A Heroine…Of a Different Kind

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“We are sad to report that Lt. Cmdr. Regina Mills, Nimitz‘ Handler, died Jan. 23 following a multi-vehicle accident on State Route 16 in Kitsap County, Wash….Regina was a great leader and officer. She was a leader and mentor not only to the Sailors and officers in the Air Department, but throughout the ship. It would be difficult to find anyone aboard Nimitz whose life or career here wasn’t positively influenced by her. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family. Regina will be sorely missed.”

— Captain Paul. O. Monger, USS Nimitz, commanding officer.

You may have heard, last week the Seattle area was hit with a major snow storm, the likes of which hadn’t been seen around here since 1996. The USS Nimitz (CVN 68) arrived in Bremerton last year for a year-long maintenance availability at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and has recently been permanently assigned to the area. On Monday after that snowy week, the two seemingly isolated occurrences met in tragedy when an officer assigned to the USS Nimitz was killed alongside the highway where she stopped to help a motorcyclist who had skidded off the road in front of her. While standing on the right shoulder with a state trooper and the motorcycle victim, a truck skidded on the black ice into the stopped cars, which in turn hit the group. Both the trooper and motorcyclist were injured, but LCDR Mills was killed.

Lieutenant Commander Regina [Rogers] Mills was assigned as the aircraft handling officer on board the Nimitz, and was the first woman to ever hold that position. As the aircraft handling officer, she was responsible for the arrangement of aircraft on the flight deck and in the hangar bay. Ensuring the safety of the crew and pilots on the flight deck was a major part of her job.

It does not take a stretch of the imagination to see the irony of being killed while trying to assist a person in a dangerous situation. The captain’s statement, along with mourners and shipmates on Facebook, depict Mills as a hero, “good people”, a one-of –a kind officer who was a pleasure to serve with, a truly gifted officer and leader, and much more.

She did not let her “first” define her any more than it has defined other women who have worked hard to move forward in their jobs, only to find they are a ‘first’. She talks about her career in the PBS documentary Carrier, excerpted above.

Mills was also honored earlier in her career, with the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership’s 2006 USS Nimitz CINCPAC award. The award recognizes outstanding officers “who have demonstrated sustained superior performance and exhibited the most exceptional leadership skills” on board their aircraft carriers. The winners are selected through a ship-wide competition.

She recently married, thus the confusion of names in the press, and is survived by her daughter who lives in San Diego, CA. My condolences to them both; she served our country while in the Navy; she died serving her fellow passengers in life. Fair Winds and Following Seas.