FORT MADISON - Andy Rump grew up in Fort Madison and quickly got the name "Grease" from friends who he used to play hoops with at Lincoln School.
It's not his call sign when working Naval aerial weapons instruction, but his career path has been pretty slick nonetheless.
Rump gave a presentation to the Fort Madison Rotary Club on Tuesday outlining his career, carefully side-stepping classified intel, but holding the attention of the 40 or so in attendance for about sixty minutes.
Rump showed declassified videos and pictures of some of the intense training he had to go through to become the Navy's version of Train the Trainer, as an instructor's instructor.
The SCC and Luther College graduate began as a window and door salesman after college in California and that's where he said the Navy path took off for him.
While attending SCC as a freshman in 2001, 9-11 happened and it changed his outlook on life.
"I was deeply disturbed, angry, and frustrated, and I was compelled to make a difference," he said.
"I told my dad I was going to enlist - drop out of college and go serve this country."
Andy said his father, Rich, a former Army officer, talked him out of it, telling him the military would always be there and a college experience would be beneficial as he moved forward. He said we could revisit the military after college.
"I think maybe he secretly was hoping that would just go away, right? and that would be the end of it. Not so fast."
In his words, Rump was finally able to "scratch that itch" when he befriended a retired Navy seal who had a profound impact on his desire to join the military.
After hearing stories, Rump said he didn't want to be the 40-year-old looking back and regretting not going the direction he wanted.
He quit his job and joined the military in the Officer Candidate School (OCS), and did a 13-week course at Newport, Rhode Island.
"You eat with a spoon, get two hours of sleep a night and it's just... uncomfortable," he said of the initial training.
"But you did get a crash course in military customs and courtesies and you leave there much more confident than you arrived. You're ready to start to learn to become a leader."
From there he moved to Naval Flight School and is now a Naval Flight Officer/Navigator by trade, which put him through a hands-on heavy rigor of academic training before getting on any aircraft.
"You start on a Cesna 157 and get 20 to 30 hours on that. Then you move over to the T-6, which is a single-engine ejection seat aircraft," Rump said. "In a fuzz you start in the front seat and then after about six months or so, you move to the back and start learning how to aviate, navigate, and communicate."
After about a year of that portion of flight school, officers move over to fleet replacement squadrons where specialization takes place and the officer chooses what aircraft they want based on scores against peers in flight school.
Rump said he was fortunate to be able to choose the P-3/P-8 aircraft which provides an opportunity to travel the world. Those aircraft run maritime patrols hunting enemy submarines and carry missiles, sonar bouys, and even mines.
Also during aviation training he went through S.E.R.E. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) Training, where he was put out on his own for 10 days to avoid a simulated capture and prisoner of war scenarios.
"They immerse you and make you feel like this is actually happening to you. How do they do that?... they wear you down physically, mentally, and then move to the capture stage," he said.
He said a week's worth of survival training is the first part of that training, focusing on basic life support - food, water, and shelter.
"They are training you to be shot down and then find a place to be protected. The master plan is that they want to make it so compelling that you understand it's so much better to be out there on your own waiting for rescue, than getting captured," Rump said.
"But they find a way to capture you. They want you to feel that pain of being a prisoner of war. It was a memorable experience and certainly built character."
He said the most intense training came on splash down training where they were trained to survive water crashes with all the disorientation and anxiety those situations bring.
Through all the training, including flight school, weapons school, S.E.R.E. training, and water crash training, Rump came out on the other side and is now an aviation weapons instructor for instructors.
That role brought him face-to-face with Hollywood.
Rump's carrier was chosen as the shooting site of Top Gun-Maverick where he's in the film as a "shooter" who launched fighter jets off the carrier's catapults. He's also in the Great Balls of Fire bar scene, singing in the background.
He said the most intense part of the shooting was when the director asked him if he would be Tom Cruise's stand-in where he would read Cruise's lines in different sets so the actor could get a feel for the scene.
"Talk about being in the right place at the right time. They asked if they could come out to sea with us and fly with us, not control, but fly to get the imagery for the film. It could have been any carrier any time, but they went out to sea with us for three weeks," he said.
"I just embedded with the crew and that's Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Tom. He was executive director and was behind the camera, if you will. I would perform his lines and roles in a very rudimentary way and they would tell me what to say and where to stand so they could get the cameras right," Rump said.
"They would say, ACTION, and you gotta do this over and over again dozens and dozens of times without him in it. And they get to the point where they're actually going to shoot the scene and kick me into the background."
He said taking the risk to join the service is what put him in a position to be able to experience that. He said those who aren't in a place where they want to be should make a change in their life.
"Have a plan, of course, but many of the opportunities afforded me have come from taking a risk."
Rump thanked the Rotarians and citizens of Fort Madison for what they've done to build community and launch children into the world.
"It all started here and is something I look back on fondly. Everytime I come home, not much changes, and that's okay. It's nice to have a place to come back to that's consistent and reliable," he said.
"And you all have decided to stick around and make this better and I thank you for that because I'm not here to help you."
Rump is married and has two children a 5-year old daughter and 2-year-old son who have been raised by his wife. He's missed half of their lives.
"This is plain and simple a military family that goes out and performs the mission asked of them. There are 1,000s out there just like me - many you may know and they need help so give them some help. Pat 'em on the back, make dinner for them or just be a sympathetic ear."
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