Office of Public Affairs

Alumnus Kyle Connolly ’12 earns rare U.S. Navy distinction

Kyle Connolly ’12

A University of Southern Maine (USM) alumnus has become one of the first lieutenants in the U.S. Navy to take control of a warship since World War II.

Lt. Kyle Connolly ’12 took command of the MK VI patrol boat in early October, becoming just the sixth lieutenant to earn the Command at Sea insignia — denoting his command of a warship — since the Navy began granting junior officers the badge earlier this year.

Connolly is a 2008 graduate of Massabesic High School, and holds degrees in Criminology and Sociology from USM. 

Connolly earned his commission in the Navy via the Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island in 2014. To date, his sea assignments include serving onboard two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers: as an Anti-Terrorism Officer onboard USS Roosevelt, and as an Auxiliaries Officer on Bath Iron Works-built USS Decatur.

The young officer said he is still in disbelief at the achievement, calling his feelings indescribable.  

“Achieving Command at Sea is considered to be a pinnacle career milestone in the U.S. Navy,” he said. “Mixed in with that feeling of disbelief is an immense sense of pride — pride in the sailors whom I have the privilege to serve alongside, and the pride of being entrusted to command a vessel in the U.S. Navy’s arsenal.”

Connolly said his time at USM prepared him both academically and professionally for his current post, saying he got so much more personally from the university than a degree.

“USM provided me an environment, mentors, professors, friends and opportunities that fostered and challenged me in the continued development of my critical thinking skills, a desire for lifelong learning, a better understanding of myself, interpersonal skills and confidence,” he said. 

Connolly is not alone in that sentiment. USM has — over the past several decades — graduated what has been described as an “unheard of” number of top admirals and generals in the U.S. Armed Forces who share the belief that USM taught them about critical thinking and public service.

They include:

  • U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michael Dumont, who graduated with a degree in Criminology from USM in 1984. 
  • Now-retired Vice Admiral John Currier ’76, who became the vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard 
  • Rear Adm. (Upper Half) William Leigher ’80, worked for the Chief of Naval Operations as the director of Warfare Integration for Information Dominance; 
  • Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg ’81, who currently serves as the Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force
  • Rear Adm. Margaret Deluca "Peg" Klein ’99, who served as senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense for military professionalism before retiring in early 2017. (She now serves as the dean of the College of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Naval War College)

Connolly said he is eternally grateful to the university, and that a degree from USM can open infinite doors for its graduates. He also encouraged current students to take risks during and after their USM education.

USM offers and affords its students tremendous opportunities to grow. All you have to do is take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible, put in a solid effort, be humble and learn from your mistakes,” he said. “If you do this, you will leave USM a more knowledgeable and well-rounded person capable of achieving and being successful at whatever you set your mind to.”

 

Story Alan Bennett and Dan Hartill // Office of Public Affairs

Photos courtesy Kyle Connolly ’12