Celebrating the Strong Tie Between Engineering and Military Service
National Engineers Week is celebrated annually the week that includes George Washington's birthday (February 22). Many consider Washington the nation's first engineer because of his surveying work. Before he became the first U.S. president, he was General Washington, proving the link between engineering and the military goes back to the country's founding.
The tie between military service and the engineering community also goes back to our company's beginning as founder Fred Rentschler was its first veteran. Today, Pratt & Whitney's Engineering organization includes nearly 300 self-identified U.S.-military veterans. It's worth noting that those who identify themselves as veterans and those who choose not to not only bring valuable skills to ensure the company's success, but also – because of their service – are truly the heroic men and women of Pratt & Whitney Engineering.
"People join the military from all walks of life," said Dan Ward of Military Engines' Advanced Programs and president of the "UTC-4-Vets" Employee Resource Group. "In the service, they come together through teamwork and many become leaders, as well as develop a wide variety of skills that we're looking for here. It really doesn't happen anywhere else."
Pratt & Whitney engineers with military service point to a variety of ways in which their "prior-life" experiences serve them well in their second careers. In the Military Engines Engineering organization this can be especially true, given their connection to Pratt & Whitney products while serving and now in their careers here.
Fabian Betancourt, a design engineer in Hot Section Engineering primarily supporting F100 engines, served in the U.S. Marines for 5 ½ years as an aircraft mechanic and worked primarily on helicopters. He also was in the Connecticut Army National Guard while getting his engineering degree at the University of Connecticut. "My military background today helps in keeping me organized with daily tasks," he said. "I developed a commitment to completing the mission while serving and that has translated over to completing my work here."
Ron Barthelt of Radar Engineering in the Signature Discipline Group in West Palm Beach joined the company eight months ago after 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as an airborne radar technician aboard AWACS and J-STARS surveillance aircraft. "All the aircraft I flew on had Pratt & Whitney engines and they never failed to bring us home safely, mission after mission," he said. Barthelt compiled more than 5,000 flight hours while being deployed on more than 15 tours of duty in the Middle East. "Radar principles are the same in the air or on the ground, so all the technical training the military invested in me has transferred here," he said. "In addition, the integrity and discipline I learned in the service is serving me well with the volume of work and our customer focus."
Jason Quinones, a senior technician in West Palm Beach, is working toward a mechanical engineering degree through the Employee Scholar Program. Quinones, who joined the company about a year ago, spent 12 years in the Marine Corps as a combat radio technician, before advancing to communication maintenance chief. He said that while the military and private sector operate under extremely different environments, the mindset of getting the job done and doing it right is very much the same. "I didn't get to leave the Marines under my terms due to a medical retirement," Quinones added. "I may not be with my friends on the front lines anymore, but I'm supporting them still by working on products they count on."
Kimberley Hagerty, transformation manager, Hot Section Module Center, spent 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a chief master sergeant and chief of strategic planning and analysis. "That's the role I'm doing now," she said. "Pratt & Whitney has the most technologically advanced products in the market, and the military works with the most technologically advanced products in the world. When you leave the service, you want to continue to work with the best of the best – and I do here. My military work was focused on military force planning for all the services, which required real-time visibility into a global force and a lot of synchronization. That's what I'm doing now, only from a manufacturing standpoint. I am developing the strategies that will equip all of our Module Centers with the right tools to ensure parts are where they need to be when they need to be there.
"The core values of the Air Force – integrity, service before self and excellence in all you do – align with Pratt & Whitney's values," she added. "I wanted to come work for an organization that shared those values."
Eric Hoy is manager Military Engines' Externals Validation, ensuring all externals parts meet engineering certification standards. Hoy graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and spent nearly 12 years in active duty as a surface warfare officer, with six years of sea duty during multiple tours on minesweepers and on the battleship USS Missouri during Desert Storm. While Hoy's background is in naval architecture, joining an aerospace company wasn't a stretch to him as he believes the skills are transferrable, particularly as a project engineer. "Whether I served on a small boat or a large ship, I learned how to interact with different people and that has helped me in my career here," he said. "In the service, you learn teamwork fast, and it's a skill that directly translates to the Pratt & Whitney environment."
Steve Boothe, an engineer in FaLCEN Externals Structures supporting both operational and developmental military engine programs, was an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force for seven years. While there, he worked on F-15 and F-16 electrical and environmental systems that directly interfaced with the aircrafts' Pratt & Whitney engines. After getting his mechanical engineering degree, he joined Pratt & Whitney last October. "The military is known for instilling valuable skills in those who serve – things like discipline, teamwork, work ethic, attention to detail and analytical thinking," Boothe said. "What I learned during my service career should serve me well here."
Ward noted that there's a network of nearly 500 employees, veterans and non-veterans who belong to Pratt & Whitney's UTC-4-Vets. "We strive to engage all employees to help us achieve our objectives to honor and recognize veteran service, recruit and develop veterans and give back to veterans in the community," he said. "A big part of what we do is develop onboarding programs so our veterans are comfortable through their transition and don't feel they're all by themselves. Many of them miss the camaraderie and experiences they had in the military. We work to give them the community and support they deserve and earned."