Notable RPI NROTC Alumni

There are 49 U.S. Naval Flag Officers with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Degrees. This total gives RPI the second most flag officers following only the United States Naval Academy.

G. Reid Wiseman

(Commander, USN) NASA Astronaut

Reid Wiseman was commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) following graduation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1997 and reported to Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. He was designated as a Naval Aviator in 1999 and reported to Fighter Squadron 101, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, for transition to the F-14 Tomcat. Following his initial training, Reid was assigned to Fighter Squadron 31, also at Oceana, and made two deployments to the Middle East, supporting Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. During his second deployment in 2003, he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Class 125. Following graduation in June 2004, Reid was assigned as a Test Pilot and Project Officer at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. At VX-23, Reid earned his Master’s degree and worked various flight test programs involving the F-35 Lightning II, F-18 weapons separation, Ship Suitability and the T-45 Goshawk. Following his tour at Patuxent River, Reid reported to Carrier Air Wing Seventeen as the Strike Operations Officer, where he completed a deployment around South America. From there, he was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 103, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, flying the FA-18F Super Hornet.

Reid Wiseman was at sea when he was selected for astronaut training. He reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 2009 and completed astronaut training in May 2011. Reid Wiseman served as Flight Engineer aboard the International Space Station for Expedition 41 from May through November of 2014. During the 165-day mission, Reid and his crewmates completed over 300 scientific experiments in areas such as human physiology, medicine, physical science, Earth science and astrophysics. They set a milestone for station science by completing a record 82 hours of research in a single week. This was Reid’s first spaceflight, which also included almost 13 hours as lead spacewalker during two trips outside the orbital complex. Reid also fostered a strong social media presence throughout his mission by sharing the raw emotions of spaceflight as seen through the eyes of a rookie flier.

The Baltimore native earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Ronald J. Zlatoper

( Admiral, USN (Ret.))

R.J. ’’Zap’’ Zlatoper ’63 assumed his current position as the 24th trustee of The Estate of James Campbell on the 1st of July, 2000, after successful earlier careers in the high-technology industry and the United States Navy. The Campbell Estate is a private trust with real estate assets valued in excess of $2 billion.

He has served for over 10 years as the chief executive officer of large organizations in the national defense and commercial sectors. Prior to joining the Estate, Admiral Zlatoper served as co-chairman and chief executive officer of Sanchez Computer Associates Inc., a banking software company rated 45th on the Forbes magazine list of the 200 best small companies in the U.S. Under Zlatoper, Sanchez grew from a $50 million market capitalization organization to a $1 billion corporation.

Before joining Sanchez, Zlatoper completed a distinguished naval career. His final assignment was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the world’s largest naval command. A combat-experienced naval aviator with over 4,000 flying hours and 1,000 carrier landings, in addition to numerous operational assignments, he also served as the chief of naval personnel, a battle group commander in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, the military assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s chief of staff. He has received numerous personal decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He testifies regularly before the U.S. Congress; has contributed to many Washington ’’think tank’’ studies; works as a consultant for several commercial corporations; has published articles on management, logistics, and naval strategy; and serves on the boards of directors of four corporations.

Admiral Zlatoper holds an honorary doctorate in engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the George Washington University, and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a distinguished graduate of the Naval War College who lectures regularly at universities around the world. He currently serves on the boards of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Chaminade University, SBPM Board of Visitors at the George Washington University School of Business, the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation. He is the Honorary Consul for Slovenia in Hawaii.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Admiral Zlatoper and his wife, Barry (formerly Barry Lane Oliver of Virginia Beach, Virginia), reside in Honolulu.

Richard A. Gustafson

(Major General, USMC)

General Gustafson was born on February 1, 1935 in Joliet, Illinois. He graduated from Joliet High School in 1953 and entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Graduating in 1957 with a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering, he was commissioned a Marine Second Lieutenant in June 1957.

Upon completing The Basic School, Quantico, VA, in March 1958, General Gustafson entered Naval Aviation Flight Training at NAS, Kingsville, Texas, and was designated a Naval Aviator on January 15, 1960. He then served with Marine Attack Squadron 311 at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, CA, aboard the USS MIDWAY at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan until March 1962

After serving as the Operations Officer for the Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, VA, from April 1962 until January 1964, he attended the Naval Test Pilot School, NAS Patuxent, MD, graduating in October 1967.

From October 1967 to October 1968, General Gustafson participated in 427 combat missions in the Republic of Vietnam, flying the A-4 with Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Aircraft group 12. Returning to Marine Air Station Beautfort, SC, he reported for the duty with operations section of Marine Aircraft Group 32.

In August 1969, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School under the Special Education Program and subsequently earned a master’s degree in Aerodynamics from the Canfield Institute of Technology in England. He was then assigned as a Naval Air Systems Command Deputy Project Manager for the “Harrier” in London, form 1972 to 1975. Transferred to Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan in September 1975 he took command of Marine Attack Squadron 51, flying the AV-8A until July 1976.

His subsequent tours include the US Army War College, Carlisle PA and head of the Aviation Weapons Systems Requirements Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC, here he was promoted to colonel on March 1979.

General Gustafson took command of the Marine Aircraft Group 3, MCAS, Cherry Point on May 22, 1981. While serving in this capacity, he was selected in February 1983 for promotion to Brigadier General. He was advanced to that rank on April 20, 1983 and assigned duty as the Assistant Wing Commander, 2D Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS, Cherry Point. He served in this capacity until August 1983. General Gustafson was assigned duty as the Assistant Wing Commander, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, FMF, Pacific, Okinawa, Japan on September 2, 1983. On June 14, 1984. General Gustafson was assigned duty as the Commanding General, 2D Marine Aircraft Wing, FMF, Atlantic, MCAS, Cherry Point, NC on April 29, 1988. He served in this capacity until his retirement from the Marine Corps on Sept. 1, 1990.

His decorations include: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit with gold star in lieu of a second award, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 29 Strike/Flight awards, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Unit Citation; Navy Unit Commendation with bronze star; National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four awards, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Action Colors, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Lewis B. Combs

(Rear Admiral, USN) Seabee Founder

Lewis Combs was born in 1895 in Manchester, Vermont. His family later moved to the City of Rensselaer, and from there he became an RPI student. Graduating with his degree in civil engineering in 1916, he was commissioned a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy Civil Engineering Corps shortly after the United States entered World War I. In February 1918, he reported as Civil Engineer in Charge of Field Construction at the Navy Yard in Washington DC, where he served through September 1919. His next assignment was as a Treaty Engineer in the Republic of Haiti. In this assignment, he served as Assistant to the Engineer Chief, and Director of Highways and Bridges, Harbor Development and Lighthouse Service. For his outstanding work and contribution he received a letter of Commendation from the President of Haiti.

Returning to the United States in June 1924, he was assigned to the Navy Yard, New York, and in February, 1925, to the Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In April 1929, he reported as Senior Assistant to the Public Works Officer and Executive Officer for the Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, California. He remained there until January 1932, when he became Public Works Officer with the ninth Naval District. Ordered to the Philippine Islands, he served from May 1935, through April 1937, as Public Works Officer, Sixteenth Naval District, at the Navy Yard, Cavite.

In May 1937, then Commander Combs, reported to the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks as Officer in Charge of Construction at the Navy Experimental Model Basin, Carderock, Maryland. In January 1938, at the relatively young age of 42, Commander Combs was appointed Assistant (Deputy) Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, under Admiral Ben Moreell. In that capacity, he presided over the expansion of the Navy Civil Engineering Corps from a small group of 120 Officers and about 300 civilian engineers, to a wartime peak of over 10,000. In addition to overseeing the vast expansion of naval shore bases necessary to support the, “Two Ocean Navy,” Combs directed the creation of the Navy’s Construction Battalions. Now famously known as the Seabees, these units became the construction arm of the Navy and Marine Corps fighting forces, and accompanied them in every campaign from 1942 to present. Along with his Chief, Admiral Ben Moreell, Lewis Combs is credited with founding this unique organization. He held the position as Deputy Chief of Civil Engineers, from 1938 through 1946, an unprecedented eight years, twice the normal term for that position.

Having reached the rank of rear admiral, the highest level normally open to a Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer at that time, Combs retired after thirty years of service. In 1948, he returned to Rensselaer as head of Civil Engineering Department and Professor of Civil Engineering. Many leaders of today’s civil engineering profession and construction industry received their RPI degrees under his tutelage during his fourteen-year tenure.

It is important to note that over the history of the Navy Civil Engineering Corps, more CEC officers have earned their degrees from RPI than any other engineering school, most likely a direct result of Lewis Combs influence, and certainly a tribute to his legacy.