During a ceremony last month at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., the USO honored Anderson native Chad R. Regelin, 24, as its Sailor of the Year for 2011.
Regelin, a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, was unable to attend the Oct. 6 awards banquet because he was on active duty serving with a mobile bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan, taking the place of someone who was injured. It is his second tour to Afghanistan. He previously served in Iraq.
Standing in for their son at the awards ceremony, a gala 70th anniversary $1,000 per plate affair for the USO, were proud parents Scott and Shirene Regelin of Anderson and two of their other three grown children, son Justin Regelin, 31, and married daughter Jill Graham, 33, also both of Anderson.
“He’s made us all proud. He’s never been one to be loud and proud, even as a kid,” noted Scott Regelin of his youngest son, Chad. “What he did in Iraq and Afghanistan he never shared with us until this award because he didn’t want to worry us,” Scott Regelin added.
“It was just a dream trip. There won’t be anything to top it in my lifetime,” Mrs. Regelin said.
“Words cannot describe the pride we felt for our son. We’ve tried to describe it to our three other children and we couldn’t even do that,” Shirene Regelin said last week as she told about touring the White House and meeting the First Lady.
“As we walked through all of the rooms, we saw Michelle Obama coming in from exercising. We were ushered into a side room where we played with the First Dog and then had cookies and punch.
Mrs. Obama eventually returned all freshly showered and coiffed. She remembered our son Chad had served for two months at the White House between his overseas deployments,” Mrs. Regelin recalled.
“I was not an Obama fan, but I came out of there loving Mrs. Obama because she said such nice things about our son. We even had our pictures taken with her by the official White House photographer,” she added.
Later that night during the USO gala, Chad Regelin was honored for heroic action during his first deployment to Afghanistan from August 2010 through March 2011, the official program booklet notes.
As part of a two-man explosive ordnance disposal team, Regelin “personally located and destroyed 24 IEDs (improvised exploding devices or roadside bombs), trained 13 commando engineers in counter-IED tactics and fought in more than 20 direct fire engagements,” a short biography reads.
While spending two days to clear a village of such hazards “in the battle-ravaged Panjway District of Kandahar Province, (Regelin) came under heavy gunfire. Without hesitation, Petty Officer Regelin returned fire and passed critical information of his enemy’s position to his element leader” thus preventing the enemy from out-flanking his team, the biographical statement continues.
The next day, Regelin discovered a 60-pound bomb inside a booby-trapped building. “As he worked tirelessly to render the building safe, he intercepted a signal that an enemy attack was imminent. While under attack, Petty Officer Regelin orchestrated the safety of his 10-member team, cleared the compound, collected forensic evidence and prepared the bomb for disposal,” the booklet’s bio concludes.
For his bravery under fire, the Navy has nominated Regelin, stationed at San Diego Naval Base, for the Bronze Star with a V for valor, the San Diego Union Tribune reported in a story posted on SignOnSanDiego.com
“His outstanding situational awareness and keen attention to detail in a combat environment undoubtedly saved the lives of his teammates,” the San Diego newspaper quoted Cmdr. Charles Andrews, Regelin’s unit commander, in the official USO nomination.
“His leadership and performance under fire far exceeded his pay grade,” Cmdr. Andrews concluded.
Pretty much, just another routine day at work for Regelin, who graduated from Anderson Union High School in 2005 and enlisted in the Navy in 2006. Regelin plans to make the Navy his career, the San Diego newspaper reported.
While attending Anderson High, Chad Regelin helped start the school’s Surf Club and was named Outstanding Senior for the Anderson Cubs varsity football squad.
After Regelin’s exploits were announced at the USO dinner, basketball legend and former Utah Jazz power forward Karl “The Mailman” Malone, one of more than 1,000 guests at the fund-raising gala, came over to Scott and Shirene Regelin to congratulate them on behalf of their son.
Malone then autographed a basketball and presented it to the Regelins.
Presenting the engraved plaques and shadow boxes that contained collector coins bearing the names of top Navy brass was Alyssa Campanella, Miss USA for 2011.