Veteran Dan Wise reflects on service, career

Molly O'Shea

Dan Wise is a United States service member and professor of mechanical engineering, who is currently a professor at Colorado State University.

Wise was a captain of the U.S. Navy for over 25 years, but retired to work in the mechanical engineering industry. He eventually became a professor of mechanical engineering, where he is able to encourage and teach his pupils. 


Wise attended Oklahoma State University on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship, which he then transferred from Army to Navy as an engineering student. The Navy provided more opportunities and programs that aligned with his undergraduate degree. 

“There was a Navy Program called the Engineering Duty Officer Program, so I applied for it, requested a release from the Army. It came through, and I was allowed to transfer,” Wise said. “When I started my active duty service obligation, I did so in the Navy.”

The duties of an EDO excited Wise. It gave him the opportunity to apply exactly what he had been learning when he received his engineering degree to what he explained as the “most incredible engineering platform there is: a ship.”

“I enjoyed what I was doing. The Navy gave me some real challenges and fun. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity.” -Dan Wise, CSU professor and veteran

EDOs are responsible for the design, construction, maintenance and operation of ships and submarines, according to Wise. This means that all of the core sciences people who are taught as mechanical engineers are used to operate this machinery, he said. 

Once Wise was commissioned, the Navy literally led him around the world more than once.

His career began on a destroyer in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. After he was qualified as a surface warfare officer, he went to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington. He also worked on staff tours in Washington, D.C., and he was then assigned to the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates during Operation Desert Storm.

After Operation Desert Storm, Wise went back to Washington D.C. and was then moved to a submarine tender in Naples, Italy. His final assignment was in Crane, Indiana, before he retired and transitioned into civilian life. 

With 25 years of serving in the Navy, Wise experienced more than most could imagine.

One of his most powerful recollections is his work on the USS Cole after an unexpected attack.

In Oct. of 2000, the USS Cole was attacked while taking on fuel, according to Wise. A small boat positioned itself alongside the ship and detonated a bomb that blew a hole in the side of the ship that was about 17 feet in diameter, he said. 


“The attack was devastating,” Wise said. “Seventeen sailors were killed, and the ship was almost lost, … I was responsible for the salvage and restoration project to respond to the casualty. It was my team that led the effort to recover the ship and get it safely back to the U.S.”

The 25 years of service in the Navy were not planned out beforehand. Wise explained that he had always pictured himself working in the engineering industry doing design work, manufacturing and construction. 

“I had not planned on making a career of military service,” he said. “In fact, I assumed I would do five years, get out, and then figure out what my ultimate career goal was. But I enjoyed what I was doing. The Navy gave me some real challenges and fun. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity.” 

When Wise was first commissioned, the Cold War was taking place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The bulk of Wise’s career initially involved the systems that were critical to the Cold War.

“My thought was, honestly, that the Soviet Union was a threat and that the Cold War was, in fact, very real,” he said. “We were working very hard to prevent a war, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, I could always view myself as having had contributed to something greater than myself.” 

Wise believes that serving and contributing to something greater is something that he did take, and continues to take, very seriously.

When his time was up after all those years and it was time for him to move on, he explained that, “I did so proudly, and I look back at the requirements of service and the tremendous opportunity I had to be very proud of what I did.”

While a career of military service was not originally in the cards for Wise, teaching was always the end goal.

Wise was able to finish his master’s degree in the year immediately after his commission and was able to delay entry on active duty for a year to pursue his master’s. It was when he went into the Navy that he began applying to Ph.D. programs.

At the time, they were few and far between, but after he had been out of the service for a couple of years, the veteran’s administration announced the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and Wise was able to use it to pursue a Ph.D. at Colorado State University. 

“I was welcomed at CSU and was treated very, very well,” he said. “I had been out of school for almost 30 years, and it was an incredible challenge to dust off those old books and get back into my studies and up to speed.” 

As for now, teaching at a university level, he loves what he does and how much he is able to tie in his life of service.

“I really enjoy taking the experience I had on a ship and describing that in the classroom and reinforcing the theory and the principles we talk about,” he said. “I can take a line from the textbook, and I can tell you, here is what I have seen.” 

While the country celebrates Veterans Day this Nov. 11, Wise shared his last thoughts about our veterans and the act of serving the country in the same ways that he did. 

“I think that the decision to go into the military and serve your country in that way is a selfless act,” he said. “I certainly appreciate every single veteran that I meet and remember that they were willing to go into such an uncertain occupation. … I am always looking for ways to show that appreciation and to recognize them being so selfless to serve our nation.” 

Molly O’Shea can be reached at or on Twitter @Molly_O23.