Flag flies for Bob Ettl

Flag flies for Bob Ettl photo

In its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Bob Ettl by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of December.

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Ettl for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

Opening the ceremony on Dec. 7 at Hampton Bays Elementary School, members of the Hampton Bays High School jazz band performed the national anthem. High school student Ian Hubbard read his “Voice of Democracy” essay, while fellow student Michael Blanco read Ettl’s biography. The ceremony culminated with the raising of the flag on the school’s flagpole.  

Ettl was born in 1945 in the Bronx. In 1951, his parents had a house framed out in Shinnecock Hills, just a stone’s throw from Cold Spring Pond. His father had obtained a job with the Town of Southampton, for which he worked for many years. Because it was not finished, Ettl helped his family paint the house, as well as clear the property, every weekend. After the day’s work was done, he recalled, he would swim in the Peconic Bay with sawdust in his swimming trunks. 

Ettl graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Marist College in 1967 and joined the Army the following year. He completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in spite of a particular challenge. A week before graduating, he fractured his foot and was told by his drill instructor that he would have to undergo basic training a second time if he did not complete the obstacle course. Determined, he had the medics bandage his foot and lace up his boot as tightly as they could, and he was able to complete the course.

After basic training, Ettl went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for cryptography training and was told he would be assigned to NATO Headquarters in Europe. For 12 weeks, he studied and learned everything he could and was the honor graduate of his class. Unfortunately, he and his entire graduating class were sent to Vietnam, and Ettl never saw a cryptography machine again.

In January 1969, Ettl found himself stationed in the Northern I Corps in the Hue/Phu Bai area of Vietnam with the 26th General Support Group. The group was responsible for operations with the 101st Airborne Division. During the next 12 months, Ettl moved around to different fire support bases, the 101st base camp (Camp Eagle) and eventually A Shau Valley. He transferred back to the U.S. and, after 18 months in the Army, was discharged and sent home. He remembers sitting at Shinnecock Inlet and thanking God for getting him home alive.

Once settled back at home, Ettl went to work in a management training program for New York Telephone. He used his GI Bill benefits to complete two graduate degrees in night school, one in marketing from Iona College and the other in public information systems from the New York Institute of Technology. After several years with New York Telephone, he was transferred to AT&T Global Headquarters in New Jersey. While at AT&T, he attended Penn State for a graduate degree in global business management and to the University of Michigan for postgraduate certification in strategic management. During this period with AT&T, Ettl worked on projects with Lucent Technologies, the U.S. government, Bell Laboratories and the Boeing Company.

In 1984, Ettl left the business world and became a professor of management at Southampton College, Long Island University. After the campus was closed, he taught in the graduate program at Stony Brook University and the master’s program at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He joined and is still a member of the graduate faculty of the Seoul School of Integrated Science and Technology in South Korea.

In 1998, Ettl joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, for which he held assignments with the boat crew and as master instructor, flotilla commander and eventually division commander of Division 18, located on Long Island’s East End. He now spends time supporting operations at Station Shinnecock and is an active member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and 101st Airborne Association. He enjoys spending time with his five grandchildren and taking advantage of the good life in Hampton Bays.