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NEWS | Sept. 14, 2022

Visiting the Past

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Josh Cote, Naval Air Station Sigonella

Before Richard Kaiser started his own Navy career, he spent time here on Naval Air Station Sigonella as a dependent while his father served in the Navy. Kaiser graduated from the high school that was here on base, a school that has been since torn down and a new one built, with the mascot having been changed.

Kaiser not only came back to see how much Sicily and the base have both changed, but to sit down with some of the senior class presidents of the new high school and swap stories before presenting them with a challenge.

“I decided to throw a challenge out,” said Kaiser. “They are now called the Sigonella Middle High School Jaguars. Yet when my class designed the school ring in 1963, we were known as the Trojans. We were the first class to have the graduation ring. Somehow we switched from the Trojans to the Jaguars. I questioned and challenged the two class presidents as to when did it transition and why?”

When Kaiser’s dad was retiring is when Kaiser himself decided to start his own journey in the Navy, where he did four years of active duty before switching to the reserves for 23 years. Even with his many adventures and travels with work, Kaiser has come back to this area many times but he has never been able to make it back to visit Sigonella until now.

“I joined the Navy to follow in my father’s footsteps,” said Kaiser. “My dad retired when I went in so there was a transition between him and me. I did 23 years, and our whole family has a military background now; my sister’s kids are all E-9’s and there’s a Lt. Col.”

Besides wanting to always come back to Sigonella himself, Kaiser wanted to show his wife where he had previously lived as a teen.

“I wanted to show my wife Sicily,” said Kaiser. “We have traveled extensively. We have been all over Europe. I have been wanting to come back here and the fact that it has been almost 60 years not to the day but to the month of graduation, I thought it would be cool to come back and show my wife.”

Being in the reserves allowed Kaiser to also get involved with other business ventures as well as serving in the military.

“In parallel with being in the reserves, I went into corporate America,” said Kaiser. “I worked in government contracting, major corporations, communication satellites and handled field operations around the world for 27 years. Eventually I got laid off and after that my wife Diane and I got into real estate. We do real estate in Florida and our son is doing real estate in Hawaii, we have done very well there and now we are retired and taking the time to travel the world again.”

After being gone for so long, many things that Kaiser remembered have changed by a far margin.

“I am just amazed that, literally, there is not one thing the same here on base except the main gate,” said Kaiser. “The layout is somewhat similar, the houses near this school were there but I am pretty sure that is all new housing. Where my house sat is now the far corner of what is the new hospital.”

During his time here Kaiser not only left his mark on the then NAS Sigonella by causing a small chemical explosion in one of the science classrooms during an experiment gone awry, but him and fellow classmate Tom along with Tom’s dad got the approval to set up a golf course here on base.

“Tom’s dad was an avid golfer, so he convinced the command to install a golf course,” said Kaiser. “The three of us started the course, we went down and were moving rocks and boulders using only our hands and wheelbarrows and cleaned out and made the course. Of course we had a lot of volunteers that also wanted to use the golf course. That was about a yearlong project that we did and now it doesn’t exist anymore.”