On a hot tarmac along the Space Coast this May, a father and son duo, both veterans, shared a memorable moment decades in the making.
Douglas, a project manager in Melbourne, Florida, invited his father, Charles, to a company-sponsored Blue Angels air show knowing his father’s love for military aircraft.
Charles strolled around the airshow, navigating his way past static displays and exhibit tents, when he eventually came to a standstill, closely observing a Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon. Charles, a retired lieutenant colonel, began carefully circling the aircraft when it dawned on Douglas: his father wasn’t just admiring the aircraft, he was performing a pre-flight inspection just as he had countless times as a young fighter pilot.
Both joined the military at 26 years old almost three decades apart. Charles commissioned as a pilot with the Air Force in 1968 and Douglas enlisted as a Naval Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) in 1996.
Charles flew the F-4 Phantom II and, later, the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon. Along with the realization that his dad was performing a pre-flight check, Douglas realized he and Charles had never really discussed how he worked at a company that built one of the airplanes his dad flew. Moved by the sight of his dad next to the T-38, Douglas started the conversation. That afternoon, the pair sat down and shared their respective experiences, and every trial and triumph that came with them.
“Our customers are military members like my father and they’re depending on us to do our best work. It’s important to me we strive to make that connection each and every day, understanding what we do is personal.”
Douglas, Northrop Grumman Project Manager
They learned a lot about each other and discovered common motivations for joining the military, including their sense of duty, personal development and a love for country.
Charles flew missions in Europe and trained new fighter pilots at Vance Air Force Base, located in southern Enid, Oklahoma. Douglas spent his six-year enlistment assigned to the U.S. Special Operations Command, and was stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia. Douglas went on several combat deployments.
“The connection veterans have with one another is usually second to none, but I had never thought about the connection service members have with the defense industry,” said Douglas. “The relationship I have with my father is unique in that we have that additional bond encompassing a military heritage and legacy.”
Douglas said his legacy of service continues through his work at Northrop Grumman, and that he has a special understanding of just how much pilots rely on the company to provide quality warfighting capability. His dad’s life literally depended on it as he logged hundreds of flight hours in the cockpit of a Northrop Grumman-built airplane.
“Every time I flew, I had to have confidence the plane would not only get the mission accomplished but also return home safely,” said Charles. “I am very proud of my son for contributing to that in his new role.”
Douglas has since inherited his father’s military belongings, including his dad’s uniform and helmet, which he hopes to display at work. He is optimistic that sharing the items with colleagues may strengthen their connection to the mission, and service men and women, Northrop Grumman supports.
“The work we do here is for the warriors downrange getting the job done,” said Douglas. “Our customers are military members like my father and they’re depending on us to do our best work. It’s important to me we strive to make that connection each and every day, understanding what we do is personal.”
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