Capt. Rodney A. Knutson, a Billings, Montana native, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1957.
Following his tour as a Marine, he graduated from the University of Montana (Eastern) in 1962.
Capt. Knutson reported to Pensacola, fla. as an Aviation Officer Candidate, receiving his commission in 1963 and his wings the following year. His first fleet assignment was the fighter Squadron 84 flying F4B ‘Phantoms’.
Capt. Knutson deployed with Carrier Air Wing Seven to the Western Pacific aboard USS Independence (CV-62) in 1965.
In October, 1965, he was shot down on his 77th combat mission over North Vietnam and taken as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese. He was released seven and one-half years later on February 12, 1973. He served with Fighter Squadrons 121 and 191 deploying to the Western Pacific with Carrier Air Wing 15 aboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43) in 1977.
He was the executive officer of fighter Squadron 191 when it was disestablished in 1978. His next assignment was as commanding officer of enlisted personnel, Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, Calif. While at China Lake, Capt Knutson flew as project test pilot to assist in the Navy’s latest weapons development.
He reported to Fighter Squadron 126 in 1980 as executive officer and subsequently commanding officer. He then served on USS Ranger (CV-6 1) as navigator deploying to the Western Pacific in 1983.
Capt. Knutson made Western Pacific Deployments in 1987 and 1988 as commanding officer, USS Mobile (LKA-115) and commander, Amphibious Squadron One. While assigned to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, Capt. Knutson was deputy director, Aircraft Carrier and Naval Air Stations Program Division (OP-55B).
He became the Center Commander of NTC in July, 1990 and retired from the Navy on June 8, 1993.
During his career, Capt. Knutson received the Silver Star (two awards); the Legion of Merit (three awards); the Distinguished Flying Cross; the Bronze Star (four awards); the Purple Heart (two awards); the Meritorious Service Medal; the Air Medal (six awards); the Navy Commendation Medal (two awards); the Prisoner of War Medal and various campaign awards.
Capt. Knutson is married to the former Rishelle Riedel of Denver, Colo. They have two daughters, Kalee and Kamee.
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