On his graduation day, however, Chris LaPlatney was about to start a 24-year-long career.
LaPlatney graduated from Auburn in 1988 with a degree in civil engineering.
Immediately following his graduation, he was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy. Since then, he has spent 24 years serving in various capacities, culminating in his current position of commanding officer.
LaPlatney said he knew early on that he wanted to go into the military, but at the start of his college search, he still wasn’t exactly sure where he would go.
“I had a navy reserve office training corps scholarship, and Auburn has a Navy ROTC unit,” he said. “I decided to visit, and it didn't take very long to decide that Auburn is where I wanted to be. I like the combination of the big university and all the opportunity that provided with the small town feel of Auburn.”
LaPlatney said his experience at Auburn prepared him for his career in the navy through the value of the education he received, the technical rigor of the program he graduated from and the leadership skills and training he gained from serving in the ROTC unit.
“When I went there, Auburn had one of the largest ROTC units in the country, and I thought that was a benefit to me as well because having the opportunity to interface with as many other midshipmen as I did at Auburn helped me form lifetime friendships,” he said. “Those social interactions served me well during my time in the military.”
As a commanding officer, LaPlatney and his team of biologists, archaeologists, foresters, and engineers provide facility support to various military commands in the northwest region.
“In my line of work now, I don't know that there is a typical day,” LaPlatney said.
LaPlatney and his team of engineers manage construction projects, maintenance and facilities, environmental planning and compliance, energy conservation role, and anti terrorism and force protection.
“Every day brings new challenges, and I think that's one of the reasons I love my job and have continued for as long as I have in my military career,” LaPlatney said.
LaPlatney also said that many of the same principles valued in the military were first impressed upon him during his time at Auburn.
“One of the things I liked about Auburn was the guiding principles that were encompassed in the Auburn creed,” he said. “I was impressed with those when I was a student at Auburn, and I've tried to live my life in a way that was consistent with those. If they take advantage of all the opportunities the university provides and live according to the Auburn creed, I think it will serve them well in whatever career path they choose to follow.”
LaPlatney said both Auburn and the military taught him the importance of tradition.
“We honor traditions in the military,” he said. “It's those traditions at Auburn that not only bind us to the students of the past but, knowing those traditions will continue, bind us to the students who come after us. We can talk about the fight song, Tiger Walk or Toomer's corner. It’s those shared experiences that we have through the honoring of the traditions that really make Auburn a special place.”
LaPlatney currently lives on the west coast in the state of Washington. Over the course of his military career, he has been stationed across the eastern seaboard and overseas in Greece, Spain and Guam.
“Being in the military, we travel around a lot, and it's amazing how often that I'll see people wearing Auburn sweatshirt and Auburn hats. Whenever I interact with them, I'm guaranteed to get a smile and a ‘War Eagle,’” he said. “I think it truly solidifies that Auburn is a family and wherever you go, you can always find members of the Auburn family somewhere nearby.