How did you find yourself working for Northrop Grumman?
I started working at the company, when it was Thiokol, in 1970 (making $2.45 an hour, by the way). This was just four years before we won the contract to build the rocket motors for the Space Shuttle Program. Fifty years later, and now Northrop Grumman, I’m with the same company. I’ve worked a number of different positions, but in 1989, I was hired to run the Promontory, Utah, ranch, and it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
How on earth does a ranch benefit a rocket factory?
The ranch spans about 6,000 acres and houses several water tanks and a couple dozen flowing wells that serve as the main water system feeding the entire Promontory plant where more than 1,800 employees work. This is the same plant where we manufacture the rocket motors for NASA’s Space Launch System as well as the new Common Boost Segment (CBS) motors for our OmegA rocket.
The most important part of my job is to monitor the water, to make sure nothing and nobody bothers it. Without water, we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do. The mountain the ranch sits on provides the majority of the water needed to run the plant – keeping things cool, providing water for the restrooms and more. If the water became contaminated, we’d have a significant challenge to keep things going as the ranch provides roughly a half a million gallons of water a day to the plant.
I’ve been overseer of the property now for over 30 years, and did so while raising my three kids here. I will tell you, they all learned how to work, thanks to the ranch. I’ve been very, very fortunate.
What else do you do for the company?
Aside from the ranch, supporting the programs and the company from behind the scenes has been my life’s work. As a heavy equipment operator, I’ve supported the roads and grounds team at the plant throughout my career, bringing in tractors and equipment for projects when needed. I make fire breaks on the plant in the spring by removing vegetation and exposing bare ground – this protects the plant in case of fire by keeping it from creeping across the break and spreading. I also remove snow in the winter and even lay cement at the plant when needed.
In my 50-year career, I’ve had a good job and a good life. I’ve met some of our company leaders who came out to the ranch to visit, including Bob Crippen, when he was president of Thiokol. A memory that really sticks out for me is when I had a heart problem in 1999 — Bob Crippen came out to the ranch to make sure I was okay. That meant so much. He was the pilot on the very first space shuttle mission, but he took time to check on me.
After 50 Years with the Company, do you have plans to retire?
My answer to that is, “No, not really.” The day I wake up and feel like I can’t do my job is the day I’ll decide to retire. This is more than a job for me, it’s my home and it’s my passion. I feel like I am the luckiest man alive.
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