Dick Gentz grew up in Jackson, Mich., in the heart of auto country, Carol Gentz in New York City. After she was born, her father, a CPA, moved the family to Washington, DC. She attended Hood College in Frederick, Md. One weekend the college sent a van full of young ladies to a Naval Academy mixer where she met Dick. A few weeks after graduation, they were married in Scarsdale, N.Y. In short order they were raising two daughters. One now lives in Fairfax and the other in Richmond with their two granddaughters. During Dick’s Navy career, Carol volunteered for the Navy Ball and was a substitute teacher. In the early 1980s, she worked for the Virginia Department of Agriculture’s department of consumer affairs for six years.
Dick’s first Naval orders were to Pensacola, Fla., and the Naval Air Training Command. But before Dick could look at an airplane, he had to pass obstacles like the infamous step test, the approval of tough Marine drill instructors and other adventures that seemed to have nothing to do with “slipping the surly bonds of earth, and dancing in the skies on laughter-silvered wings” (apologies to John Gillespie Magee). But in a few months he was freed and was soaring with eagles in T-34s at Saufley Field, and then to Whiting Field where he was introduced to the T-28, one of his favorite planes.
Dick received his wings at the Kingsville Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas. He completed carrier qualifications (CARQUALS) after successfully completing several touch-and-goes and three or four traps on the deck of USS Antietam (CVA-36). CARQUALS are usually conducted underway at sea with the ship steaming fast enough to create a 30-knot wind down the deck. Dick’s experience was a bit different. The Antietam never left the pier while Dick bounced aboard. A hurricane was approaching and provided 30 knots of wind for no charge. The Antietam was the world's first true angled-deck aircraft carrier. Maybe Dick’s landings were another first.
Dick was selected for PG School in Monterey, Calif., where he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical and electrical engineering. Their next major move was to Rhode Island, when Dick was assigned to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station. Next was a move to Virginia Beach and the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), where he was the flight deck officer. Then, from 1970 to 1974, Dick chaired the Aerospace Department at the Naval Academy. He left Annapolis to become skipper of VAW-125, an E-2C Hawkeye squadron. During his flying days, Dick logged 4,600 flight hours and 520 carrier landings
Dick met Steve Loftus at “Knife and Fork” school. They both were then wearing stars, but apparently the Navy feels that those attaining flag rank should no longer eat with their fingers. There are Officers and Gentlemen, and then there are Gentlemen Gentlemen who fly even higher. Those stars took Dick to leadership positions at the Pentagon and beyond, at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Air Systems Command, Commander Pacific Missile Test Center, and Commander Naval Air Systems Command.
After retirement from the Navy, Dick taught at George Washington University, worked for Northrop Grumman and was an important part of the coordination and planning for the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space museum. We welcome Dick and Carol to their new home at Falcons Landing