Rear Admiral Sanders graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the class of 1980 and was designated a naval aviator in July 1982.
Sanders served on active duty as an E-2C pilot with VAW-126 “Seahawks” and deployed to the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Caribbean aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) from 1983-86. He later reported for duty as the E-2C model manager and Naval Air Forces Atlantic E-2C evaluator ashore before transitioning to reserve status in 1987.
As a reservist, Sanders went on to command VAW-78 “Fighting Escargots;” Tactical Air Control Squadron 2186; Carrier Group 0486, and U.S. 2nd Fleet-Joint Force Air Component 0186.
Sanders was nominated and selected as the Navy Reserve Junior Officer of the Year in 1990. He also served as an elected member on NATO’s Standardization and Training of Reserves Forces commission from 1993 to 1998. A Naval Academy Blue & Gold Officer from 1988 to 2006, he has been a member of Congressman Steny Hoyer’s Service Academy Selection Committee since 2005.
After selection to flag rank in 2007, Sanders was assigned as vice commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, headquartered in Bahrain. While there, he provided senior officer oversight for joint theater ballistic missile defense. He travelled extensively throughout Southwest Asia in support of coalition building and combat operations, with a particular focus on the thousands of Navy reservists in Iraq and Afghanistan. In August 2009, he assumed at-sea command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, where over his tenure he commanded 4,400 sailors in 19 ships from seven nations, in a coalition counter-piracy force operating off the coast of Somalia. While commanding CTF-151, Sanders undertook unprecedented at-sea diplomacy, engaging over 17 navies, including Russia and China, in coordinated efforts to thwart piracy.
He subsequently reported as Deputy Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, in Norfolk, Va. The largest of the Navy’s then six numbered fleets, 2nd Fleet boasted 126 ships, over 90,000 sailors, 1,500 aircraft, and provided naval assets for worldwide taskings.
He reported to the Joint Staff in 2011 and is currently assigned as the Reserve Deputy Director, J7, Joint Staff, in Suffolk, Va. In this capacity, he is responsible for oversight of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard units. He has technical oversight of concepts and capabilities focused on Cyber and Ballistic Missile Defense training development for the Joint Force.
Sanders has over 5,000 flight hours. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (3), Meritorious Service Medal (3), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, among other various campaign and unit awards.