By Margo Myers
25 year old Ryan Tomei has always set goals. From following in his grandfather’s footsteps and joining the Navy, to learning how to fly and getting his pilot’s license, Tomei’s determination has always led him on to the next goal. But he’s also learned the path to reaching those goals can take unexpected turns and lead to new challenges.
Tomei grew up in Taylor, Texas, about 30 miles northeast of Austin, knowing he wanted to accomplish three things: join the U.S. Navy, learn how to fly and get his college degree.
“I always wanted to serve my country,” says Tomei. “I felt this big inspiration from my grandfather who served 20 years in the Navy, so I signed up three weeks after graduating from high school.” Tomei, with his interest in flying and the prospect of working on fighter jets, became an Aviation Support Equipment Technician, serving on the USS Abraham Lincoln, where he helped maintain and service equipment.
While aboard the Lincoln, he went to work on the next two goals. One was learning how to pilot a plane, and Tomei got his private pilot’s license in nine months, learning how to fly Cessna’s. The other was starting on his college degree. Tomei participated in the Navy College Program, in which the Navy would fly professors to the ship, and conduct classes two nights a week. With that introduction to college, he proved to himself that he could do it.
“I was a bad procrastinator in high school and didn’t take many of the more demanding Advanced Placement classes,” says Tomei. “But I’ve learned that college is definitely doable.”
Upon leaving the Lincoln, Tomei landed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Wanting to finish his college degree, he discovered Brandman University, completing his Bachelors of Science in Computer Technology last May. In fact, he graduated magna cum laude with a 3.87 GPA. “I was really proud of that,” he says. “I worked full-time and went to school full-time and did homework late into the night, trying to get the best grades possible.”
His achievements in the classroom led to Tomei’s selection for Officer Candidate School, what he calls “an achievement in itself.” This is where his path took an unexpected turn; he was medically disqualified from OCS. Tomei is philosophical about it, finding that “while one door closed, another door opened.” And he once again turned to his education. He’s now pursuing a graduate degree from Brandman University; a Master’s of Science in Human Resources.
Tomei’s classroom achievements are especially impressive when you consider he has a young family with his wife, Alexandra. Alexandra is a behavior analyst working with children with autism, and is also working towards additional certification in her field. They have a 15 month old daughter, Kenna, and another baby girl due in January.
“Brandman has been a good fit for me, and for someone with our schedules,” says Tomei. “It’s perfect for people who are working and going to school at the same time, and is the best option for me with small classes, and I’ve liked all of my professors.”
Tomei now serves in the Navy Reserves once a month as a stevedore in Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB), ‘A’ Company. They move cargo and vehicles on and off supply ships in support of Navy and marine expeditionary forces.
And while Tomei has certainly achieved three major goals – the U.S. Navy, flying, and college – there are more goals to reach, including providing a stable future for his family.
“I expect to graduate in December of 2014,” says Tomei. “Then I can pursue a career either in information technology or human resources, or somehow combine the two.” With his past record of achievement, there’s little doubt Tomei will reach that goal.