NROTC celebrates Change of Command, retirement ceremony

December 11, 2023

Group of NROTC students
Capt. David Dry and Capt. Thomas Ulmer with students in the NROTC.

The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Missouri celebrated a Change of Command and retirement ceremony on Friday. Captain David W. Dry, who has served as commander of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit Missouri since 2019, has retired and was officially relieved of duties by Captain Thomas A. Ulmer.

The Change of Command Ceremony is a time-honored Naval tradition that symbolizes the passing of authority and responsibility to another officer and reflects the dedication of those who proudly serve their nation. Among distinguished guests at the MU ceremony were Sen. Caleb Rowden, Senate President Pro Tem, Rep. David Griffith, chairman of the House Veterans Committee, and Rear Admiral (Sel) Thomas J. Dickinson.

Capt. Dry is a 1993 graduate of Mizzou and earned a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, in 2000 and a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2010.

At sea, he qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer aboard USS Cape St. George (CG 71) in 1994. Additional operational assignments include Surface Operations Officer in Commander Carrier Strike Group 12 embarked on USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, where in October 2001 the “BIG E” strike group conducted the first combat strike operations in Afghanistan following the September 11th homeland attacks; Chief Engineer in USS The Sullivans (DDG 68), USS Valley Forge (CG 50), and decommissioning Chief Engineer / Executive Officer in USS O’Brien (DD 975); Executive Officer in USS Benfold (DDG 65); Commanding Officer in USS Gravely (DDG 107) where his crew earned consecutive Battle Efficiency Awards and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea as Air Defense Commander in support of Sixth Fleet’s Ballistic Missile Defense operations while monitoring Russian naval forces during the Syrian conflict in 2013; and Commodore, Combat Logistics Force (CTF 33) / Commander, Military Sealift Command Pacific.

Ashore assignments include Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff-Operations at Commander, Naval Surface Forces; J35 Deputy Chief, Training Division and Stability Academy at United States Forces-Iraq Joint Headquarters, Baghdad, in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN; Deputy Director, Senior Officer Ship Material Readiness Course at Surface Warfare Officers School, Newport, RI; and Military Associate Dean, Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (two awards), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Award (five awards), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (two awards). In 2004, he was selected by his peers to receive the Navy and Marine Association’s Leadership Award for outstanding leadership. He has various other personal, campaign, service and unit awards, including ten Navy Battle “E” awards.

Capt. Ulmer attended Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice and was commissioned through the Naval ROTC program in 1996. He earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College and later earned a Master of Science in Criminology from Florida State University. He was designated a Surface Warfare Officer in 1998.

At sea, Captain Ulmer served as the Main Propulsions Officer and later Weapons Officer in USS Shreveport (LPD 12); Navigator and Administrations Officer in USS Ramage (DDG 61); Operations Officer in USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force-Japan; Assistant Operations Officer and Strike Officer in Amphibious Squadron Four/Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group; Executive Officer and Commanding Officer in USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) where his team earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Battle “E” for operational excellence, and the “Golden Anchor” Retention Excellence Award; and as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer in USS Makin Island (LHD 8) where his team earned the “Golden Anchor” and the Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Award for excellence in food service.

Ashore, Captain Ulmer served in numerous joint and staff billets including Flight Management Officer and Air Navigation Instructor at the Naval Aviation Schools Command; Maritime Security Operations Planner in the Future Operations Directorate to the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT)/FIFTH Fleet forward deployed in Manama, Bahrain; Strategic War Planner in the Strategy, Plans, and Policy Directorate to the U.S. Central Command; Executive Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy, Policy; and Director of Operations and Exercise Director for the Tactical Training Group Pacific. He was selected as an Associate Fellow for the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group XXVII and as a Federal Executive Fellow to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute.

Captain Ulmer is a Joint Qualified Officer whose decorations include the Legion of Merit (second award), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (second award), Joint Commendation Medal, Navy-MarineCorps Commendation Medal (fifth award), Joint Achievement Medal, and Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal. Additionally, he was a recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Pennsylvania State University.

Learn more about NROTC at Mizzou.