QUONSET, R.I. (May 17, 2014) The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, fly in the Diamond formation at the Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/Released)
By Lindsay Church, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
Aug. 4, 2014
NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- On May 27, 1992, Ensign Robert Flynn stood on the field of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, prepared to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Blue Angels six jet formation flew overhead of the newly commissioned officers with a thunderous roar, bringing the stadium to their feet. As he stood and watched in awe, the Navy's finest executed maneuvers with precision and accuracy. He thought to himself, "Today I become an U.S. Navy officer and those blue jets are my representatives. I could not be more proud."
"I've had a lot of dreams along the way, some that I got and some that I didn't," said Cmdr. Flynn, a U.S. Naval War College (NWC) professor and inaugural executive officer of the Blue Angels 2015 team. "Every once in a while though, one circles back that you didn't think you were going to get."
As a junior officer, Flynn tried out for the Blue Angels events coordinator position twice, first in 2000, then again in 2002. Despite getting to the final stage of the interview process, he didn't make the team either time.
Reflecting on his experience, "it was a disappointment, but I didn't consider it a negative. I made lifelong friends and best of all; I met my future wife who was the aviation supply officer on the 2000 team. If I hadn't applied, we might not have met."
After his second attempt at making the team, war in Iraq and Afghanistan surged and his dreams of becoming a Blue Angel had drifted off and were replaced by new ones.
"In 2002, I went to NWC to study for a year and did a fellowship with the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group," said Flynn. "I loved my experience at the NWC so I kept it in the back of my mind that one day I'd like to go back to teach."
Following his fellowship, Flynn served as an aviation department head for Sea Control Squadron 22 (VS-22) "Checkmates" in Jacksonville, Florida, maritime operations center and air doctrine coordinator at Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) in Norfolk, Virginia, and officer in charge at Joint Counter-Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) Composite Squadron 1 in Basra, Iraq.
While deployed to Iraq, Flynn's notion of going back to NWC to teach became a reality.
"For me, it was a dream come true to go back to the NWC and teach. I've taught with so many talented civilians and learned a great deal from my military colleagues and the students as well."
Flynn liked it so much that he agreed to do a second tour teaching strategy and policy.
"I planned on teaching as long as they would have me. I love it that much," said Flynn. "That was the way that I was going to leave the Navy and I was happy with it. For me, my career has always been about doing the best you can where you land and I've been lucky to land in great places."
With 22 years of service under his belt and a transition to the next chapter in his life imminent, a simple phone call would change Flynn's course and transform another dream into reality.
"Six weeks ago I got a call from a member of the Blue Angels. He asked me if I would consider throwing my hat in the ring to fill the newly created executive officer position," Flynn explained with a grin.
Instantly, his dream of becoming a part of the team was resuscitated. Flynn added his name to the list of candidates, despite his previous failed attempts, to make the team.
"Being on the team was a dream that I gave up on 12 years ago after not being selected for a second time. There just weren't any more chances; I had to get on with my career. That's why all of this has been so hard to believe," said Flynn.
As it turned out, Flynn would not be passed over a third time and was selected as the executive officer for 2015 Blue Angels team.
The creation of the position Flynn is slated to fill comes after an organizational restructuring that aligned the Blue Angels with the Navy's standard leadership triad that consists of a commanding officer, executive officer and a command master chief.
Since 1946, the Blue Angels have operated with only a commanding officer and command master chief. This has traditionally left the commanding officer with the responsibility of leading the team both in the air and on the ground.
"As representatives of the Navy and the Marine Corps, the Blue Angels are always striving for excellence and ways to improve. This restructuring is no exception," said Flynn. "It's all about what you can do for the team. I'll do my best to make the new executive officer position a positive and worthwhile step for the team."
While becoming the executive officer and a member of the Blue Angels may have seemed impossible at one point in Flynn's career, in his personal life, it seems as though this story has been in the works for years.
Three years ago, in an effort to help his children learn to read, Flynn penned a children's book titled "The Lucky Blue Angel."
The story is about a little jet that wants to be a Blue Angel, but doesn't think he can make it. In the process of writing the book, he essentially wrote the story of his own future.
"I wrote the book because my kids were at an age where they were discovering reading. Their mom had been on the team, so I looked around for a children's book about the Blue Angels, but I didn't find any in print. So I resorted to telling them stories that I made up instead. One of those stories became a book."
"The book was intended to be about having a good attitude in the face of failure. The happy ending, when Lucky McGuire makes the team, sure wasn't autobiographical - it was just a fun, happy ending that didn't mirror my own experiences - until now," Flynn said with a smile. "You just can't make this stuff up."
"It's a big responsibility to wear that uniform and represent the Blue Angels and the dedicated men and women of the fleet. When I become a team member this November, I'll do my best to earn it. This job as the Blue Angel's executive officer is a dream-come-true for me."
Posted by Daniel S. Marciniak