Riverhead’s own Amanda Gallo, who will be one of the first female officers in United State Naval history to serve on a submarine, was sworn into military service last week – and retiring Riverhead NJROTC instructor Colonel Peter McCarthy was the officer to commission her.
“I knew I wanted Colonel to swear me in as soon as I joined the program,” said Gallo, who graduated from Riverhead High School in 2012. “He has been there for me the entire time and he is basically the reason I am the half-decent leader I am today.”
Gallo is one of just six women nationwide who were chosen from this year’s graduating class of naval officers to enter the Navy’s highly competitive submarine force, only six years after the Navy began allowing female officers to do so.
She has wanted to serve on the submarine force ever since McCarthy, her high school NJROTC instructor, informed her that the Navy had finally begun allowing female officers on submarines in 2010. Gallo had been in 11th grade at the time and about to enter her fourth year of NJROTC in Riverhead, where she would serve as commanding officer of the school’s unit.
“Colonel was the one who told me females could go on submarines,” she said. “He’s been a super important person in my life.”
It was McCarthy’s guidance and mentorship that groomed Gallo for not only the top position in Riverhead’s NJROTC program, but also her military training at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s NROTC unit, where she would also pursue a degree in nuclear engineering.
So when she began planning her commissioning ceremony, she could not think of a better person to swear her in than the former teacher who inspired her to pursue her dreams in the first place.
“Colonel has been a great mentor to me,” Gallo said. “He really taught me to be selfless so that I can train others to become better too. He taught me to give back.”
Last weekend, Gallo was commissioned into the United States Navy before her friends and family. McCarthy met her on stage and recited the oath of office, and she repeated it back to him.
After the oath, her two brothers and her parents joined her on stage to “reveal her rank,” which was hidden on the sleeves of her uniform beneath white tape. Her brothers peeled the tape off to reveal the stripe and star sewn onto the wrists of her officer uniform, and her parents placed the hat on her head.
“I’m hoping that having Colonel bring me into the active duty world will be a good omen, since I turned out all right after leaving high school,” Gallo joked.
It’s students like Amanda Gallo that made McCarthy’s 13-year career as a Riverhead NJROTC instructor worthwhile, McCarthy said in a March interview.
“When kids go on into active duty, it makes me feel like I’ve contributed and been a positive influence on them,” McCarthy said. “It’s very rewarding.”
McCarthy will retire at the end of this school year. He called his time as a teacher, which followed 24 years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, “harder than being a Marine.”
“I feel really good about where the program is,” McCarthy said. “It’s really on solid ground, and there are a lot of good kids headed in the right direction.”
As for Ensign Amanda Gallo, she is now waiting to enter the Navy’s Nuclear Power School in South Carolina this September, which is required of all submariners. Her degree in nuclear engineering has given her a bit of a head-start, including experience with a nuclear science internship at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Gallo will be assigned to a submarine at the beginning of 2018.
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