Makin Island Sailors Hold Memorial FOD Walk-down in Honor of Nimitz 'Handler' 
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ethan Tracey, USS Makin Island Public Affairs 
USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea - Sailors and Marines deployed aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) honored the life of the Navy's first female aircraft handling officer with a memorial foreign object damage (FOD) walk-down on the ship's flightdeck, Jan. 30.

Makin Island Sailors and Marines searched for FOD while remembering the life of Lt. Cmdr. Regina (Rogers) Mills, who was struck and killed by a vehicle when she stopped to help others involved in a traffic collision in Gig Harbor, Wash., Jan. 23.

At the time of her death, Mills was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in Bremerton, Wash., as the ship's aircraft handling officer.

The idea for the Makin Island FOD memorial walk-down came from similar events aboard Nimitz and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) earlier in the week.

"She was like a sister to me," said Lt. Albert Guajardo, Makin Island's "mini boss" and fuels bos'n who organized the event. "If I could describe her in one word it would be compassionate."

Guajardo said Mills always saw FOD walk-downs as a means to clear her head and prepare herself for the daily grind of flight operations, and a memorial FOD walk-down in her honor was appropriate.

Chief Warrant Officer Alvaro R. Angel, Makin Island's aviation maintenance officer, said he was stationed with Mills aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and Nimitz.

"'Reggie,' as I fondly knew her, was a trail blazer; a kind and happy person who excelled in the rough environment of the aircraft carrier flight deck," said Angel. "She will be sorely missed in the world of naval aviation."

Mills became the Navy's first female aviation deck limited duty officer (LDO) July 1, 2000. She was assigned as the air bos'n on board USS Tarawa (LHD 1) in San Diego from August 2000 to November 2002. Her next tour was with Expeditionary Strike Group 3 from November 2002 to December 2004.

In December 2004, Mills transferred to Nimitz as the flight deck officer where she completed two deployments in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. From December 2007 to December 2009 she served with Afloat Training Group Pacific in San Diego, to provide afloat training to the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.

Mills reported for her second tour aboard Nimitz in December 2009 to serve as the Navy's first female aircraft handling officer.

She leaves behind a daughter and husband and will be remembered as a caring person to all that were under her charge.

Makin Island is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
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