Gregory Walters grew up a son of a teacher and a nurse.
From these humble beginnings in rural Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he would soon patrol the great expanse of the sea known as the Persian Gulf.
Before serving eleven years in the world’s largest military, Walters performed custodial housekeeping at his local high school, a far cry from the facility responsibilities he’d be entrusted with at Springfield College.
He attended Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he was a member of the crew team as well as the soccer team.
Walters remarked, “We played against Springfield, although I can’t for the life of me recall how we did.”
One particular afternoon during his senior year of college, Walters spoke to a representative at a Navy recruitment table at a school-sanctioned career day. Having been alarmed at the Marine proposal of a potential seven to 10 year commitment, Walters was impressed with the more lenient Navy service time.
“After going through the process of college and applying for jobs, everybody wanted experience,” explained Walters. “At the same time I was doing that, I began the process of applying to join the Navy.”
Following tours of a submarine and surface ship, the interview process was nothing short of intensive. For the Navy nuclear program on which he was embarking, Walters first went south to the nation’s capital to interview with engineers of naval reactors.
Recalling it as a “nerve-wracking experience, Walters explains one of the first questions thrown his way, “So I have a super-ball on a table and I roll it off the table, how many times will it bounce before it stops?”
Shortly after he was face to face with the admiral, the naval equivalent to Apple’s Steve Jobs or Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Walters was then off to boot camp, where he’d hear the incessant barking of Marine Corp drill instructors.
“The first year and a half you’re in school, you learn everything about the design and operation of a nuclear power plant,” said Walters. “Six months of that, and you’re off to a prototype school where you actually run the reactor. You work twelve (hours) on and twelve off, seven days a week for six months.”
Concluding an additional few months of submarine school, Walters was officially ready to embrace the title of Reactor Controls Assistant, as a naval officer instantly responsible for 12 people in his department.
Two years later, he was named damage control assistant, responsible for what he described as, “The primary thing [is] the ship has to complete its mission”.
Walters describes, “tense times” as his ship conducted “I.S.R.,” a military acronym for “Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance.”
“We did a lot of listening and watching to check in on what Iran’s doing, or what Iraq’s doing, or what Pakistan’s doing.”
“I’m here and I’m kind of frozen in time” Walters remembers.
Surely spending months at sea (underwater no less) would take an emotional toll on any man, regardless of training. Walters admits he would occasionally wonder about the well-being of his family, but added that, “There’s such a tight bond that everybody is in the same situation. It’s work hard, play hard, and a lot of practical jokes.”
One of Walter’s first shipmates recently became captain of his own ship, and the two reunited their friendship after 15 years as if it had been a day. This level of camaraderie is commonplace in the Navy, where a crew spends nearly every waking hour together.
A month prior to joining the USS San Francisco as navigator operations officer, his ship ran aground. This affected the job progression opportunities he’d receive. As he put it, “If I’m going to stay in the Navy, I want to be captain of a ship, so at 11 years it was a pretty good point to separate.”
His return to life as a civilian began as a project engineer and maintenance manager for a power plant in Lawrence, Kansas. Despite his time working in the power plant, his love for activities such as hiking, kayaking, and boating left him pining for the northeast.
Landing a facilities job similar to his maintenance experience, he was soon working at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn.
Upon being alerted to an open position at Springfield College, four and a half years into his facilities career, by a group email of all things, Walters was ready for an upgrade.
“Bigger operation. Things going on, It’s a great challenge,” said Walters. “I can take my experience from Loomis and apply it here.”
“One of the biggest things about the Navy is integrity,” said Walters. “You have to do the same thing you’d do if your mother was watching, and if you don’t, you need to tell somebody.”
Walters brings this high standard of conduct and accountability in droves, so it’s encouraging our facilities are in his hands.
“I just want to improve the College, be more financially responsible, do things to help save the school money so we can do more with it,” he says.
Walters brings a unique brand of naval leadership to the Springfield College community, which will certainly benefit from his enthusiasm and expertise.
Welcome, Mr. Walters! And thank you for your service.