Stanhope Cotton Ring was born a Navy junior in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1902. His father, James Andrew Ring, had begun his naval service as a ship's clerk on board the frigate Guerrierre on the South American station in 1867 and rose to the rank of commodore in the Navy Supply Corps.
Stan Ring graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1923 and, after an initial tour on board the battleship Colorado (BB-45), reported to Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. His first squadron tour was with Fighting Squadron Five, attached first to the aircraft tender Wright (AV-1) and then to the new carrier Lexington (CV-2). Following his first flying tour, a confident and charismatic Lieutenant Ring was assigned as aide to Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, the first Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, and also served as a naval aide in the Herbert Hoover White House.