When Ben Mathe graduated from Lourdes Academy in 1995, he planned to attend UW River Falls and play football with a friend. But after a semester, he realized he wasn’t quite ready for the discipline required for college. He moved to Arizona with former classmate Adam Wiatrowski who was attending Arizona State University. It was a fun time in his life, but Mathe felt he was lacking direction.
“I experienced life a little bit before I entered the military,” he explained. “But I needed some guidance and direction.”
He had an uncle in the Navy who challenged him to “get his stuff together,” and in July 2000, he enlisted in the Navy as an E2 and enrolled in college. He made rank quickly. In 2009, Mathe was selected for chief petty officer (E7) after only being in the Navy nine years, about two to four years faster than normal.
“The military provided discipline and direction in my life,” Mathe said. “I knew I wanted to be an officer, but I had to get a degree to earn a commission.”
Mathe continued to take online classes for about 10 years as he was able, and in 2012, he completed a degree in Aerospace Engineering through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He completed Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as an officer in the Navy in 2012. He later earned a Master’s degree in Sports Management through the American Military University.
Throughout his military career, Mathe has traveled all over the world. He completed boot camp in Chicago, followed by school in Pensacola, Florida. He spent three years at his first duty station in Spain and married his wife, Heather, on the Rock of Gibraltar. He was stationed on the USS Nimitz and has been deployed in the Middle East, Malaysia, Guam, Hawaii, and India to name a few.
Their sons, Ethan (13) and A.J. (5), were born in San Diego and Mason (10) was born in Japan. They’ve weathered hurricanes and survived earthquakes. But they’ve enjoyed many benefits of military life too.
“What I enjoy about the military is the people,” Mathe said. “The people who join are essentially one percent of the population in the United States. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for their country and for the greater good. The ability to work with them and lead them is inspiring and motivating. Seeing what people will do for the greater good—that’s why I keep coming to work every day.”
Mathe is currently a Lieutenant in charge of improving maintenance efficiencies and effectiveness for nine squadrons responsible for the deployment of an aircraft carrier. He specializes in Continuous Process Improvement and ensures that business practices and processes for aircraft maintenance are being done in a certain way. The crew is adopting practices that are effective and efficient.
Mathe recognizes that family support is an important aspect of any military career. Mathe has been married for 15 years. He’s spent time apart from his wife and children on deployment and would like to finish his career in the states.
“Being in the military, if you’re fortunate enough to have a good spouse, and that process is done well, your kids become resilient and confident. They’ve moved around and have had to make friends. They are good kids, and they work hard. But the impact of good-byes are difficult.”
He currently coaches football at El Capitan High School where they live in Lakeside, California. He has enjoyed his military career and plans to retire in 2022.