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Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Milton J Sands III, USN

Commander, Naval Service Training Command


Rear Admiral Sands is a native of Farmington, Connecticut and graduated from The United States Naval Academy in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Oceanography. He holds a Master’s degree in Military Strategy and Planning from the Joint Advanced Warfighting School (JAWS) in Norfolk, VA.

His operational tours included Surface Warfare Officer assignments on Newport-class tank landing ship USS Saginaw (LST 1188) and Spruance-class destroyer USS John Rodgers (DD 983). After graduating Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) training with class 203, he was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1. Additional assignments include two tours with SEAL Team 2, and assignment to a joint task force in Afghanistan. He commanded SEAL Team 8, was the Chief of Staff of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, and Chief Staff Officer at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group before returning to NSW Group 2 as Commodore.

Ashore Sands was a joint planner at Special Operations Command, Europe; a Counter Terrorism and Public Policy Fellow at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy as part of the Navy’s Federal Executive Fellowship program; Director of Counter Terrorism and Operations for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict; and Deputy Operations Officer at the Joint Special Operations Command.

His most recent assignment prior to Naval Service Training Command was as Vice-president, Joint Special Operations University at U.S. Special Operations Command.

Rear Admiral Sands is authorized to wear the Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards), Bronze Star Medal (2 awards) as well as various other personal, unit and service awards.


Donovan D. Phillips, Ph.D.

Executive Director and Deputy Commander, Naval Service Training Command


Donovan Phillips is a native of North Royalton, Ohio. He has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Engineering Management from the US Military Academy, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Mathematics from the Naval Postgraduate School. He was commissioned as a United States Army second lieutenant from West Point.

While on active duty in the Army, He served tours in Japan, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan, along with stateside duty at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, West Point, New York, and Monterey, California.

His staff and joint assignments include Chief of Staff, US Forces Japan; Director, Joint Operations Center, NATO Joint Forces Command Brunssum, Netherlands; Director of Operations, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan; Director, Strategic Planning and Transformation, U. S. Military Entrance Processing Command; and Advisor, National Military Academy Afghanistan. Additionally, he twice served as an Assistant Professor at the U. S. Military Academy.

He has served four combat tours in support of Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Restore Hope, and Enduring Freedom (twice). He left active Army service in June 2019 and entered the federal civil service in December of that year.

Donovan’s awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal (w/oak leaf cluster), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, and various unit and service awards. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced courses and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

CAPT Riley  

Captain Michael B. Riley

Chief of Staff, Naval Service Training Command


Captain Riley, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, enlisted in the United States Navy in 1985. After graduating from recruit training at Naval Training Center San Diego, he was ordered to attend the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program. Earning a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship, he graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and his commission as an Ensign. He later earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Strategy from the US Naval War College in 2003, and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 2019.

His early sea assignments were aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Ingraham, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain. He commanded two mine countermeasures ships, USS Dextrous and USS Champion and the Littoral Combat Ship, USS Independence.

Ashore, Captain Riley has served at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Port Hueneme, California, and as the Flag Aide to the Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, D. C. In June 2012, Captain Riley reported to the Commander, Carrier Strike Group 15, as the Surface Operations Officer and Sea Combat Syndicate Lead, where he was responsible for the training, mentoring, and assessing of the Pacific Fleet’s afloat Sea Combat Commander staffs, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Independently Deployed warships. He also trained and mentored similar naval formations and units from Canada and Japan. He commanded the NROTC Unit at the University of New Mexico from 2014-2019.

Captain Riley has served in Iraq as a strategist at the Headquarters for US Forces-Iraq, while concurrently serving as a Political-Military Liaison Officer at the U. S. Embassy in Baghdad. He has also served in Afghanistan with the NATO Training Mission and the Combined Security Transition Command.


CMDCM Rick Mengel, USN

Command Master Chief, Naval Service Training Command


Command Master Chief Rick Mengel enlisted in the Navy on 17 November, 1993 and received basic training at Recruit Training Command Orlando, FL.

His first sea tour was aboard USS Camden (AOE 2), PSNS Bremerton, WA, where he served as an Undesignated Seaman and later a Signalman 3rd Class. In February 1998, he cross-rated to Aviation Structural Mechanic and reported to the EA-6B Fleet Replacement Squadron, home of the Vikings of VAQ 129, NAS Whidbey Island, WA.

Subsequent sea tours were served twice with the Zappers of VAQ 130, NAS Whidbey Island, WA, where he qualified as an Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist and an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist while deployed aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

He reported to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, IL in April, 2006 where he served as a Recruit Division Commander and RDC "C” School Instructor and qualified as a Master Training Specialist.

Master Chief Mengel was selected for the Command Senior Chief program in February, 2011 and served with Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Crew Persistent in that capacity aboard six different MCM hulls. Subsequent command tours include Command Master Chief for USS Shoup (DDG 86), Navy Recruiting District Seattle, and USS Nimitz (CVN 68). He is currently the Command Master Chief for Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), Great Lakes, IL.

He is a graduate of the Naval Senior Enlisted Academy, class 147 (Gold Group) and the Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat class 10701.

His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (five awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (five awards), Good Conduct Medal (eight awards) and various unit awards.


Nikky Palanca

NSTC Ombudsman

Email address: nstc.ombudsman@gmail.com

Mrs. Nikky Palanca has been married to Chief Navy Counselor Raymond Palanca since 2001. Originally from San Diego, as a military family they’ve been stationed in Virginia Beach, Jacksonville, San Diego, Whidbey Island, and Great Lakes. As a military spouse for over 17 years, Nikky understands the obstacles and challenges military families can face. She enjoys helping others and hopes to be a friendly link to the many services and programs available for military families.

Most command leaders agree: an effective ombudsman can be a priceless asset. Ombudsmen play a key role in linking commands and families to ensure accurate, timely communication.

The Great Lakes Naval Station Fleet Family Support Center (FFSC) provides training, consultation, and support to command-appointed ombudsmen.


The Role of the Command Ombudsman

The Navy Family Ombudsman is vital to the welfare of the command's families, and in this unique role, as an officially appointed volunteer, the duties are wide-ranging. The Ombudsman has been trained to know when to provide information, when to be a referral source and how to be receptive to family members when they call.

Ombudsmen serve as the primary communications link between the families and the command, and the channel of official information from the command to the families.

They disseminate timely and critical information, regularly, through newsletters, care-line/info-lines, telephone trees, and e-mail.

The command ombudsman supplies information about and referrals to military and civilian support organizations like, Fleet and Family Support Centers, American Red Cross, Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, Chaplains, medical facilities, and legal assistance offices. These organizations are valuable resources in obtaining assistance for command family members.

They provide support to family members seeking professional assistance and refer them for counseling. Ombudsmen, in their official role, are not counselors or social workers.

Ombudsmen act as an advocate for the command families, using knowledge of the system, can help access the appropriate level of the chain of command for intervention and forward suitable requests or grievances while exercising confidentiality.

And they support command-sponsored groups and activities and advertise support group activities, as permitted by the command.



1. What is the Ombudsman Program?
It is a command-operated program intended to improve communication between the command and a Sailor's family members. Most importantly, it keeps members informed about command policy and the command aware of family concerns. A major function of the Ombudsman is providing information and referral services to the families.
2. How do I become an Ombudsman?
You can apply for this position when the command advertises for volunteers or request to be placed on a standby list of volunteers for future consideration when a position(s) becomes available. Volunteers are screened, selected and appointed by the Commanding Officer. A board, which can include the Command Master Chief, Executive Officer, current Ombudsman, and/ or other command members, as directed, may assist the CO.
3. What training is provided to the Ombudsman?
Ombudsman, with command support, receive Ombudsman Basic Training (OBT). OBT is a detailed course that provides required knowledge and skill development necessary to perform effectively as the Command Ombudsman. An Ombudsman continues their education via additional local training.
4. Is financial support available to Ombudsman?
The command, budget permitting, may provide supplies, equipment, and reimbursement for such expenses as childcare and mileage.
5. Will being an Ombudsman help further my spouse's Navy career?
One of the best tools is the Navy Family Ombudsman Program Manual. The command is required to provide one to the Ombudsman. If they do not have one in stock, they can contact their supporting Fleet and Family Support Center to obtain one.

For more information on the Ombudsman program visit:

For more information about NSTC, visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/NSTC.

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