Lieutenant Commander Art Wittig, USN (Ret) Nominated for the 2015 “Calvert You Are Beautiful Award”
I have anxiously looked forward to telling you the great story of my good friend Art Wittig who I have known for more than twenty years! While we never crossed paths during our naval careers, Commander Wittig and I have many similarities in our experiences in the Navy as well as our civilian lives. I first got to know Art when he was serving as the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps [NJROTC] Naval Science Instructor at Calvert High School in the late 90s. He directed the first unit established at Calvert in 1985 following his twenty year career as a Navy Pilot. Our youngest daughter Stacy decided that she might want to try for the Naval Academy while still in the 9th Grade and after speaking with counselors at the school, she signed up for the program. And under Art’s supervision, she successfully went up through the “ranks” and became one of the leaders upon reaching her senior year. Art was truly liked by his cadets and his efforts helped many young students earn scholarships, not only to the four military academies, but to many public and private institutions of higher learning that offered ROTC programs. As many of you are probably aware, Stacy was appointed to the Naval Academy and took a Marine Commission upon graduation in May of 2002.
So you can tell I think the world of Art and what he’s done for many of the youth of this county. Art is not from here, but was born during WWII in Philadelphia and moved to Texas with his family and was raised on a farm in Fredericksburg not far from Austin and San Antonio. Following graduation from William B, Travis High School in 1961, Art received an appointment to Annapolis as a Naval Reservist and graduated in 1965. He entered Flight School and earned his Navy Gold Wings in 1967. He was first assigned to VS-37 at San Diego flying the S-2 Tracker aircraft. He then transitioned as a basic jet flight instructor for the T-2 training aircraft. After earning a Master’s Degree at the Navy’s Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, he was assigned to fly the S-3, the new jet powered carrier based maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft. You may remember when President George W. Bush flew one of these planes aboard an aircraft carrier during his 2nd term as President.
One of our similarities is the coincidence of both of us having been assigned to the same squadron, VS-28 known as “The Gamblers”. At the time, I was a young enlisted aviation tech responsible for maintaining the delicate equipment used to locate submarines at sea from an aircraft flying at 200 feet over the ocean. Invariably, when the planes returned to the ship and the pilots would make a “hard” landing, I would have to pull the gear out and realign it prior to the next flight. I am sure Art never made a hard landing at sea!
Upon retirement in June, 1985, Art applied for a position as a Naval Science instructor with the Calvert County Public Schools and commenced work at Calvert High the very next day. His naval experience as an instructor in many areas including math made this an easy choice. Additionally, he gained significant experience working with youth as an Eagle Scout and later a Boy Scoutmaster while on active duty. When I asked him what got him started as scoutmaster, he stated his Commanding Officer asked him to do it and how was he in a position to say no! You are so right Art! Been there and that’s exactly how I became a Scoutmaster at NADC Warminster! It’s really hard to turn down a “CO”!
Art has a real deep compassion for the environment and desires to make it a better place for future generations. Since 2000, when the Calvert County Public Schools commenced a recycling program within the school system, Art has focused on setting up means for collecting and separating material we would normally consider “trash” and saving it so that it could be processed and reused in various forms. He was instrumental in starting a recycle awareness at Mill Creek Middle School that placed recycle bins in each classroom that would be collected when they became filled. Almost immediately, the program became so successful, he needed to obtain larger containers from the Landfill as the classroom bins would be overflowing at the end of the school day. The materials are divided into paper, plastic, and metal and is then sold to vendors who send it out to be recycled and the school gets money that can be used to take care of things that are always in demand but unable to obtain due to limited public funds.
Art has been involved in setting up a similar program at the Busybee Nursery School, a school founded and directed by his wife Joyce since 1973. He says he is amazed by the amount of paper they go through on a regular basis. He is also immersed with a program at his church, St. Paul’s Episcopal in Prince Frederick. As a volunteer for the Calvert County Fair Board, he established a recycling program so that the board would encourage sound environmental decisions at the Fair and for the events held at the Fairgrounds. He worked with officials to place indoor and outdoor recycle bins at the site. He did relate they are having issues with the containers that hold metal cans as they attract pests including small fruit flies and bees that hover over them preventing people from depositing their items.
Further, Art established a “Bluebird Trail” by placing bluebird nesting boxes around the perimeter of the 40 acre fairgrounds property. He regularly checks these boxes and keeps records of his findings. He also maintains the trail he helped established at Mill Creek School.
Finally, Art is active at the American Legion where he is involved in the “Legion Riders”, a local group of veteran motorcyclists that come together to raise funds for many charity causes. In the past, he has ridden with the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle run in Washington to support of our veterans and the cause of POW’s and MIA’s.
And if that isn’t enough, Art also serves as the American Red Cross Blood Drive coordinator at St. Paul’s where the drive is held quarterly.
Commander, I salute you and congratulate you for your lifetime commitment to your Country, your State, and your County. You have dedicated yourself to many causes and you give back in so many ways! I am proud to be your friend, shipmate, and I hope you continue to lend your talents to help your neighbors for years to come!
If you know of an unsung citizen of Calvert County, please contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.