One employee shares her experience balancing engineering with life as a reservist.
My Word: Survival, Strength and Service
By Adam Wise, as told to Kellyann Kerns
Since a young age, I wanted to protect the world.
This was in part due to my family's U.S. military service spanning nine generations. There was no doubt in my mind that I would continue the tradition.
Growing up, I spent every summer at my grandfather’s cattle farm in Texas where everyone learned to shoot so they could protect the herd from predators. Taught by my father, a U.S. Marines sniper, precision shooting came naturally to me. Before I graduated high school I enlisted in the U.S. Army, knowing I could use my marksmanship skills to protect others, and I was quickly recruited as a sniper.
Life happened fast after that, and immediately after basic training, I was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of the infantry, I surveyed and scouted areas, ensuring everything was clear for troop movement.
During those two years in Iraq, I led my team by example, taking on the most difficult tasks to protect mission security. Even with careful clearing and diligence, there was still a lot of unexpected danger. I have been knifed, shot and within the direct blast radius of 16 roadside improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs.
July 15, 2006, was my last mission. During the Battle of Ramadi, I was at the front of the pack — the first line of defense — when I felt an explosion hit me on my right side. Adrenaline coursing, I continued giving orders through the chaos until the recovering unit arrived. Two days later I woke up in the U.S. military field hospital in Balad, Iraq, with broken bones throughout my right leg, collar, scapula, humerus and vertebrae, as well as fractured ribs and a cracked skull — complicated further with mass internal bleeding and a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
After two years and six surgeries, I was awarded the Purple Heart then medically discharged.
Despite all of this, I did not want to leave my command. Like many military members, I felt lost after separating from the service.
Due to my TBI, the neurosurgeon determined that my future job prospects were limited, recommending I avoid stress and focus on lifestyle management. I took that as a challenge, and in 2010 enrolled in the electrical engineering program at Western Kentucky University, graduating five years later. Proudly displaying my degree, I snapped a picture showing that I would not let my diagnosis determine my future.
While I will always be recovering, my story is not over. In 2022, I started a new chapter with Northrop Grumman in Roy, Utah. At this site, and across the entire company, I found an incredible community of veterans still serving the mission every day. As a systems engineer on the Sentinel program, I know that I’m doing what I set out to do from the start: protect the world for generations to come.
A Dream Interrupted, A Community Found
Otis was unsure of his future when the college he was attending dropped aerospace engineering from its curriculum.
Continuing the Mission
I started out in the infantry and later became an air traffic control (ATC) officer.