After 26 years in flight, Murdoch lands with UW Naval ROTC
Capt. Christopher Murdoch, professor of naval science at UW–Madison, is pictured in the Naval ROTC building. Murdoch, who spent 26 years on active duty, took command of the UW–Madison Naval ROTC unit in July.
During a July ceremony, Murdoch took over for Capt. Russ Haas, who retired after three years as the UW Naval ROTC’s commanding officer. Haas spent 30 years in the Navy, serving in command and earning several distinguished medals and awards for service. Haas will remain in the Madison area for the time being.
Murdoch, who flew combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia before taking his final flight last December, comes to Madison after commanding Carrier Air Wing TWO aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. During a previous tour, he commanded the F/A-18F “Jolly Rogers” of Strike Fighter Squadron 103.
“I joined the Navy to serve my country and did not intend to stay this long originally. I deeply respect those I serve alongside, and I loved the flying, so I stayed.”
During his Navy career, Murdoch, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard, trained staff and task forces with U.S. Joint Forces Command and served on the staff at U.S. Fleet Forces Command. He also spent a year at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, earning an M.A. in international security.
“I joined the Navy to serve my country and did not intend to stay this long originally,” Murdoch says. “I deeply respect those I serve alongside, and I loved the flying, so I stayed.”
He has been on seven operational deployments that centered on the Middle East, as part of the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He also flew missions in support of operations in Bosnia and Somalia.
Murdoch came to the UW Naval ROTC due to a combination of naval operational needs and his own requests. As his flying career wound down, Murdoch wanted to spend more time with his wife and three children. As a Michigan native, he also wanted to be closer to his extended family.
As he was preparing to step away from active duty, a Navy detailer — a person who makes available positions known to various groups of officers — informed Murdoch of the UW Naval ROTC opening. From there, he pursued the position.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to influence the next generation of naval officers,” he says. “I have a great deal of military leadership experience; I can draw on that to help prepare these young men and women for the challenges ahead.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me to influence the next generation of naval officers. I have a great deal of military leadership experience; I can draw on that to help prepare these young men and women for the challenges ahead.”
As commanding officer of the UW Naval ROTC, Murdoch is now responsible for the military education and training of the program’s 72 candidates, known as midshipmen. This year’s freshman class arrived on campus before classes started, and began military training with the unit during a weeklong series of events at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. After graduation from the four-year program, the students will be commissioned as officers in the Marines or Navy.
The students must overcome the challenges of Naval ROTC participation on top of a full college academic schedule, and it’s the responsibility of Murdoch and other officers to assist them. “The students certainly face a challenge because not only do they often major in one of the more challenging engineering majors, but they also have additional commitments in terms of physical conditioning, drill, and battalion leadership positions,” he says.
As a new professor, Murdoch will begin his teaching career this spring with a required class for Naval ROTC students called Leadership and Ethics. It focuses on both the theory and practical application of ethical decision-making.
Murdoch, experiencing life in Wisconsin for the first time, is enjoying the Madison community with his wife, Kim, and their three children, Veronica, Susannah and Preston.
— Jim Dayton