Evan Huegel | Navy | Rank: E-5
Why did you join the Navy?
It all started with taking the opportunity to skip class in order to talk with a recruiter. Matter of fact, I talked to one every chance I could get. It just so happened with the more time I talked with them, I learned about all the great benefits I could have by joining. After swallowing the fact I wouldn’t get a baseball scholarship and had no money for college, I decided I needed to make a responsible move, one that didn’t leave me thousands in debt with only a beer gut to show for it.
I joined the Navy mostly due to the fact that they had the coolest uniforms out of the recruiters I talked to. When it was all said and done, I couldn’t of picked a better branch for me. I wanted to see the world, and get paid for it, which is exactly what I did.
Which war(s) did you serve in?
Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Where exactly did you go?
My first deployment was an around the world tour. Basically to make our presence known in international waters while conducting drug and illegal weapons busts. We hit 23 different countries from Europe all the way to the Pacific Islands. My second and third tour we mainly set out in the Persian Gulf, conducting Ballistic Missile Defense Missions with a primary duty of protecting an Iraqi Oil Platform.
What was your job/assignment?
Operation Specialist with a collateral duty of a Surface Rescue Swimmer. I performed these duties for 4.5 years on-board DDG 68. Later I took a Shore Duty Billet where I served as an Aviation/Surface Rescue Swimmer Instructor teaching out of Pensacola, FL.
What's your most memorable experience while enlisted?
My most memorable experience is graduating from Rescue Swimmer School back in ’07. Before I was nominated to go, 3 of the prior candidates from my ship failed out and came back via the “walk of shame”. I tried to convince my senior leaders that I was ready and wouldn’t fail. The day I shipped out my Executive Officer sat me down in the office, looked me in the eyes and stated, “ If you quit, I don’t recommend you coming back”. Needless to say I was a nervous wreck. As if my personal ego wasn’t enough motivation on getting through the school, I sure couldn’t forget that moment anytime I had doubts. After 5 grueling weeks of blood, sweat and tears, I passed, and have never been prouder of a personal accomplishment since. From there, it set the tone to my career, my personality, and confidence.
Were you awarded any medals?
Throughout my eight years of active service, I have been awarded six medals and four letters of appreciation from Commanding Officers. I also received the Military Member of the Quarter Award in 2014. The two I am most proud of are my Navy/Marine Corps Achievement medals (NAMs). The first I received as a Rescue Swimmer on my first tour performing in over 100 search and rescue operations to include oil platform defense, visit board search and seizure, and sector air defense missions in the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean in support of Task Force 50. The second NAM I received was for superior performance as a Rescue Swimmer Instructor while taking on the American red Cross Coordinator for Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, FL. I evaluated over 70 high-risk instructors located throughout 4 external sites and provided training to over 1200 students throughout my 3 years. As the ARC Coordinator, I tracked over 60 instructor qualifications and managed the certifications of 2,300 Naval Aviators.
What did you do when on leave?
Visited home mostly every chance I could get. Being stationed and from FL, it wasn’t all that hard.
Where did you travel while in the service?
I’ve been to 35 different countries from all around the world. However, I spent the most time in the Middle East.
Post Military Career
Do you recall the day your service ended?
Yes, very memorable moment as I imagine it would be for any service member. I was stationed in Pensacola, Fl, finishing a 3 year billet as an Instructor.
What did you do in the days and weeks afterward?
Got my family and I ready for a big move to Ohio.
Did you go back to school following your service?
I spent the next 3 years going to school for a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Science.
Did you join a veterans organization?
I joined the Navy Reserves.
What do you do as a career after the military?
Currently, I am building my wildlife management experience up working for a local government agency as a Natural Resource Technician.
What kinds of activities does the Navy Reserves allow you to participate in?
The Navy Reserves gives me the opportunity to still get a taste of the military, where I get sent to Japan for a month out of the year, and one weekend out of the month I share the comradely I once had serving full-time.
How did your service and experiences affect your life?
It changed everything for me. I have met some of my closest and dearest friends through the military. It’s a brotherhood/sisterhood that will never be forgotten. It has built my whole foundation on life, how I view myself and the world around me. It has set me up financially and has given me the tools to be a responsible adult and able to take care of my family. Like I mentioned earlier, it finally allowed me to attend college and receive a bachelors degree in a field I am so passionate about, wildlife conservation.
How has the outdoors helped with your post military career?
The outdoors has always helped me to be sane. The outdoors is the best therapy I could ever get, whether it be in the tree stand, fishing off a lakeshore, or simply taking a hike through the woods. Most importantly, I can actually spend the time with my daughter that she needs and I can show her the beauty of nature.
Do you have a particular activity you enjoy the most - bow hunting for deer, shooting clays, bass fishing etc?
Hard to say, but If I had to choose one it would be bow hunting for deer. The hunt is not just walking to a tree in sitting down praying a deer will come. It takes a lot of time to include scouting, practice, skill, perseverance and a little luck to name a few.
What's your most memorable memory of the outdoors?
No one ever forgets his or her first deer…