Mountain Man


CDR Koch investigates a bombed-out airport during his military years.

Elizabeth Polo

“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.”- Winston Churchill


Life as we know it is a journey; a long one in fact. It has various bumps, hurdles, dips, and curves that constantly test our strengths and weaknesses. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but the further we move along, we become adept at adjusting to the curveballs life throws at us, so that we too can climb the tallest mountains. Many people have climbed their own mountains and overcome them, one of these people is Commander Koch, one of Huntingtown’s Senior Naval Science Instructors for the school’s NJROTC Unit.



Born and raised in Mesa, Arizona, CDR Koch grew up enjoying the warm climate the state had by living an active lifestyle. “It seemed like the moment I was born I spent my time in a swimming pool,” Koch chuckled, “I was on the swim team growing up, but I also enjoyed football, baseball, and basketball too.” Like some teenagers, CDR Koch took up bad habits of procrastination and a severe case of senioritis that distracted him from his studies more often than not. “When I was seventeen, I was hanging around with the wrong crowds, and when I started my first semester of college, I just wasn’t ready for the homework load. It was very different than high school.”

After one semester at college, CDR Koch realized that he wasn’t meant to live and work the way he was living. “I dropped four of my five classes within my first semester. I realized that I needed to get myself straightened out, so I drove to the nearest recruiter and asked to sign up for the hardest Bootcamp, which was the Marine Corps.” The life that soon awaited him was that of long, long workdays, achy muscles, crawling through sloppy mud, and being shouted at for the simplest action. Shipping Day to Bootcamp was on January 19th, 1988, where the then recruit Koch would start his military career, push through backbreaking physical training, and ultimately achieve the rank of Commander that he is today.

A young CDR Koch poses for a picture in uniform.


Semper Fi:

Once CDR Koch graduated from Bootcamp in San Diego, he served four years of active duty in the Marine Corps. “While serving active duty, I contributed to the GI Bill, and once my commitment was up, I started college and also joined the Navy Reserve as a refrigeration mechanic, which was helpful since I was from Arizona.” Koch wanted to have solid working experience and a career that would carry on with him after his time in the military. During his time in the reserves, CDR Koch simultaneously worked hard to get his Bachelor’s of Science in Finance at Arizona State University.

In May of 1994, Koch decided to switch things up and join the Navy Reserves, where his training and skills as a refrigeration mechanic were greatly needed. “I was stationed in Phoenix as a Navy Seabee (construction battalion) where I would help construct anything needed by his command.” Some projects that Commander completed included leading the installation of a massive two softball-sized field sprinkler system in Honolulu HI, construction of a 40-foot-high repelling tower in Colorado Springs, CO, and reengineering the plumbing system of large multi-room barracks in Whidby Island, WA! As for his civilian job, Koch worked as an IT consultant at Andersen Consulting, and Senior Programmer for the credit card company American Express.

After about eight years in the reserves, CDR Koch reentered active-duty service as an Officer Recruiter. “I was selected to be Full-Time Support, which is the active-duty portion of the reserves, and I worked as a Human Resource Officer,” Koch recalls. Other roles that Commander held included being a Supply Officer, Deputy Chief Information Officer for the US Navy Reserve, and the Commanding Officer of the Navy Operational Support Center.

Say cheese! Many laughs were shared in the mess hall!


Strength from the Sea:

Along with the broad-ranging skills and opportunities that the Military offers its members, some of the most beneficial outcomes include the lessons learned! The Navy stands on three core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. For Commander Koch, these values have been applied to every aspect of his life. “For honor, it’s almost like the ‘what would Jesus do’ type of moments. I ask myself if doing something is the right thing to do. For Commitment, I ask myself who I am committed to and where my commitment should lie. Right now, I’m committed to my wife, family, and service to my community!” For the third Navy core value, courage, CDR Koch describes that anyone can obtain it! “To me, courage is to say something like ‘Hey honey, I’m going to quit my job because I want to pursue a different opportunity that I feel called to!’ And for me, that actually happened in my life when I decided to go back into active duty. Encourage doing things that you might have some apprehension against doing otherwise.”


There’s a Storm Brewing:

Thursdays at HHS are the best days to look spiffy in uniform!

It was only last year during COVID that CDR Koch joined our Hurricane family here at Huntingtown High School. As a member of NJROTC and student of CDR Koch, I can attest to the great, positive changes he’s brought to our unit. He teaches each and every cadet how to be a leader both inside and outside of the classroom. Our class as a whole is student-led from our weekly unit inspections to potential field trips! “At this point in my career, it’s not about chasing a salary,” Koch states. “I figured I’d become a teacher to lend a hand to kids and help them along the way. It’s a way that I can give back to the community, do something that I really want to do, and align with my core values of who I want to be, and who I am.”

As Commander Koch’s 2nd year of teaching at Huntingtown nears an end, another chapter of mountaineers begins. Teaching and inspiring today’s youth to find the courage to become great, to go on their own expeditions, pave their own path through life. Once they take those first steps it becomes easier, and after a while, they too become their own mountain man.