Steve Wyss shoots an F-14 Tomcat on what is called the “Fly Off” coming home from the Operation Iraqi Freedom Campaign in 2003.
Steve Wyss, a Dalton graduate who is from Kidron originally, retired from the U.S. Navy after 28 years.
Commander Steve Wyss was piped ashore for his final time Aug. 20 at a ceremony at George Mason’s Gunston Hall in Lorton, Virginia, after 28 years of service.
For the past five years, Wyss served in his last assignment for the U.S. Navy, which was the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, as the Chemical Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveillance Program Manager. During his tenure, he was able to transition technology to multiple customers to fill gaps in the Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction mission space.
Wyss returned to the Dalton/Kidron area earlier this month before heading back to Virginia. A few times each year, the Kidron native and Dalton High graduate makes his way to his hometown to help with projects around the house of his parents, Mel and Shirley Wyss, and maybe catch a Bulldogs’ football game. He enjoys going on motorcycle trips in his spare time.
Since serving for as long as he could in the U.S. Navy as a commander, Wyss will begin a new position in October doing work along the same lines of what he did in the military, but for a private company. Wyss will be director of Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction for ENSCO in Virginia.
GETTING HIS WINGS
Attending air shows as a teenager prompted his fascination with aviation. Seeing the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, especially left a lasting impression on Wyss.
“It was a blast to see all the different aircraft there – static displays we got to walk up to, and watching the Thunder-birds and other different demonstration aircraft,” Wyss said. “We went back the next couple of years and got to see the Navy’s Blue Angels and that really grabbed me to be interested in aviation.”
With an interest in naval aviation, Wyss joined Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at The Ohio State University. He graduated in 1993 with a bachelor of science degree in applied mathematics. He reported to Pensacola, Florida, to begin initial flight training before finishing in San Antonio, Texas. There, he reached one of the highlights of his career. After two years of training, he earned his wings in 1997, which designates that he’s a naval flight officer.
“That meant a lot to me to be designated,” he said.
According to the program for his retirement ceremony, after he completed his Fleet Replacement Squadron training, Wyss reported to the “Pelicans” of Patrol Squadron 45. He completed two tri-site deployments to Puerto Rico, Panama and Iceland and a single site deployment to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily. He served as Communications Officer, C4I Officer, Readiness Officer, NFO Training Officer and Assistant Training Officer.
In May 2002, Wyss reported aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, as a Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer. He served as a V-2 Bow and Waist Catapult Branch Officer and as V-2 Catapult and Arresting Gear Division Officer. In addition to qualifying as a “Shooter” he also qualified as Officer of the Deck, Assistant Command Duty Officer and Helicopter Control Officer.
What’s a shooter? It’s not a job for the faint of heart.
“If you ever Google ‘flight deck operations,’ and see the guy who wears an all yellow vest and he goes down and points and crouches down as the plane goes roaring past him – that was me,” Wyss said.
Here’s a description from navy.com about one of the tasks that turned into a favorite for Wyss during his career: “As a Catapult Officer, better known as a ‘Shooter,’ you are the final check, the last say, the signal everyone is waiting for on the flight deck. … Before you give the signal to get the jet in the sky, you work with flight deck personnel to give the ‘good to go.’ The Shooter is the conductor of the flight deck— but their batons glow in the dark, their symphonies are afterburners and their instruments are million-dollar fighter jets.”
In a nutshell, Wyss said the shooters give the hand signals to launch the aircraft zero to 130 miles an hour in about 2.5 seconds. The job is “very dangerous and very loud because so many things are happening at once, but it’s exciting,” he said.
By the way, the yellow vest is called a float coat. Wyss explained that if the shooter is blown over the side, the salt water activates the float coat as the flotation device. Wyss never went over the side. But he witnessed others get blown over.
Serving as a “shooter” was during a two-year tour where he surge deployed to the Mediterranean in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Thirteen assignments are listed in his retirement ceremony program including reporting in 2005 to the “Mad Foxes” of Patrol Squadron Five and serving as officer-in-charge for a 33-man detachment supporting another squadron, and five years later reporting aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Combat Direction Center Officer. Between those assignments he reported to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management and Budget serving as a Congressional Liaison Officer between the House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committee Sub-committees on Defense and the Navy Budget Office.
Before his final assignment, he was the Operational Test Coordinator for all Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Programs. This included the P-3C Orion replacement aircraft the P-8A Poseidon, the Multi static Coherent area search program and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare weapon program. In layman’s terms, Wyss explained that he flew land-based aircraft which were designed to search for submarines.
What will he miss about his career in the military? After growing up in the small close-knit community of Kidron, joining the U.S. Navy fueled his sense of adventure and enabled him to travel to places around the globe he may not normally have had the opportunity to visit.
“I’ll miss deploying,” Wyss said. “I wouldn’t have been to 99 percent of the places in the world without being in the Navy.”
The farthest Wyss traveled was Thailand. One of the favorite places he visited was Prague. In 2000, the deployment site was Sigonella, Sicily, and he and the officers on his crew had some time off. They did a “round robin trip” in Europe, which included flying to Munich and renting a car to Vienna, Austria, which he noted was beautiful in December. The group visited Krakow, Poland and toured the site of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In Prague, he enjoyed seeing some of the original structures which were largely untouched by World War II and he enjoyed the historical and educational experience of the places he visited which proved to be moving.
“Very eye-opening to see stuff like that,” he said. “Looking at what humanity had done in the past and hope to never see the same mistakes in the future.
“I’ll also miss the sailors,” he said. “I had a lot of guys work for me over my time and you come across all walks of life. With some things you act more like a father and sometimes you can be more of a leader.
Making a difference – I’ll miss that.”
Thanks to technology, it’s easy to keep in touch with people, still, he said he’ll miss all the different people he met along the way.
Wyss also offers advice to young people and others who are thinking about joining the service.
“Any branch of the service you’ll get to see the world if you’re interested in doing that,” he said.
“My advice would be to work hard, take advantages when you get them,” he said, “and like a lot of different sailors whether you stay for 20 years – which is when you’re first eligible to retire – or you stay 28, or you only stay four years, to me, No. 1: you’ve served your country, and No. 2: there are a lot of advantages to take along the way that will apply in your life in some shape or form whether it’s learning leadership skills or learning to be on time and being responsible … the experiences you learn along the way will apply to some place in your life.”
Wyss’ awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy Achievement Medal (two awards), Air Force Achievement Medal and various unit and campaign decorations.
At Wyss’ retirement ceremony, he was piped ashore, which is tradition in the U.S. Navy for sending a retiring shipmate ashore the final time, and also has been tradition on ships for centuries.
“Boatswain … Standby to pipe the side … Shipmate’s going Ashore …”