After accumulating more than 3,000 hours of flight time in 10 different types of aircraft, a Jackson County native has retired from the U.S. Navy with 21 years of honorable service.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Doug M. Reinbold last served as a Navy Pilot/MQ-8 Integrated Transition Team Lead with Commander, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California.
Growing up in a small town
Reinbold is a 1988 graduate of Seymour High School and the son of Marion Reinbold of Seymour and the late Sandra Reinbold. He also is the brother of Betsy Reinbold of Bloomington.
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“My mom was a teacher in Seymour for more than 40 years, so she and my dad emphasized to my sister and me the importance of our education as well as a calling to serve others,” Reinbold said. “We knew from a very early age that education is the key that can unlock your potential and make opportunities appear.”
Reinbold said each teacher and coach he was privileged to have educate and mentor him provided him every advantage and endless opportunities.
“Conventional wisdom states that most look first to math and science for entry into technical fields like aviation, but I can tell you that I made use of every subject I studied somewhere throughout my career,” Reinbold said. “Flying is a combination of art and science, so I was lucky that I had a background in both once I began my training.”
Lessons he learned from the football field and math, history, science, choir and English classes allowed him to have a successful career as a pilot and a military officer, Reinbold said.
“My hometown was simply the very best place to grow up,” he said. “My childhood friends from the neighborhood where I was raised are still my dear friends to this day, nearly a half-century later. It’s a rare privilege in my line of work that when I get the opportunity to come for a visit, I walk back into the very home I was carried into from the hospital following my birth.”
Reinbold tries to never take that privilege for granted. During his time in the Navy, he had the opportunity to travel and meet people from all over the world. Invariably, he would be asked where he was from, and he always said he’s proud to be from America’s “small town” where we grow big dreams, he said.
Up, up and away
“My dad, who has lived in Seymour his entire life, sparked my interest in aviation when he took me on my very first flight, which happened to be a helicopter,” Reinbold said. “He has served on the Jackson County Fair Board for the last 40 years, and when I was about 10 years old, he was able to have the fair’s carnival owner take us for a ride in his personal helicopter.”
After flying all over Jackson County, they landed, but he’s not sure his feet ever touched the ground, Reinbold said.
“I couldn’t believe that flying was an actual job you could get paid to do,” Reinbold said. “With mentoring and encouragement from our family physician, Dr. William Blaisdell, who happened to be both a former military officer and an experienced civilian pilot, I was able to begin flight training at Freeman Field.”
Reinbold then followed his dream to Purdue University’s aviation technology program. Following graduation from Purdue, he was accepted into Officer Candidate School commissioned as a naval officer and then began flight training with the Navy.
“During my first deployment, my helicopter crew and I were fortunate to be able to be in the right place and the right time to rescue a young Navy sailor who had been blown off a 40-foot (high) nuclear aircraft carrier deck, ending up in the Persian Gulf with no flotation,” Reinbold said.
“Our crew was launched on a mission to find him once it was discovered that he was missing. We began our search, located him, brought him up to the helicopter via our rescue hoist,” Reinbold said. “We had him back aboard his ship before any enemy boats or sharks got to him.”
Reinbold said he still remembers seeing the sailor carried off to the medical bay and giving them a thumbs-up that he was going to be OK.
“Moments like that make all the long days at sea worth it,” Reinbold said. “Any helicopter crew could have done what we did, but it was always a nice feeling to have our training be useful to those in need.”
Reinbold admits he probably has had too many close calls to remember, but that’s pretty much the standard when flying a $40 million, 20,000-pound helicopter at night, over water and landing on ship decks only 13 feet off of the churning ocean.
“It never quite becomes routine, but you learn to accept it as normal and embrace it,” Reinbold said. “The challenge of the job was the part that made it most interesting. I certainly consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as both a naval officer and a pilot.”
Reinbold is the husband of Jennifer Reinbold and father of 3½-year-old Maci and 3-month-old Lucy Reinbold.
Maci thought it was a lot of fun to sit in her father’s helicopter but likes it better now that he’s home to help her make cupcakes, Reinbold said.
“My wife and I are runners. Well, she’s a runner, and I just try to keep up,” Reinbold said. “Actually, we met in a running club out here in San Diego during one of my tours here. My friend talked me into joining the club, which at the time I thought was most likely the worst idea ever. I’ve never really enjoyed running per se, although it was somewhat of a job requirement in the military.”
Reinbold said to join the running club, you had to pay for the privilege of getting up at 5 a.m. Saturday to run for endless miles with perfect strangers.
“Just so happened that one of those perfect strangers turned out to be perfect for me,” Reinbold said. “Chasing Jenny has somehow led this committed nonrunner to complete a few marathons along the way and even an Ironman triathlon.”
Reinbold’s wife is from the Washington, D.C./northern Virginia area and has been an elementary school counselor for more than 15 years.
He said he believes she is better at her job than he could ever hope to be at his, he said.
“Even though it was hard for her to leave the kids, parents and teachers she adored, Jenny packed her sea bag right alongside mine and headed out to San Diego with a brand-new baby in tow,” Reinbold said. “She is currently serving as ‘supermom’ for our daughters and takes what little free time she has to work as a fitness instructor. She hopes to return to the classroom when the next opportunity arises.”
The decision to retire
“It was a difficult decision to leave a career I’ve been so honored and lucky to have, but this past summer, my three-year tour in San Diego was ending, and it was time for a decision whether to begin my military retirement,” Reinbold said. “After many discussions over the dinner table, we decided that after nearly 22 years, it was time to set our anchor for the last time.”
Reinbold wanted to start enjoying more time with family and friends. He had said he would stop when it was no longer fun to fly.
“I was still enjoying my time with the Navy, but now, it’s more fun to be home with my wife and little girls,” he said. “Following my retirement, I’ve had the luxury of enjoying the wonderful, simple things in life that we all sometimes take for granted.”
Some of those things include being able to have breakfast with his wife and daughters and then being home to tuck them in at night, Reinbold said. He also enjoys taking Maci to preschool, visiting family back in Indiana and reconnecting with old friends.
Something new on the horizon
Recently, Reinbold started a job with a defense company and is working as a subject matter expert for the MQ-8 Fire Scout, the Navy’s first operational unmanned aircraft system.
“From a distance, the helicopter would look exactly like a news or police helicopter that people are used to seeing, except for the fact that it’s painted tactical gray and has no windows,” Reinbold said. “It’s completely controlled via radio signals without pilots on board, which is astonishing technology.”
Reinbold is working with the same aircraft program he was in charge of when he left active duty, so he said he is happy to be able to now support the men and women of the U.S. Navy standing watch for us, and in a small way, still being part of the team.
“Any success I may have enjoyed throughout my naval career is certainly due to countless individuals along my journey who have helped to raise, shape and define me,” Reinbold said. “Of course, with my family, friends, teachers, coaches and mentors who made my goal of flying for the Navy a reality, combined, they gave me roots to grow and wings to fly.”
“I always said that I’m proud to be from America’s ‘small town’ where we grow big dreams.” – U.S. Navy Cmdr. Doug Reinbold
Education: Graduated from Seymour High School, 1988; bachelor’s degree in aviation technology from Purdue University, 1993; master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island
Awards: Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Meritorious Service Medal
Hobbies and activities: “Hanging out with my wife and kids is my No. 1 priority. However, if I get any free time, I try to pretend I’m hanging on to my youth by training for triathlons, and I enjoy photography (and by photography, I mean taking a thousand digital pictures in the hopes that one will turn out), as well as reading, although with young kids, I’m lucky to get through a few pages before crashing.”