Navy Commander James Galoppa – a West Milford son

| 05 Jul 2012 | 12:10

Comments from retirement ceremony of Navy Commander James J. Galoppa, Jr., June 1, 2012:

“Bos’n, stand by to pipe the side! Shipmate going ashore.”

“Aye, Aye Sir.” “Ladies and gentlemen, Commander Galoppa will now report to Captain Kelly and request permission to go ashore for the last time.”

“Permission granted.” “Boatswain, pipe Commander Galoppa ashore.”

“Commander, United States Navy, retired, departing.”

And so Commander James Galoppa ended 30 years of meritorious service to his country. He couldn’t have foreseen this when he and his dad made the decision all those years ago to see a military recruiter.

Galoppa graduated from West Milford High School in 1980. During his school years, he played hockey and acted in the drama club. He opted to work for a year after graduation, followed by a year at the County College of Morris. But he was floundering,, not sure of his direction. Maybe, he thought, he’d become a pro-hockey player or an accountant. Life had other plans in store for him.

"No better way to serve" When Galoppa, 50, and his father visited the recruiter in 1982, they were thinking Air Force, but the recruiter was out that day. A Navy recruiter said “Come in and talk to me.” They did. The Navy not only signed up James, Jr. but James, Sr. joined the Naval Reserves at the same time.

“I think there’s no better way to serve your county or fellow man. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “The Navy raised me. I’ve had all the opportunities. I’ve been promoted 11 times over in my Naval career and have three college degrees.”

He also has a family; Christine, his wife of 26 years, and two sons, Michael, a graduate of Old Dominion University and Adam, a senior at James Madison University. The family resides in Virginia but for a time they were on the move, living in Florida and Hawaii..

For the most part, Galoppa’s career has been in ship board combat systems, radar and weapon systems. He served aboard the USS Kiska, the USS Leyte Gulf, the USS Chosin, and the USS Arleigh Burke as well as at land bases. In 2008, he went to Afghanistan where he served as Garrison Commander for Camp Clark in the Khowst province. He was part of a combat advisor team working with the Afghan army, instructing them on base operations.

“Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. We ran a medical center on the base. We fed and clothed the local children,. It was a good-will tour to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” he said.

A decorated Navy man Over the years Galoppa has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), the Navy Commendation Medal (six awards), the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal (four awards), the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Combat Action Badge (two awards) and the Navy Good Conduct Medal (three awards).

Galoppa’s retirement ceremony brought out family and friends, including a few high school pals from West Milford. The event was steeped in Navy tradition, one of which was the presentation of the Sea Chest from Galoppa’s family. The chest holds his uniforms, insignias and a flag that flew over the Afghanistan base. He also has several letters of commendation for the chest – one from each living president of the United States

New horizons Not ready to sit back, Galoppa will now enter the civilian work force.

“I was hired on with a company that supports the Navy combat systems training and development. I’ll still be working and helping sailors,” he said.

His biggest challenge will be what to wear to work. His wife is on stand-by, ready to match shirts and ties for a man who has spent 30 years in uniform.

Galoppa still has family and friends in West Milford and visits on occasion. He enjoys stopping by Karl’s Diner – and calls it by that name though he knows it’s the West Milford Diner now. Paul’s Place is another local eatery to visit and recall the days of his youth in West Milford, a town he fondly remembers.

As the saying goes behind every great man there’s a woman – Galoppa agrees with that.

“I want to say thank you to my family, especially my wife, my biggest supporter throughout my career. She’s number one in my book,” he said.

Conclusion of retirement ceremony: Commander Galoppa gathers his family, four bells are struck.

“Navy family retired, departing.”