March 2010: Lieutenant Commander Ian R. Nesbitt ’93
by Erin Reid, Associate Director of Stewardship and Special Projects
Lieutenant Commander Ian R. Nesbitt ’93 may not appear to be a typical Hotchkiss graduate, but where he has gone and what he has done since graduation is summarized by a single word he learned about at Hotchkiss: service. Since then, he has joined the Navy, seen the world, and served his country. A surface warfare officer, he’s qualified to lead, navigate, and fight on Navy warships, and has been deployed on a destroyer (twice), a cruiser, and an aircraft carrier. He was also deployed to Iraq as part of a provisional unit supporting the Army and Marine Corps. Three times he’s directly participated in, or closely supported, significant combat operations. Through it all he’s brought honor to the Navy and was recently awarded the Bronze Star for his performance in Iraq. Nesbitt is currently the Air Defense Cell Lead, Maritime Warfare Directorate (N73), at the Surface Warfare Officers School Command in Newport, Rhode Island.
Immediately after graduating from Hotchkiss, Nesbitt was sworn into the U.S. Navy as a midshipman at the Naval Academy. The transition was abrupt and difficult. “At Hotchkiss we were taught to question the assumptions, to ask the ‘why’ about how things were done.” It was not a good foundation for the Academy, where immediate obedience was prized. “That first year was really difficult,” Nesbitt recounts with a laugh. But through it all he came to understand and thrive in the Navy way.
In his first sea tour, Nesbitt was stationed on USS HOPPER (DDG 70), an Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “It’s hard to understand just what a shift in Hawaii was, seeing as I grew up in New York City. The ocean, the sun, the wind – it was incredible.” Assigned as the strike officer, he was responsible for the Tomahawk missile system, which was used in December of 1998 during OPERATION DESERT FOX. Reflecting on that operation, he says, “The cause was grim – certainly diplomacy had failed, yet we were part of a very elite team, and we took great pride in destroying much of Saddam’s chemical weapons facilities with such precision.” It was an eventful first deployment for an ensign straight out of the Academy.
After Hawaii, Nesbitt was ordered to the USS SAN JACINTO (CG 56), a Ticonderoga Class cruiser, home-ported in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was deployed twice. He then went on to the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California. “My Hotchkiss background served me well at NPS, all that reading and reading and reading and writing and writing and writing.” With fellow students from around the world, Nesbitt felt right at home, just as he had at Hotchkiss.
At Hotchkiss, Nesbitt ran cross country in the fall, was a tri-captain of the wrestling team in the winter, and sailed in the spring. He was a member of the Debate Club and the Model United Nations. He says, “I think about my time in Lakeville a lot. The friends I made at Hotchkiss are important to me. Several of them, including my classmate Amanda Carlson, contacted me while I was deployed in Iraq, and this meant a great deal to me.” One of Nesbitt’s great loves at Hotchkiss was running, which he has continued over the years, most recently by running his first marathon in Newport, Rhode Island. The conditions were severe, forty-three degrees Fahrenheit with twenty-two mile per hour sustained winds and a steady driving rain, but he honestly felt prepared for it with his Hotchkiss cross country, sailing, and wrestling experiences. “One thing I learned at Hotchkiss was never, ever to quit, that I always had the potential to persevere, even to succeed. What more could I ask of an education?”