Washington High School didn’t have an NJROTC program when Rear Adm. William Chase III was a student there in the 1980s, but the school’s marching band was the next best thing for instilling discipline and order.
“Gene Hunt was the director at the time, and he was phenomenal,” Adm. Chase told The Missourian. “I tell people all the time that I learned more about marching when I was in high school band than I ever did in the military, and it’s absolutely true. It’s much, much better.”
Adm. Chase played for one year in the Naval Academy’s Drum and Bugle Corps, “and I thought the Washington High School band was better,” he remarked.
Now stationed at the Pentagon and working for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Chase serves as deputy director, command, control, communications, and computers/cyber (DD C4/Cyber), J-6, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C. He was promoted to this position in summer 2018.
Adm. Chase will be in Washington, Mo., this Saturday evening, Feb. 1, to speak at the Fifth Annual NJROTC Military Ball being held at the Washington KC Hall.
It will be the first time in seven years that he will be in Washington. The last time was in 2013 when his parents, William Jr. and Earnie Chase, passed away.
He noted that his mom was a teacher in the Washington School District.
“I missed all of my high school reunions,” said Adm. Chase. “Part of me is excited and hopeful that some of the kids in this (NRJOTC) class may be the children of people I know.”
Inspiration Came From Flying
Admiral Chase, who grew up in Labadie and graduated from WHS in 1986, didn’t come from a military family, although both his father and his great-grandfather served in uniform.
His father served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, and his great-grandfather served in the Spanish-American War.
“My inspiration for joining the military came from flying,” said Admiral Chase, noting that he learned to fly when he was in high school.
“My dad was an airline pilot and always spoke well of aviation. So I had wanted to fly in high school, which I ended up doing.”
After high school, he went to the U.S. Naval Academy where he earned a Bachelor of Science with honors in English in 1990. English may seem like an odd degree choice for someone in the Navy, but Admiral Chase said he was looking for as well-rounded of an education as he could get.
“I left high school very much wanting a liberal arts bachelor’s degree,” he said. “I’ve always been a voracious reader, so the idea of a literary degree was high.
“The Naval Academy is heavy on the engineering side, and I knew I would get a strong background in engineering and mathematics, so I chose specifically to be an English major to have a well-rounded background that offered me a lot of electives.
“So I took most of my electives in English, history and particle physics,” he said with a laugh.
Admiral Chase said the decision to study English was a smart one, considering that he uses his English skills every day to communicate clearly with others.
Twenty years after earning his bachelor’s degree, Admiral Chase went back to school and earned a Master of Science in information technology and a Chief Information Officer certificate from Carnegie Mellon University.
He is married and has two daughters. He has a sister who lives in Phoenix, Ariz.
‘Non-Traditional’ Career Path
After graduating from the Naval Academy, Admiral Chase flew helicopters (SH-60B) for 15 years.
His sea tours include Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL 45), where he deployed twice to the Arabian Gulf aboard USS Ingraham (FFG 61), and HSL 49, where he served as maintenance officer and deployed as officer in charge of the HSL Detachment aboard USS Shiloh (CG 67) during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Ashore, Adm. Chase served as Sikorsky SH-60B Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) Instructor and Tactical Check Pilot; operations officer for Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific; deputy assistant chief of staff for Requirements, Innovation and Experimentation at Third Fleet; deputy director for Command, Control, Communications and Cyber at U.S. Pacific Command; and chief of staff Naval Information Forces.
His command tours include Task Force 1010, Naval Network Warfare Command, and Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam.
He also served as information warfare commander, Carrier Strike Group 3 with John C. Stennis Strike Group.
Chase was designated a naval aviator in 1993 and an information professional in 2005.
His decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal. He is the recipient of the Commander, Naval Air Forces Leadership Award.
Adm. Chase described his career path in the Navy as “fairly non-traditional.”
“Normally if you go into aviation, you stay there until you retire. I switched,” he said. “I had always had an interest in computers, and when networks became a thing in the military, I began operating and maintaining some of the Navy’s networks along the way.
“So when an opportunity presented itself to switch career fields, I switched into the Navy’s Information Professional cadre.
“Once I did that, then I took command of a computer and telecommunications station in Guam, and then had worked in what’s called C4, which stands for command, control, communications and cyber or computers at the Joint Command in Hawaii, called the U.S. Pacific Command.
“Then took command of Navy’s Network Warfare Command a couple of years back. The job scope is all Navy networks.”
Task Force 1010 Was ‘Pinnacle’
Looking back on his career, Adm. Chase said he considers his command tours as a main highlight.
“They give you autonomy,” he said. “You get a chance to set direction and policy for the unit, so those are fairly interesting.”
The pinnacle of those for being task force commander of Task Force 1010, which is in charge of all Navy networks.
Now he’s working on the Joint Staff to assist the chairman and represent those combatant commands like the one he had been commanding in Hawaii.
Message to Students
This Saturday when Adm. Chase speaks to high school students enrolled in the NJROTC program through Washington High School, it will be the first time he has addressed this young of an audience.
Back when he was a student at WHS, it wasn’t as common as it is today for graduates to move on to college, and while many of today’s students may not yet know what direction they want to take with their lives, his advice is the same to every one of them:
“If you want to do something, you can,” said Adm. Chase. “Certainly the military offers a lot of opportunities and gives you a chance to see more than the Midwest.”
Being in the NJROTC program already has given them a leg up on developing discipline and structure that will serve them well the rest of their lives, regardless of whether or not they enlist in the military, he said.
“I want to praise those things and talk about what’s possible out there,” said Adm. Chase. “Hopefully inspire some people.”