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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with Navy Historian ITCM James L. Leuci

Q&A with Navy Historian ITCM James L. Leuci
By CHIPS Magazine - March 19, 2015
Information Systems Technician Master Chief James L. Leuci is a U.S. Navy Reserve Sailor with the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) unit (NAVHISTVTU0615R). In celebration of the U.S. Navy Reserve Centennial, ITCM Leuci reviewed and assembled the photos and histories that make up the highly informative Centennial website.

A Navy historian since 2005, Leuci, retired from NASA at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in 2014 where he worked for 30 years in computer engineering as a civilian. While on active duty, he has served as a Navy radioman and Electronic Key Management System inspector. He was Command Master Chief at Commander Naval Coastal Warfare Group Two from 2000 to 2004... His job experience covers a lot of territory and is impressive.

CHIPS asked Leuci to talk about his work as a Navy historian and to share some of his Navy career highlights. He responded in writing.

Q: I understand that you singlehandedly pulled together all the historical pictures and history for the entire U.S. Navy Reserve Centennial (NRC) website and The Navy Reservist (TNR) magazine. It’s a huge undertaking and you did a phenomenal job! How did you organize the project?

A: It wasn’t just me but I did provide most of the imagery for the NRC website, the Pentagon exhibit, the Navy Memorial exhibit, the Navy Reserve videos, and posters. I’ve been assigned to NHHC since 2005 and part of my job has been digitizing photos from the Navy archives for articles and other projects. As a result, I’ve acquired a rather large library of digitized photos.

Q: Did you need any specialized training for the task?

A: No, most of it was OJT working with NHHC professionals.

Q: There must be thousands of photos and stories. I have read so many inspiring stories on the Naval History and Heritage Command and Centennial websites. How did you determine which ones to include?

A: Most of the time, my audience is Sailors. I like to write about the day-to-day lives of Sailors, particularly enlisted Sailors, over the last 100 years. I’m more interested in how Sailors lived, worked, what they wore, what they ate, and how policies and traditions have changed over time.

Q: This was a special task, what type of work do you usually perform on Reserve duty?

A: I have worked as a historian since 2005. Before that I was a NEC 9580 Command Master Chief at Commander Naval Coastal Warfare Group Two (2000-2004). Prior to 2000, I was a Radioman/IT at Naval Inshore Undersea Warfare (later Naval Coastal Warfare). I was also an EKMS (Electronic Key Management System inspector) — probably one of the first as a Navy Reservist.

Q: What is your civilian job? Do your civilian and Navy Reserve careers complement each other?

A: I worked as a computer engineer for NASA at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for 30 years. I retired from NASA in January 2014, just before I returned to active duty to work as the historian for the NRCC. My job at NASA was more technical. My degree is in computer engineering from Christopher Newport University. The one process that is similar to both engineering and documenting naval history is that engineering requires you to observe an event, take data, analyze the data, and write a report. Writing about naval history uses the same process.

Q: Can you describe your Navy Reserve career and give us some of your most memorable career highlights?

A: I initially served on active duty from 1974 to 1982 before becoming a Reserve Sailor, where I would serve in the Naval Inshore Undersea/Naval Coastal Warfare (NCW) community for 20 years. Prior to 2001, 100 percent of Navy port security and coastal chokepoint and underwater surveillance capability was in the Naval Reserve. One of the memorable highlights, for me, was when the NCW community was mobilized after the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks. We were already trained to go at a moment’s notice and it was gratifying to know that when the Navy called, we were ready.

Q: Did you have any mentors throughout your career?

A: Yes, my Dad served for twenty years on active duty 1951-1971 and retired as a Senior Chief Radioman. I always wanted to be like him. I also had a mentor; we didn’t call them that in the 1970s, who was a radioman first-class and my LPO. His name was Carl L. Fuller and he taught me how to be a good radioman. Later, another friend, CMDCM Tom Cramer, showed me how to be a good Command Master Chief.

Q: What is your next project?

A: I’m planning on writing a paper that documents how the lives of Sailors have changed over the last 70 years. There have been numerous changes in policy and technology that have influenced how Sailors interact with each other and the general public. Morals and ethics have also evolved as a result of many of the policies that were implemented in the early 1970s under CNO Zumwalt (Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo "Bud" Zumwalt Jr.). I look forward to interviewing former and current Sailors, comparing and contrasting their experiences.

Q: What career advice can you offer to those who may be thinking about joining the Navy Reserve?

A: If you are on active duty and are thinking about getting out, you should seriously consider the Navy Reserve. It enables you to continue serving our country while working in your community. You can continue your education while continuing to advance in rate or paygrade. You can also return to active duty if you really miss it. I’ve met many former Sailors who got out of the Navy and regret not staying in the Reserve. It’s a great job, and the pay isn’t too bad either!

Information Systems Technician Master Chief James L. Leuci at Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) Yorktown, Virginia, for a Pearl Harbor commemoration event.
Navy Reserve Centennial logo
1919. Storekeeper First Class Petty Officer wearing a World War I era dress blue uniform. U.S. Navy photo.
1948. Naval Reserve recruiting poster emphasizing the Citizen-Sailor Concept of the Naval Reserve. U.S. Navy image.
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