SIU graduates selected to Blue Angels

By Riley Swinford

Two alumni will take the aviation skills they learned at SIU to a nationally-known flight demonstration squadron for the next two years.

SIU graduates Navy Lt. Ryan Chamberlain and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Declan Hartney were selected to join the Blue Angels — the flight demonstration squadron that represents the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps — out of around 40 Navy and Marine Corps officers who applied to the Blue Angels this year.

They will perform air shows for about 11 million spectators who view the squadron during air shows each year, according to the Blue Angels’ website. Since 1946, the Blue Angels have flown for more than 260 million spectators.


“We are obviously very excited and very proud,” said David NewMyer, professor and chair of the aviation management and flight program. “This is very exciting for our program.”

Chamberlain, a 2003 graduate from Bloomington, will pilot an F/A-18 on the 2013 flight team, while Hartney, a 2000 graduate from Limerick, Ireland, will be the maintenance officer in 2014.

Chamberlain is stationed in California and will report to Naval Air Station Pensacola in September before he begins his assignment with the Blue Angels in November. He said he never thought he would get the opportunity to be a Blue Angel.

“I have always thought that it would be an incredible experience, but I wouldn’t say it’s been a lifelong dream,” Chamberlain said. “Once I realized that the opportunity was real and there, it became a lot different.”

Hartney is assigned to Naval Special Warfare Support Activity 1 at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and is returning to the Blue Angels after working with the group earlier in his career.

“It is a great honor for me to be selected to represent the Navy and Marine Corps to the general public,” Hartney said.  “It’s an honor that is very humbling for a regular fleet sailor, but one I am equally excited about.”

Hartney graduated from SIUC without ever setting foot on the campus. He completed his degree through the university’s off-campus programs while stationed at two different military bases.


Kris Garrick, advisor for the off-campus academic programs, worked closely with Hartney during his time at the university and said it was always clear he would be successful.  She said she’s happy Hartney will get the chance to tour with the Blue Angels again.

“He was given the opportunity to realize his dream,” she said. “I know that he has been and will continue to be a true asset not only for the U.S. Navy and the Blue Angels, but also SIU.”

NewMyer said he hopes the two will visit the SIU campus during their time off from the Blue Angels so they can showcase their skills to aviation students. NewMyer said their selections to Blue Angels show what a strong aviation program the university has.

Chamberlain said he would be pleased to visit the university.

“SIU, for me, was the start of my aviation career and is something that can never be replaced,” Chamberlain said. “The professors and faculty who helped me throughout the program are some of the best people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. I know that without their mentorship I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Hartney said he agreed with Chamberlain, and he could not have chosen a better college to guide him through his first experience with the American educational system.

“My main goal in joining the Navy was to earn my commission as an officer, and SIU gave me that opportunity,” he said. “It has ultimately led to the successes I am fortunate to enjoy today, including my selection to be the next maintenance officer of the Blue Angels.”