Ronald J. Vauk, 37, of the Applied Physics Laboratory's Submarine Technology Department, was killed on Sept. 11 when terrorists crashed American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon. Vauk, a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve, was on watch at the building's Navy Command Center on the second day of his annual two-week reserve duty. "Ron was dedicated to service to his country," says his APL supervisor, Art Turriff. "As a watch officer at the Navy Command Center, he was doing what he knew to be a very important job. He will be greatly missed."
At a memorial service held at APL on Friday, Vauk's widow, Jennifer, was presented the Purple Heart. Vauk's funeral and burial took place on Saturday at Arlington National Cemetary.
Born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, Vauk earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1987. In his six years on active duty as a submarine officer, he served on two fast attack submarines and on the staff of Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet; he had been in the Naval Reserve since 1993.
Vauk joined the Laboratory in 1997 and in 1999 earned a master's degree in technology management from the University of Maryland.
He was the assistant supervisor of the Operational Assessments Group and was instrumental in expanding the group from nine staff members to 24 in roughly 10 months. Vauk recently spearheaded a series of training lectures to help each new staff member better understand the Navy, the Laboratory and their specific projects.
Vauk's technical contributions spanned a variety of projects from developing tactics for the submarine force as project manager of the SSBN Security Tactical Development Program to developing the concept of operations for the Joint Biological Early Warning System. Recently, Vauk was a principal member of a multidepartmental team that won a $6 million contract to develop the operational requirements for the Navy's next generation Multimission Maritime Aircraft. He also was involved in several initiatives associated with submarine at-sea exercises and the development of the advanced submarine combat systems.
"First and foremost, Ron was a devoted husband and a caring and attentive father," says Vauk's brother-in-law Chris DeBoy of the Space Department. "He was also quick to offer help to family and friends alike, fun to be with, someone to turn to for solid advice, an all-around class act."
In addition to his wife, Jennifer, Vauk is survived by a 3-year-old son, Liam. A second child is due in November. Other survivors include his parents, four brothers, four sisters and numerous nieces and nephews.
Donations can be made to the James Vauk Memorial Fund through First Mariner Bank at 1801 S. Clinton St., Baltimore, MD 21224.