Serving in Afghanistan, thinking of RIT

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RIT received a very special gift from Christopher Hurley ’81, left, and Luke Lilevjen ’03.


One evening at the Combined Joint Operations Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, a Navy commander and an Air Force captain struck up a conversation. The subject turned to hockey and the two discovered that they were both graduates of RIT.

As a result of that encounter, U.S. Navy Commander Christopher Hurley ’81 (criminal justice) and U.S. Air Force Captain Luke Lilevjen ’03 (chemistry) decided to honor their alma mater as well as RIT’s Air Force ROTC Unit and Hurley’s fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, Xi Zeta Chapter) in an unusual way. The two sent RIT President Bill Destler a U.S. flag that was flown at the U.S. National Support Element, headquarters, International Security Assistance Force, Kabul. A commemorative certificate and a photo of the two alumni accompanied the flag.

“We are tremendously honored by this remarkable gesture,” says Destler. “It is extraordinary that these two would take the time to send us such a meaningful symbol. We are very proud of them and all of our alumni serving in the military, and our best wishes go out to them.”

Both men were involved in athletics at RIT, although neither played hockey in the Tiger uniform. Lilevjen was on crew, and Hurley was a student trainer for Head Athletic Trainer Ray Bell from 1977 to 1981.

“I worked every sport in my four years, but was especially keen to work all the hockey games,” says Hurley. “I believe I was the first student trainer Ray ever assigned to travel with the men’s hockey team. I just missed the ‘hey day’ of Division II and now Division I.”

A native of Colorado Springs, Colo., Lilevjen has been in Afghanistan since May. His responsibilities include tracking and responding to civilian casualties. He expects to return to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, N.M., around Thanksgiving. Lilevjen is planning to become a military chaplain.

Hurley received his commission in 1982 and his Navy career includes 11 years of active duty and 16 years in the Navy Reserve. He was mobilized in January 2009 and sent to Ft. Jackson, S.C., for Army training prior to deploying to Afghanistan in March.

Hurley serves as key leader engagement staff officer in the Information Operations Branch, preparing information strategy, planning, preparation and post-meeting analysis for the commander, International Security Assistance Force and the command group.

When he returns to the states in October, Hurley will be stationed at NR Commander Second Fleet Expanded Missions, a Navy Reserve unit in Norfolk, Va.