Chief Petty Officer Kevin Emley looks back at his life in two chapters: the 18 years he spent growing up in Truckee and the 20 years he’s spent in the U.S. Navy. For a few days in June, those two worlds converged when he joined the rest of his P-3 Orion crew at the Truckee Air Show & Family Festival.

“It was like — for one tiny moment in my life — they were together,” Emley said. “I lived a life in Truckee, and I lived a life in the Navy, and for a couple of days … it was like I was in the Navy in Truckee, which was kind of surreal.”

While Emley’s 20-year naval career has taken him to more places around the world than he can count, his desire to enter the military and pursue an aeronautical path are rooted in Truckee and at the small airport nestled between Interstate 80 and Highway 267. It was only fitting to close out his time in the Navy with a homecoming at the air show at Truckee Tahoe Airport. The person who made that happen, he says, was his commanding officer, Colette Lazenka. Knowing Emley was from the area, when the request came in to have naval aircraft represented at the show, Lazenka was quick to tell him she wanted him to go.


Emley rounded up a crew and began to brief them on what to expect when approaching the Truckee airport, recalling the information that’s been tucked away in his memory since flying there as a kid. Though he’s passed by the airport during visits home, it’s been long since Emley’s spent time on its tarmac. 

MISSION MAN: CPO Kevin Emley will retire after 20 years with the U.S. Navy, having amassed over 6,900 hours in the P-3 and C-130 aircraft. Here he is pictured after landing from a training mission at VP-30 (P-3 Orion Fleet Replacement Squadron, where all P-3 pilots and aircrew are trained) when he was an instructor. Courtesy photos

“It definitely was an experience flying in, and flying the exact same kind of pattern we did when I flew in the Civil Air Patrol planes or with my friend’s dad,” he said.

From a young age, he was drawn to both the military and aviation. Only 3 years old when his father, Richard “Rick” Emley, passed, Emley came to spend a lot of time with his friend, Chris White, and Chris’s dad, Charlie White. The elder White was a pilot and flew as a volunteer for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, which introduces kids 8 and older to aviation with free airplane rides. He often would invite Emley to fly along.

At 14, he joined the Civil Air Patrol as a cadet, which immersed him in the world of aviation through air shows, aeronautical education, and rescue operations. It also gave him a taste of Air Force pilot training, a path he planned to pursue. But when he learned of his grandfather’s time as an Avenger Aircrewman during World War II, he decided to join the United States Navy.

Emley’s high school years further solidified his interest in aviation when he took aeronautical science. “I would go in the afternoons to the EAA facility and learn how to work on aircraft, you know, wings or fabric or sandblasting, welding. That was an extra period we were allowed to take after school,” he recalled. “It was hands-on skill building, and to be out at the airport as a kid who was interested in flying … it wasn’t like an extra period, it was more like fun.”

When the terrorist attacks on 9/11 brought down the twin towers, it only reinforced his decision to enlist in the military. This year, however, Sept. 11 will take on a new significance for Emley as it will be his last day in service of the U.S. Navy. The following day, he’ll find himself on the path to a new chapter in life as a civilian.

He’ll leave behind a career that started at age 18, when he left for boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. He attended Aviation Enlisted Aircrew Training School and “A” School in Pensacola, Florida. After the completion of initial training, he was selected for Aviation Structural Mechanic “A” School, followed by P-3 Flight Engineer School upon graduating. The ensuing years brought continued rounds of more and more specialized training, taking him from Florida and San Diego to Washington and Hawaii.

During his five years spent at NAS (Naval Air Station) Whidbey Island in Washington with the VP-46 Grey Knights, Emley went from a trainee to a Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization Instructor Flight Engineer. He went on three six-month deployments, one to Japan performing anti-submarine patrols, and two to Southwest Asia in support of troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

TAKING FLIGHT: Following time spent at Naval Air Station Jacksonville serving as an instructor at P-3 Flight Engineer School, Emley transferred to Special Projects Patrol Squadron Two (VPU-2) Wizards located at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Oahu island. From there, he attended C-130 Load Master school at NAS Ft. Worth, Texas.

Emley ultimately reported to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 30 (VX-30) Bloodhounds, located at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, where he’s served as a Leading Chief Petty Officer, a P-3 Instructor Flight Engineer, K/C-130T Load Master, and RQ-23 UAV technician.

Upon retiring, Emley will reside in Reno. Before starting his new chapter, he’ll enjoy some family time with his mom, Lynn, as he decides his next move.

His homecoming has Emley feeling retrospective about spending a childhood connected to aviation as well as his two decades with the Navy. It will be bittersweet as he returns to his hometown family while leaving behind the family he’s gained in the Navy. He hopes to inspire younger generations to pursue the military as a career path so that they can have the same positive experience.

“There’s a lot of jobs in the military that you can do that you cannot do anywhere else,” he said.

For instance, Emley currently works in weapons testing, something he never would’ve dreamed of as a child. “I see the future technology — like, the pinnacle of technology — being developed right in front of me, which, growing up in Truckee, which was a fairly sleepy town back in the day, no one ever really thought about that.”

During the air show, Emley spoke with as many cadets as he could and shared his experience. 

“To tell a cadet, ‘Hey, I was a cadet here, too. I sat in the same building. I listened to speakers,” he said. “I think that part of what I never absorbed when I was that young was that these people that came and talked were larger than life to me. There was no real connection that I could do it.”  


  • Juliana Demarest

    Juliana Demarest is a Jersey girl with ink in her blood. She fell in love with print journalism at a young age in the '80s when her Uncle Tony would take her to "work" at his weekly paper. In 1997, she co-founded a weekly newspaper in North Jersey. One day, she went to photograph a local farmer for a news story. She ended up marrying him and leaving journalism to become a farmer's wife. In 2010, they packed up their two children and headed to Truckee in pursuit of the outdoor life. She didn't realize just how much she missed journalism until she joined Moonshine in 2018 after taking time off to be mom. Connect with Juliana

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