USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 held a memorial foreign object damage (FOD) walk-down Jan. 25, for a fellow shipmate who was killed two days prior.
Lt. Cmdr. Regina Mills, formerly Rogers, was assigned to USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in Bremerton, Wash., as the Navy's only female aircraft handling officer. She was struck and killed by a vehicle when she stopped to assist others involved in a traffic collision in Gig Harbor, Wash., Jan. 23.
Though she was never stationed aboard Vinson, she made an impact as a member of the Aviation Boatswain's Mate (AB) community, explained Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (AW/SW) Raul Castillo, an El Paso, Texas, native and Vinson's senior enlisted aircraft handler. Castillo served with Mills for two tours of duty, one aboard the Nimitz and one at Afloat Training Group San Diego. She was his division officer at both commands.
"Being part of such a small community, we all know each other," he said, explaining how the Navy's 21 total platforms for ABs to serve at sea, combined with high attrition and turnover rates, resulted in longtime ABs being a premium. "Everybody loved her and respected her passion for life. She shared a lot of moments with me that would have broken a person down, but her passion for life is what will always stick with me."
Castillo said FOD walk-downs were a favorite for Mills, and a memorial FOD walk-down was most appropriate.
"In the seven years I knew her, that was her thing," said Castillo. "She found it a way to relax. When she called it, she'd take off her gear and go out there. She really liked being out there with the young ABs. She was a big promoter of female ABs because there are not very many, and the places she went in her career should be very inspirational to young female ABs to pursue the same route."
Hundreds of Sailors from a wide range of departments and divisions gathered on the flight deck for the walk-down. At 4:26 p.m., the attendees observed a moment of silence. The walk-down commenced one minute later, and concluded at 4:35 p.m., the sun descending on Vinson's port side.
Chief Religious Programs Specialist (SW/AW/FMF) Monica Kuhl, a Cheyenne, Wyo., native and USS Carl Vinson Command Religious Ministries department leading chief petty officer, was one of the hundreds in attendance. She had served aboard the Nimitz with Mills, and noted her influence spanned far beyond the flight deck.
"I just knew her from around the ship, but she was the highest-ranking female there," Kuhl. "A lot of the junior females looked up to her and respected her because she had done so much in the Navy. She set the example for everybody, and I would like to be that kind of leader."
Mills' leadership also affected and continues to impact Lt. Paul Dussault, a Barrington, R.I., native and Vinson's flight deck officer.
"I served on several ships with her, and she was one of my best friends ever," he said. "She was the emcee at my commissioning and one of my mentors when I became an officer. She was an amazing human being and one of the best ABs I've ever known. She had to overcome some hurdles that we as males did not, and I always respected her for that."
"The AB community lost not only a great person but a great AB and one of my personal friends," Castillo added. "She truly will be missed. This tragedy happened because she was trying to help somebody else. She'd take the shirt off her back to give to someone in need. She gave a lot to the community, and she gave a lot to the young ABs in hopes that one would take her spot."
Carl Vinson and CVW-17 are conducting maritime theater security operations in U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
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