive the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, which honors junior officers who embody the values of Duty, Honor, and Country.
“As CO, I had to make sure the mission was clear and that the soldiers had everything necessary to get the job done,” Stanosz explained. “COs have a lot of responsibility, but they cannot complete the mission alone. Everyone has an important role to play.”
In the early 1990s, Stanosz deployed again to Central America as CO of Operation Belizean Breezes. The operation was a major diplomatic success, with Belizean Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel calling it “a very beautiful chord of cooperation between two governments, two military forces, and two peoples.” His service in Belize earned Stanosz another prestigious award, the Meritorious Service Medal, in 1995.
A successful military operation requires impeccable teamwork. Each team member must put forth full effort and place the needs of the team before their own. When students are considering a career in the military, Stanosz, inspired by his own experiences, asks them to consider whether they are truly ready to devote their lives to the values of Service, Sacrifice, and Commitment.
“Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get the job done, even though it may cost you your life?”
Receiving NAVCOM from VADM Williams, CDR of Sub Force Atlantic Fleet, U.S. Submarine Base Groton, Connecticut.
December 15, 1976
About the Author
Kevin Russell has been a member of the STM Development Department since January 2014. He currently serves as Marketing Director, chairs the STM Communications Committee, and acts as the primary content editor for the Spirit.