MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Cherry Point is home to thousands of service members filling a variety of roles in support of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. With such a large number of service members spread across dozens of squadrons, new faces can be seen around every corner.
It was for this reason that when the wing surgeon of 2nd MAW, the executive officer of Marine Aircraft Group 14 and the flight surgeon of Marine Attack Squadron 542, discovered that their roots were in the same small town of less than 8,000 people and they sat in the same seats in Richard Samsa’s physical science class, they were surprised.
“I was very surprised to find two other people working in the same chain of command, at the same time both from my home town,” said Cmdr. Raymond Batz, the wing surgeon.
Their stories intersect in Grove City, Pa., a small town 60 miles North of Pittsburgh, where the three men attended Grove City Area High School over a ten-year span before going off to college and exploring their career options.
“Coming from a high school that only graduates between 180 to 200 students per class, I was not expecting to find three men all working toward the same mission within 2nd MAW,” said Batz. “It is really an amazing thing; I still get chills down my spine thinking about it.”
Finding out they shared a hometown, the men dove deeper into each other’s history and discovered they all grew up within five city blocks of each other.
“To know that three such high-skilled professionals hailed from our small school and ended up on the same base is pretty amazing,” said Richard Samsa, the physical science teacher who instructed all three men at Grove City High School.
Batz, the oldest of the three men, graduated GCHS in 1988 before attending Grove City College. While in high school, Batz played on the Grove City Area High School ‘Fighting Eagles’ football team and participated in several events on the track and field team.
“Ray Batz was in my first advanced chemistry class,” said Samsa. “Ray and his classmates helped me understand much about chemistry, I think they taught me as much as I taught them.”
His ‘Fighting Eagles’ track and field teammate, Lt. Col. Bill Sauerland, graduated GCHS in 1990. He went on to attend Pennsylvania State University graduating in 1994 and earning his commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
“I remember Bill being particularly impressive in leading his classmates,” said Samsa. “He was a top student who was well spoken and very well respected.”
The youngest of the three men graduated GCHS in 1999. Lt. Ian Uber, like the other two graduates, went on to attend college before commissioning in the Navy. Uber graduated the Naval Academy in 2006 and began training for the Navy’s Medical Corps. Uber continued his education at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda, Md. and the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
“Ian Uber was one of the first chemistry students who tried and succeeded in taking the AP chemistry exam,” said Samsa. “He was a great example. He stayed after school several times to learn concepts we did not have time to go over.”
The three men who grew up within five blocks of each other had spread out across the country pursuing their dreams, only to find that although their lives had taken them to different places, they all ended up stationed at Cherry Point.
Batz serves as the wing surgeon for 2nd MAW, Sauerland is the executive officer for MAG 14 and Uber is the flight surgeon for VMA-542.
“The fact that these three men have achieved as much as they have is not a surprise to me. They were top students in their classes,” said Samsa. “The fact that I am not surprised does not diminish my pride in their accomplishments. Their God-given abilities have been well-polished by many teachers and military officers over the years and I am very proud of whatever small role I had in their refinement.”
“We all grew up in the same neighborhood and now we are working together on the same Navy-Marine Corps team, within five blocks of each other again,” said Batz. “It is an interesting and unique touch point, and I’m glad we got the chance to record it because next year we could all be in different places again.”