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Students

Navy veteran works toward degree at CSU

February 19, 2010
By Rommel McClaney

While serving on board the USS Nebraska 7 years ago, Colorado State was the furthest thing from junior Philip Dengler's mind. Now enrolled at CSU, he is active in the campus and Fort Collins communities while remembering his experiences in active duty.

Philip Dengler enlisted in the Navy right after high school, but is now a junior sociology major interested in criminal justice and would like to work for the FBI or a SWAT unit.

Accelerating his life

"Accelerate your life," the current slogan at the time for the Navy, wasn't the only thing that caught Philip Dengler's attention about enlisting.

"I had several reasons for wanting to enlist," said Dengler. "...the first being that the military will pay for college and I didn't want my parents to pay for my college. The second reason was because I wanted to see the world and visit other countries." 

Although during his service he didn't get to see a lot of the world, he still enjoyed the experience. 

Dengler enlisted in August of 2003 right out of Rangeview High School in Aurora, Colo. If you asked Philip if he were thinking about CSU, he would say "not in the slightest." He wouldn't make the decision for another 5 1/2 years.

120-hour work weeks

Like most of the people who joined when he did, Dengler went to Great Lakes, Ill., for basic training. The closest training camp to Colorado, in California, was closed and all of its servicemen and new recruits were sent to the Great Lakes. After the Great Lakes, Philip went to Groton, Conn., for BESS, basic enlisted submarine school, for the first months of his training. After training 6 more months in Bangor, Wash., he then boarded his submarine, the USS Nebraska SSBN 739, which was also at Bangor.

Stationed upon the USS Nebraska SSBN 739, Philip was a communications electronics technician better known as a radioman. "I handled any and all communications that went in and out of the ship. From voice comms, to data and e-mails."

Nuclear deterrence mission

While the boat was in the port, the sailors usually put in about 80 hours on average a week working. When the boat was out on patrol, Dengler and the crew would average about 120 hours a week working at their posts.

Philip wanted the chance to see the world but did not get the chance. "I was in the nuclear deterrence program so the only port we got to see was home port which was Bangor, Wash. We did end up pulling into Hawaii three times, but all of those times were due to material problems.

Sea stories

The worst thing that ever happened to Dengler while serving involved one of his good friends.

"While on patrol my friend Micheal Gentile was caught by the rudder ram which crushed his hip. The ship and crew tried to save him but he ended up dying four hours later. The morale on the boat was very depressing. Gentile was an A-ganger and so most people saw him around the boat doing work."

His time on the boat and events like these really changed Philips outlook on the world. Before, he had never really thought much on the military or politics when he was in high school. After he joined, he got a bigger appreciation for the military and the politics that sends them to where they go.

Sociology major interested in criminal justice

In April 2009, after his service, Dengler decided he would enroll at CSU. He is now a junior sociology major who is interested in criminal justice. "I really want to go into the FBI or SWAT." CSU Veteran Services, the department on campus who helps make the transition from the military to college as easy as possible for veterans, has really helped Dengler.

"They have always been there when I want to talk and they go out of their way to get veterans benefits, discounts, etc." 

Philip also has lunch with a group of Navy veterans, one of which served on the same kind of boat he did. "We swap 'sea stories.' It makes for a great time and is lots of fun."