Marine Corps Capt. Joseph Diniega (AeroEng’05) stopped by CU-Boulder recently to present a special American flag to the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES).
Diniega – call sign “Dingo” – was carrying the flag on May 11, 2012, as he flew his EA-6B Prowler in a combat mission over Afghanistan. During his visit on July 23, 2014, he said he wanted to honor the department because AES “molded me into the person I am today.”
Diniega joined the Marines in 2006 and “got his wings” after completing flight school in May 2010. In 2012, he was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was part of an electronic warfare unit, which focuses on denying the enemy the use of the electromagnetic spectrum by detecting and analyzing signals in order to use jammers and anti-radiation missiles to knock out enemy radar and communications.
Diniega said his engineering background was a huge help in flight school because he was able to quickly understand technical concepts.
“The guys who had history degrees took forever to understand some of the concepts,” he said. “On the warfare side, the experience of working technically with systems helps when things go wrong and you need to troubleshoot. You’re able to work around the problems and keep things running in order to accomplish the mission.”
He said he still stays in touch with several other AES grads who’ve joined the Navy – Lt. Michael Oldenborg and Lt. Michael Hooten are Super Hornet pilots, while his best friend from CU, Lt. Daniel Bellinghausen, is a test pilot.
“The best part of the program for me was really just relationships I’ve built,” Diniega said. “Forming those friendships and working together to solve problems is something I really treasure.”
Diniega recently transferred to Quantico, Va., to attend expeditionary warfare school. While he’ll go wherever the Marines send him, he said, “I want to keep flying. It’s what I love.”
AES senior instructor Donna Gerren, who taught Diniega’s aircraft design and senior project courses, said that love of flying and aircraft drove him even as a student.
“He worked hard, did very well, and always had a smile on his face,” she said. “The faculty in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department, while not surprised at his success, are very proud of him and his accomplishments.”
Professor Brian Argrow remembers Diniega and his friends from the thermodynamics and aerodynamics courses he teaches. He said that while he always enjoys seeing alumni return after establishing themselves, Diniega’s visit was special.
“It is a pleasure to have any of our alums return and to credit us with some contribution to their personal development and ability to contribute to society,” he said. “However, the mixture of pride, relief, and joy that I feel when I see an alum who returns as a combat veteran is really something special.”