A degree at Tech has led this engineering alum to Iraq, and now, to Washington, D.C., as a colonel in the Air Force.
Title: Air Force Colonel, Commander 189th Mission Support Group
Hometown: New Sarpy
Currently reside in: Little Rock, Ark., but moving to Washington, D.C., summer 2010.
Degree and year of graduation: Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering, 1987
What brought me to Tech: Growing up in South Louisiana, it seemed that most everyone went to a college close to home - Southeastern, Nicholls, LSU, etc. I was a big LSU Tigers football fan but didn't want to be just a number at a large university. I originally planned to go to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, but due to cost, my parents couldn't afford to send me, so I turned my focus a little closer to home. After a little searching, I found Louisiana Tech; the university had a good engineering program, and it was just the right fit with about 10,000 students at the time I enrolled.
How I chose my career: After graduating from Tech in 1987, I spent some time doing nuclear power work, but I grew up always wanting to be a part of the military. Through an odd series of events, I landed in the Arkansas Air National Guard. I didn't know the ANG existed until 1990 after a friend of mine, also a Louisiana Tech grad, enlisted. I joined just before Desert Shield/Storm. He was soon discharged due to medical reasons, and I have been a part of it ever since. We joke that I am his only contribution to the Arkansas Air National Guard.
The biggest challenge of being responsible more than 420 Guardsmen: The biggest challenge with Guardsman is keeping them trained and up to speed in our current environment. With the onslaught of technology, our systems, training requirements, regulations, instructions, etc, change with lightning speed and to keep someone up to date and current that you see only 39 days a year is really, really, tough. We have some outstanding men and women who, as Guardsmen, struggle to balance a civilian job, families, school and the military and deploying for up to a year overseas. The pace at which changes occur in ALL facets of their lives is incredible, thereby increasing the challenges that I and all of leadership deals with daily.
The most memorable experience of commanding a squadron in Iraq: This question brings back a flood of thoughts because the four to five month experience may be equivalent to what someone at home may have in a year or two. The most memorable isn't necessarily a single memory, but I would have to say it's the collective memory of the men and women who served with me, like Chief Master Sgt. Shane Clark, the Fire Chief and a great leader; TSgt Erica Jaramillo, also a firefighter, but she tutored many others in Math while there so they would continue working towards college degrees; Major General Blair Hansen, a tough as nails wing commander who led us to do and give more than we thought was possible. Many others that did great things, regardless of the circumstances, time of day or stressful situation. Also, in addition to the people, the events that occurred during our time such as the first Iraqi free elections, the rocket and mortar attacks. There are so many stories I could tell; I know they will always be with me because those experiences and memories, in some way, shape who I am today.
Where I see myself five years from now: I will be eligible for retirement in about three years, so I have many options. If the military has future plans for me, I may stay in a little longer, but if not, I will retire and set out on a trek to complete some things on my "bucket list": hiking all 2100 miles of the Appalachian Trail, working at a Napa Valley winery to experience the entire wine making, and biking on the Continental Divide. There are so many great things out there, and I want to experience some of them while I am still young and physically capable.
My best memories of Tech: I probably shouldn't put those in print.... but it is definitely the people I met and some of the things that we did together. I met people from all over the world and the United States and remain friends with several of those today, even though once again, we are scattered throughout the country. May I mention a specific weekend road trip to New Orleans? Probably shouldn't.....
My advice to college freshmen today: I think I would have three things to tell them. 1) Become critical thinkers, 2) think for yourself, and 3) continue your education at every opportunity. In working with the 20-somethings today, I find that they do not possess critical thinking skills; when they encounter a problem that is different from the expectation or text book answer they STOP instead of seeking out another solution or striving to understand the issue. Also, don't take what people/the news media/editorials/internet sources tell you as fact; think about the issue and what is being said, do some research and come to your own conclusions. When I say, "continue your education," that doesn't necessarily equal a higher degree. It means look, watch, read and listen to the world around you and develop a deeper understanding of what, why and how things occur. Seek to understand the root of the problems, not just the symptoms.