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Helm yeah, he gives a ship. Meet the sailor behind popular Army-Navy spirit videos

Navy spirit video ahead of the 2017 Army-Navy game.
Rylan Tuohy

By BROCK VERGAKIS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: December 7, 2017

NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — As a high school student in rural western Kentucky, Rylan Tuohy was torn:

Should he pursue his passion in film and photography, or embrace his love for science and service and follow in his father and brother's footsteps and attend the Naval Academy?

When he got his acceptance letter from Annapolis, his decision was quickly made and he never bothered to finish his application to the University of Southern California's renowned school of cinematic arts. But that was far from the end of Tuohy's budding career in visual arts, much to the liking of millions of people who have watched his humorous videos devoted to the Army-Navy football game and life in Annapolis on YouTube.

His latest video titled "Helm Yeah" is the first he's produced for the Army-Navy game since graduating in 2016 and becoming an energy manager at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth. The video has racked up more than 100,000 views in the past week and shows sailors and a series of academy alumni like former NFL player Roger Staubach and Sen. John McCain saying "Helm Yeah" as a sort of rallying cry ahead of Saturday's game.

While his previous videos focused more on midshipmen and Annapolis, Tuohy, an ensign, said it was important to him to dedicate this one to the fleet. Much of it was shot aboard the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and shows a sort of highlight reel of various sailors doing their jobs and saying "Helm Yeah."

Tuohy said this video was his greatest logistical challenge because he was coordinating obtaining video from a wide variety of commands such as the Blue Angels and individuals such as five-time paralympic Gold Medalist Lt. Brad Snyder. He also did all of this in his spare time after work and on weekends, just like he did at the academy.

For Tuohy, producing the videos allows him to express his creative side. He's been hooked on film making ever since winning a national Boy Scout video competition in high school. Aside from an intensive three-week program at Kentucky's Governor's School for the Arts, he hasn't had any formal training in video production

"When I first was accepted to the academy, I said, OK, here we go. I’m going to put film making on hold for four years. I’d be willing to do it and then find a way to bring it back in later," said Tuohy, who now lives in Norfolk. "And I was really wrong."

Tuohy began making Army-Navy spirit videos just a few months after arriving in Annapolis in 2012, giving him an outlet while he pursued a degree in applied physics. Each year his videos grew in popularity as he tied popular culture references and humor together with sophisticated scripts, photography and editing.

Tuohy made the phrase "We give a ship" popular in Navy circles in his 2014 spirit spot, which has been viewed more than 400,000 times.

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But he became an Internet sensation his senior year in 2015 with the video "Naptown Funk" that was a play on musician Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk" and pays tribute to Annapolis. It's been viewed more than 7 million times and has aired on national cable news networks.

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That was followed by a Star Wars parody video in which Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson plays CNObi-wan Kenobi and defeats the Army version of Darth Vader after a Midshipman is rescued from West Point.

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Tuohy said he has four more years on his Navy contract and hasn't decided what he'll do when that time's up, whether it's signing up for another tour or pursuing something media-related. But it's clear he could have options.

In addition to making spirit videos, he also has a website, http://www.rylantuohy.com, that highlights his wedding and engagement photography. Fans of "Helm Yeah" also can purchase T-shirts and koozies with the phrase.

"Many people, I think have the idea that when your’e in the Navy, it’s all you do," he said. "You eat, breathe and live it. And I’ve been able to sort of find this way of continuing my passions while also continuing to serve, and I think that has been tremendous and been a huge excitement for me.

"So that’s why I say taking it a tour at a time, because if I can still keep doing the things that I really find are my passions and what I enjoy, why not keep doing them?"

©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Rylan Tuohy, Class of 2016
U.S. NAVY

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