After 25 years in the Navy, retired naval flight officer and adjunct assistant professor of naval science David Asjes is preparing to begin a new career. The insights he picked up through his honorable service to the country will inform his latest mission: helping mechanical engineering students at Iowa State learn about dynamic systems and controls..
Life in the Navy
His naval career began in 1985 after graduating with a BS in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy. From there, he went to Navy flight school where he learned to fly in the back of carrier-based F-14 jets. He later attended the US Naval Test Pilot school and finished at the top of his class. While an officer in the Navy, Asjes also received his MS in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1992 and his MA in national security from Naval War College in 1998. He is also a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School TOPGUN Adversary course.
Three years after receiving his bachelor’s degree, Asjes was assigned to serve on an aircraft carrier for six months. Between 1988 and 1997, he served three, six-month carrier deployments.
A shore-based deployment took him to Kosovo, where he had one of the most memorable experiences of his career. At the time, Asjes was conducting a study to see if it would be acceptable to remove NATO protective forces from some of the Serbian Orthodox shrines. The work offered the opportunity to sit down with the top assistant to the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox church and listen as the assistant talked passionately about the icons, religious temples of their lives, and relics in their sanctuaries.
“It’s hard to describe how enriching that experience was, but it was typical of many of the unforgettable experiences I’ve had over the years serving in the Navy,” Asjes explains. For his contributions in Kosovo, he received a Meritorious Service Medal.
Asjes’s extraordinary service to the Navy continued, and he was later deployed to Iraq in 2007, where he spent eight months managing air support for special operations. Upon his arrival, the Iraqi War troop surge was reaching its peak. While special operations teams were busy locating and capturing important figures, Asjes was in the field searching for innovative ways to improve how air support was allocated and how to more efficiently integrate it into combat. Successful in his operations, he was awarded the prestigious Bronze Star.
Asjes says his deployments were stretching experiences due to the demanding workload, but he adds they also offered him important, lifelong lessons in the variety of cultures around the world.
Before his honorable services in Iraq, Asjes began to switch gears in his career and pursue an educational-based track. After receiving an offer to become executive officer for the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) at Iowa State, he moved from Nevada to Ames, Iowa. It was here that he eventually decided he wanted to seek a PhD in mechanical engineering. In 2006, Asjes began his course work for his PhD while carrying on his usual duties with the NROTC.
As a part of NROTC, Asjes was in charge administering the department, teaching a history course to freshmen and an introductory leadership course to sophomores.
In August of 2010, he decided that after 25 years in the Navy it was finally time to retire. “There is a lot I love and miss about the Navy,” Asjes explains. “As interesting and enjoyable as those assignment were, it was time for me to step out of my comfort zone and pursue a different direction.”
Joining the College of Engineering
Asjes is living anything but the “retired life.” Hoping to finish his doctoral degree soon, he will begin teaching a mechanical engineering course this fall on dynamic systems and controls, ME 421.
He is confident the lessons he learned in the Navy will complement his teaching style, saying deployment taught him a lot about how to approach new and unfamiliar situations. “It’s all about being able to step into a situation with unknown requirements, figure out what they are, and then quickly adjust yourself accordingly,” explains Asjes, also noting the importance of recognizing every student is unique.
Although excited about the opportunity to teach, more than anything he hopes he can become a mentor. “I’d like to think I can offer personal examples and perspective to prepare students with knowledge about working in the engineering industry,” Asjes says.
Asjes noted that his first priority will be his students, but he is also focused on finishing his PhD so he can move on to other activities. “Once my doctorate is out of the way, I would like to pursue doing things with the local Navy League to help the community learn more about the Navy,” says Asjes.