It’s not a stretch to say that Jeff Hirsch’s military career put him on the road to the Maryland Department of Transportation.
After enlisting in the Navy after high school, he won a ROTC scholarship to New York Maritime College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in transportation. And his military career, which spanned 31 years and included four deployments in the Middle East, focused on supply and logistics, which involve transportation.
“Both organizations (the military and MDOT) deal with a lot of different people and infrastructure,” said Hirsch, who has served as an assistant transportation secretary since January. “Both require collaboration. There’s no question the military taught me a lot of leadership skills I tap into right now.”
Hirsch’s MDOT office harkens back to the military, with walls covered by photos and memorabilia from his Navy career, as well as his late father’s. Arnold Jacob Hirsch served in World War II as a surface warfare officer and later became a pilot. He graduated from the same Naval Academy class as Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard. One of Jeff Hirsch’s favorite keepsakes in his father’s watch, which he recently had refurbished.
Hirsch also taught seamanship and navigation for 10 summers at the academy as part of the US Navy Reserves Merchant Marine Program and is the third generation of his family to serve during wartime. His maternal grandfather was in the Army and fought in World War I.
Hirsch, who also has experience as a firefighter/EMT and was assigned to a Federal Emergency Management Agency search and rescue team in New York City after 9/11, retired from the Navy in 2014 as a captain.
Among items in his office is a rug he got in Afghanistan that says “Don’t Give up the Ship;” a “blood chit,’” a notice carried by military members that’s intended for civilians they encounter so they can get help; and a poster honoring Shepard, who he played golf with at age 9.
“I was very happy to serve,” Hirsch said. “I learned a lot during those experiences and those things have prepared me for future jobs.”
Given all this, it’s not a surprise that Veteran’s Day means a great deal to him.
“I feel very fortunate to be a veteran,” Hirsch said. “The camaraderie that I’ve experienced with my fellow veterans will maintain and be with me the rest of my life,” Hirsch said. “So, I have a great appreciation every year for Veteran’s Day and all that surrounds it.
“I want to give a shout out to all veterans, especially here at MDOT, Happy Veteran’s Day – and thank you for your service.”