Disabled vets find great new careers in technology
Tenacity and a strong will to succeed pave the way to worthwhile civilian careers
"Service experience can be translated to civilian work in many related fields." – Theresa Boyd, U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs VetSuccess program
By Wendy Helfenbaum
The U.S. military is known as one of the best-trained workforces in the world, but techies leaving the service may have to get creative to translate their specialized skills into new civilian careers. Disabled veterans must also deal with how their disabilities may affect their work, and hope they can find forward-looking employers to accommodate them.
Many former service members have worked with, designed and repaired very advanced technology, notes Theresa Boyd, assistant director for rehabilitation services for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Vocational, Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program, "VetSuccess." Their service experience can be translated to civilian work in many related fields, Boyd says. VR&E's website, www.vetsuccess.gov, includes information about the program and an electronic job board that links vets to potential employers.
VetSuccess works to help vets with service-connected disabilities prepare for and find employment. The program offers vocational rehabilitation, evaluations, career and readjustment counseling, training, job-seeking skills, placement and follow-up for vets transitioning into the civilian workplace.
Last year VetSuccess placed close to 6,000 disabled vets in professional, technical and managerial positions. The program has five pathways to employment: re-employment for vets returning to a position; rapid access to employment; employment through college-level, technical or on-the-job training; self-employment; and independent living for vets with very serious disabilities.
Over twenty-three years in veterans' affairs Boyd has seen a huge shift toward focus on the veteran population. "The President has placed a great deal of emphasis on it, and employers are really embracing the hiring of veterans," she says.
It was not always that way. "It was once very hard to get employers to consider veterans with disabilities. But the wave of patriotism that came with 9/11 has helped us get employers onboard and very interested in making sure those veterans can easily transition back into the civilian workforce."
Boyd notes that her department uses the military skills translator chart (www.military.com/transition) to determine the type of training a vet might need. "A lot of times vets come in very well trained in IT, for example, but they may not have some civilian network certifications that are required. We work with them to provide that."
At CACI International, vets understand the customers and their missions
CACI International Inc (Fairfax, VA) provides professional services and IT solutions in areas of defense, intelligence, homeland security and IT modernization. The company has some 13,700 employees, and 585 of them are disabled veterans.
Simply getting used to a civilian career can be an intimidating prospect for any transitioning military, not only disabled vets, says Larry Clifton, SVP of recruiting and workforce planning at CACI.
"At the same time, this generation is very technically savvy, so breaking into the tech field is not as difficult for many disabled veterans who have a technical aptitude," Clifton explains. "Despite a disability, many service members tackle challenges with a determination to excel. This driven dedication can make disabled veterans a success in the civilian sector workforce, and CACI will continue to make hiring disabled veterans one of our top priorities."
Clifton notes that CACI works to make diversity a seamless part of its corporate culture. "We understand that a diverse workforce makes us stronger when competing in a global economy," he says. "CACI has always been a military-friendly employer and many of our employees have prior military experience."
Veterans, he says, "fit into our company culture because they understand our customers and their missions. They have the core values of teamwork, integrity and dedication that promote the success of our organization.
"Disabled veterans in particular have faced and overcome many challenges. They bring a unique perspective and drive to their work."
Jared Simmons is working through brain injury at CACI
Jared Simmons grew up in a small town north of Baton Rouge, LA. He attended Baton Rouge Community College from 2000 to 2002, receiving an associates degree in business technology.
Today Simmons works as a senior electronic technician at CACI International. His work includes fielding, installing and troubleshooting advanced equipment for military use: satellite dishes, fiber-optic cables and network management materials. "I am a frequent-flying, travel-report-writing, site-advising team player who does what it takes to accomplish any job," he explains with pride. His accomplishments include working with and overcoming a traumatic brain injury.
Simmons enlisted in the Army in 2004, and served as a military intelligence systems maintainer/integrator for six years. His disability began with an incident during his tour in Iraq in 2007. "I was inside a dining facility that was hit by a 240-mm rocket," he says. He was thrown ten meters, knocked unconscious and wounded by shrapnel. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury, but that was not diagnosed until he left the army several years later after a deployment to Afghanistan.
"When I came home after my tour in Iraq I knew something was wrong. I had forgotten family members and had almost no short-term memory," Simmons recalls. "I used to play a child's memory card game for hours, working to get my brain back to what it was before."
Simmons' condition is much improved and he began his CACI career a year ago after finding the position listed online. "I was a little worried about being a productive member of such a high-level and technically diverse team, but I had on-the-job mentoring that let me hit the ground running," he says.
"I don't expect to be treated differently, and I don't let my disability keep me from doing the job I enjoy."
Simmons' training and work in the service were excellent preparations for his current job. "We are trained to work at high speed," he says. "The attitude is that you can walk into most situations, spot the problems and figure out a way to get those issues resolved. We did it each day in the service and were expected to perform, and I still do."
USAA: always reaching out to vets
USAA (San Antonio, TX) is a diversified financial services group of companies that provides financial planning, insurance, investment and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their families. The company employs nearly 24,000 people, about 450 of them disabled veterans, says John Dipiero, a retired Air Force colonel who joined the company's head office in San Antonio, TX as military talent program manager in 2002.
USAA's motto, "We know what it means to serve," aptly describes its corporate culture, Dipiero says. He notes that the nature of vets' disabilities and their relevant technical knowledge determine how easily they can find work.
"Our vets, disabled or not, don't always have the exact skill matches from what they were doing in the military to what will be expected of them in the corporate world," he explains. "There will be a period of transition based on the individual."
USAA specifically reaches out to veterans, and places great importance on hiring disabled vets and "wounded warriors" who served since Sept 11, Dipiero says. "When we come across these folks we make sure they are given every opportunity to compete for appropriate positions."
USAA's Doug Havemann went from rocket launch to IT systems
Doug Havemann grew up in Orange Grove, a small agricultural community in South Texas, and served eleven years in the U.S. Army. A veteran of Desert Shield, Desert Storm and other operations, Havemann was a multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) crew member.
"After Desert Storm the U.S. Army downsized its forces," recalls Havemann. "I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and hearing loss, and I decided it was time to transition back to civilian life." He did, however, join the National Guard when he got back to the U.S. "This allowed me to stay in the comfort of the military while I looked for a job in IT."
The Army had trained Havemann in time management, process development and the ability to solve problems quickly. "Those proved to be some of my most valuable skills," Havemann says. "Over time, skills like leadership, teamwork and tenacity become habits."
While scoping out the job situation Havemann met a security engineer at USAA who told him about contract entry-level IT jobs. These are generally two-year positions that let USAA assess candidates' skill levels and evaluate their capabilities before offering them permanent jobs.
In 1996 USAA brought Havemann in as a contracted call center rep in San Antonio. In 1998 he became a permanent employee and moved to desk-side hardware and software support.
In 2004 Havemann was promoted to the desktop hardware services team which is responsible for all USAA's desktop equipment: PCs, laptops, printers, scanners and the like. He's now a systems engineer supporting the current fleet of programs.
"After being given a chance at USAA I completed many industry standard certifications," Havemann explains. "I began with the CompTIA A+ certification and then every hardware certification I could." A few years ago he realized he should really have a degree to advance in his career, and "enlisted" at the University of Phoenix online. He has just two classes to go to complete his BS.
Havemann notes that many civilian businesses don't fully understand the nature of PTSD. "I was lucky to work for three retired military officers through my first years at USAA. These vets provided guidance, mentoring and advice," says Havemann. "This is one of the advantages of working for organizations that have veterans among their employees."
Rockwell Collins: creating opportunities for vets
The values, qualities and skills obtained through military service are often very valuable in the private sector. But it may be difficult for vets and their potential employers to see the connections during the hiring process, says Jacy Haefke, director of diversity and workforce effectiveness at Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA). "Being a disabled veteran can present additional challenges, because many employers still have limited understanding of how to employ people with disabilities and benefit from their capabilities," she says.
Rockwell Collins designs, supplies and supports communications and aviation electronics solutions for global aerospace and defense companies. It employs about 20,000 people worldwide, including some 1,300 who identify themselves as veterans. "About seventy employees have declared themselves disabled veterans, but we believe that there are more vets and disabled vets working for us who have not come forward," says Haefke.
Rockwell Collins' government business has benefited from the knowledge and skills of veterans, notes Haefke, especially since many of its employees have actually used company technology while in the service. "Skills and values shaped through military service, like leadership, teamwork and integrity, are core values at Rockwell Collins, making our company a great fit for the men and women who have served our country," she says.
"As a company and as a government contractor we continue to support our nation's focus on increasing opportunities for disabled vets."
Rick Gronemeyer uses his strong leadership skills at Rockwell Collins
Rick Gronemeyer grew up in LeMars, IA. He received a general studies engineering degree from the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY) in 1986.
Then he served in an armored division of the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, TX. He was both a leader and a staff officer at the platoon, company and battalion levels. In the early 1990s he completed the captain's career course and served as a cavalry troop commander in Germany before rotating back to Fort Benning, GA to work in the dismantled battle lab.
In 1997 Gronemeyer was selected for Command and General Staff College (Fort Leavenworth, KS), a yearlong program. "They offered an MS in business admin and additional coursework through Central Michigan University so I could complete my degree," he explains.
After that Gronemeyer served as a battalion and brigade staff officer at Fort Hood, TX. In 1998, at the age of thirty-four, he was diagnosed with and treated for a malignant melanoma, and after fully recovering from that he decided to transition from active duty into the National Guard and a civilian career.
Gronemeyer has partial hearing loss and tinnitus, "which isn't surprising, since I served most of my career on tanks," he says. "Also, as a result of a parachute landing accident in 1984, I shattered most of the bones in my foot, but I get around just fine."
In 2001 Gronemeyer became an SAP implementation and application development manager at a big farm-equipment maker. In 2006 he moved on to Rockwell Collins, where he anticipated and found a better opportunity to use his military background and strong leadership skills.
"Leadership is perhaps the most valuable asset anyone can bring to an organization," he says. "Through my education at West Point and my time in the Army I've developed my leadership style."
Gronemeyer manages the Rockwell Collins' subcontracts department that supports the Precision Strike portfolio. He's responsible for all subcontracted supply chain parts and services that support the business: engineering, design and development products and major subassemblies built by outside suppliers.
"I had to pick up on techniques that are used in the corporate world and learn about the ways we engage our subcontractors," he explains. "You have to be able to plan, execute and manage change no matter what organization you lead, whether it's civilian or military."
Office of Naval Research encourages vets through opportunity
Jill Blackwell, deputy director of civilian personnel programs for the Office of Naval Research (ONR, Arlington, VA), notes that "Our requirements for technology leadership roles mostly require advanced degrees at the MS and PhD levels."
ONR is an executive branch of the Department of Defense (DOD). Providing scientific and technical advice to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Secretary of the Navy, it employs more than 3,000 civilians worldwide, including staff of the Naval Research Lab (Washington, DC). Sixty-six of ONR's civilians identify themselves as disabled veterans.
"Our nation's service members make great sacrifices for us," says Blackwell. "ONR is committed to giving our disabled vets opportunities to integrate into the civilian workforce."
Craig A. Hughes is deputy director of innovation at ONR
Born into a Navy family, Craig A. Hughes grew up in San Diego, CA. He got his BS from the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO) in 1984 and in 1994 he completed an MBA from the University of Texas-Austin. He also has a 2002 MS in national security strategy from the National War College, part of the National Defense University (Washington, DC).
Hughes was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and was a fighter pilot in the Air Force at Langley AFB (Hampton, VA) and the Lakenheath base of the British Royal Air Force in the U.K. He was a T-37C instructor pilot at Reese AFB (Lubbock, TX) and a T-3A instructor pilot at the Air Force Academy.
Hughes held joint military-civilian positions with Allied Air Forces Southern Europe and became a deputy director for Allied Air Forces Operations in Naples, Italy. "In that job I sometimes flew with NATO units to evaluate their combat readiness," he explains with pride.
Next he worked for the Office of Force Transformation (Arlington, VA) on the staff of the Secretary of Defense as a transformation analyst and project manager. He worked on the development of "game changing" technologies. When Hughes left the Air Force in 2007 he worked for two high-tech military contractors.
He joined ONR as a civilian in 2009 and is currently deputy director of innovation there. He's ONR's lead representative and a contributor to several integrated process teams, committees, taskforces, working groups and councils.
He's also a new-technology development program manager. "My biggest responsibility is leading the innovative naval prototype portfolio for the director of innovation. It's a collection of about a half-dozen high-tech, high-risk and high-payoff programs," he says.
Being a fighter pilot, while challenging and exciting, is physically demanding and left Hughes with tinnitus. "My disabilities are primarily related to repeated exposure to that physical environment," he explains. The disability is relatively minor compared with many others who have "sacrificed so much for America," he thinks.
The skills Hughes acquired in the military help him at his current job. "I know how to handle stress and keep my eye on the big picture," he says. "Exceptional attention to detail is a lifesaving skill for a fighter pilot, and I'm proud to give that same keen eye to the programs, budgets and products of my civilian colleagues."
Hughes continues to further his education. In 2008 he received his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and earned a masters certificate in program management online from Villanova University (Villanova, PA). He recently got a science and technology systems planning certification through the Defense Acquisition University (Fort Belvoir, VA), and became a member of the Department of the Navy's defense acquisition board.
His service career, he says, was "a big leadership and program management training and execution experience, all of which has directly led to where I am today at ONR. I learn new skills every day here and I'm very appreciative of that opportunity."
Johns Hopkins U Applied Physics Lab offers extra accommodation
When trying to break into the tech field, disabled vets need the same accommodations as other workers with disabilities, notes Karen Greene, supervisor of diversity management and employee relations at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL, Laurel, MD).
"APL has an active office that works with people who require accommodation to perform the essential functions of their jobs," she explains. "A significant portion of our work is sponsored by the Navy, and we often hire people with military backgrounds to work on these programs."
APL is a not-for-profit center for engineering R&D with some 5,000 employees, including disabled vets. "Veterans, including disabled veterans, add to the richness and diversity of APL's staff," Greene states.
Cyndi Utterback is enjoying APL's collaborative environment
Cyndi Utterback grew up in Elmore, a small town in northwest Ohio. She enlisted in the Navy in 1980, and after basic training was sent to the recruit training center in Orlando, FL, followed by the ocean systems technician analyst Class A school at the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center (Norfolk, VA).
Utterback served as an ocean systems technician analyst for ten years. Her work was conducting surveillance of sonar data for contacts of interest. She went on to twelve years as a limited duty officer, serving as a division officer and department head. At the time she retired from the Navy she was diagnosed with hypertension and rated as 30 percent disabled.
In 2002 APL brought Utterback in to share her depth of experience with passive acoustic sonar systems. She's currently group supervisor for the systems group in the national security technology department, supervising sixty-three employees focused on R&D in advanced signal and image-processing apps for naval systems.
How does this job compare with her Navy work? The most significant change, she notes, was adjusting from the Navy's structured chain-of-command environment. "The culture at APL promotes collaboration and innovation and relies heavily on individual integrity and initiative," she explains. "Open collaboration was definitely new to me, and it's been a pleasure to pick up those skills and apply them in the workplace."
The training Utterback got in the service has been very beneficial for her at APL. "I found most of my training directly applicable. The technical work I did in the field of Navy sonar systems has been instrumental to my technical contributions to APL projects in the undersea warfare business area," she says.
Vets bring tremendous work ethic to Advanced Technology Services
Advanced Technology Services (ATS, Peoria, IL) provides managed services: production equipment maintenance, industrial parts calibration and IT solutions for manufacturing companies. The company employs about 2,400 people in the U.S. including 162 disabled vets.
Holly Mosack, director of military recruiting at ATS, notes that breaking into a technical field as a disabled vet "is about knowing what opportunities are available and then translating your military skills into civilian terminology.
"Veterans comprise a quarter of our total workforce and we are committed to hiring more," says Mosack. "Vets bring a tremendous work ethic, discipline and leadership that's hard to find anywhere else."
SRA International knows that vets understand teamwork
SRA International (Fairfax, VA) works in systems engineering, development and implementation, consulting, managed tech services and business solutions for markets including national security, government, healthcare and transportation. The company has more than 7,000 people in fifty locations worldwide. Vets make up about 1,200 of that total and 167 of them are disabled.
This January SRA launched its Wounded Warrior program to serve severely wounded veterans, says Odell McLeod, who manages the program at the company's Arlington, VA location. "So far we've brought in six severely wounded veterans, with more hires in the picture."
SRA sees many advantages to hiring vets and disabled vets. "They bring a sense of mission and maturity to us or any organization with their life experiences," McLeod says. "They understand what teamwork means and will work hard for an opportunity.
"SRA is committed to the success of the Wounded Warrior program. We know our people are our greatest asset. Their experiences and knowledge help shape who we are as a company, and we appreciate the benefits of a diverse culture."
Chris Ristig: mentoring and on-the-job training at SRA
As a tech support specialist, Chris Ristig works in SRA's national security sector. He provides first-call resolution for technical issues to users who have problems with their computers or network.
Born and raised in McLean, VA, Ristig enlisted in the Army in 2003 and served about three years. While deployed with Task Force Bronco in 2004 and 2005 Ristig did two combined tours in the Middle East. His unit conducted combat ops, gathered intelligence, helped train local military police units, participated in delivering humanitarian aid, helped set up and establish new fire bases and worked with multinational forces in joint ops.
Ristig left the Army in 2006, and still suffers from PTSD and partial hearing loss. As an online student he earned a BS in business admin from Everest University (Tampa, FL) in 2009.
He began looking for a job in IT as a network engineer, and over the following year acquired many certifications including CompTIA Net+ and A+, CCNA Security, CCNP and CCDP. "All that training puts me on track as a network engineer as far as Cisco is concerned," says Ristig. "The military funded most of my college degree, but I paid for all the certifications after college."
Over six months Ristig applied for some 300 jobs but nothing worked out.
"This February I finally admitted that I was still struggling with my experiences overseas," Ristig recalls. "I asked the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program for support. My mentors there helped me polish up my resume and encouraged me to look through the national Wounded Warrior Project website.
"I applied for a position at SRA and soon heard from Odell McLeod, one of their Wounded Warrior managers, who told me that not only could he help me find a job, but much more importantly, a career.
"I was beside myself with glee!"
McLeod has been a tremendous mentor, says Ristig. He coached him through his SRA interview, and in a couple of months Ristig had a job.
"I couldn't be happier," he says. "After extensive on-the-job training I'm very comfortable performing my duties, and I continue to grow on a daily basis. Odell continues to be a mentor and I'm helping him, too, as he grows the SRA Wounded Warrior program. We're constantly brainstorming ways to reach out to as many vets as possible."
Ristig uses a modulator at work to accommodate his hearing loss and tinnitus. With them he's just fine on the job.
"I'm extremely proud and honored to have served my country," he says. "I learned the true power of teamwork. I took that mentality from the military and applied it to my civilian career, and it's been extremely successful so far."
Professional development is key at U.S. Cellular
"Technology is ever-changing, and keeping pace is essential," says Greg Hinton, senior director and chief diversity officer at U.S. Cellular (Chicago, IL). "One challenge facing the disabled population, including vets, is having transferable technical skills relevant to today's technology. Whether it's specialized training or related college curricula, it's important to engage in professional development. Depending on the type of disability it can be easy or difficult to obtain related transferable skills."
U.S. Cellular provides a variety of wireless services and products. It employs 9,000 people. About a hundred of them identify themselves as veterans and sixteen have declared a disability.
"At U.S. Cellular we have made a strong commitment to employing professionals with military backgrounds. We seek out opportunities with military organizations to educate and recruit vets interested in civilian employment," says Hinton.
Finding opportunities for military personnel when they return to civilian life, especially those who return with any form of disability, should be a priority for the business community, Hinton adds. "This mindset aligns with our company's focus on diversity, and our customers appreciate that our workforce reflects a multitude of cultural backgrounds."
Tammy Heilman: shared knowledge helps develop her career at U.S. Cellular
Tammy Heilman grew up on a farm in Holstein, IA. After seven years in the army she's working as a U.S. Cellular network field engineer for nine northwestern counties in her home state. She installs, maintains and supports equipment at cell phone tower sites, including base station equipment, microwave radios, power bays, batteries, generators, antennas and T1 circuits.
"We respond twenty-four hours a day to any outages," says Heilman "We manage an on-call rotation and dispatch during natural disasters to ensure that the network is able to perform when our customers need it most, and we work with individual customers to resolve any trouble tickets."
Heilman is working toward a BS in system network admin through Bellevue University (Bellevue, NE).
She enlisted in the army in 2000, working in the communications field during her seven years of service. She specialized in fiber optics and VoIP while training in HF radios, tactical satellite radios, computer and network admin and network ops center duties.
During her service career Heilman deployed to Germany several times, and did a tour in Bosnia as a cable installer, in Kosovo as a VoIP network engineer, and two tours in Iraq as a helpdesk manager and surveillance technician. "I lost two soldiers, one during each deployment to Iraq, and I was involved in combat operations during several convoys," she says.
After her discharge in 2007 Heilman was diagnosed with tinnitus and PTSD. "At first I had anxiety issues to overcome," she says. "While I was deployed it was very common for insurgents to hide explosives in road debris in hopes of hitting a passing convoy. For a long time after I was back I would swerve while driving to miss random litter or a dead animal in the road. But I've since resolved this issue."
U.S. Cellular hired Heilman six months after her discharge. "The whole process was so exciting, and the pieces just fell into place," she recalls. "The manager who interviewed me had prior service in the military and so did the majority of my team, so I felt right at home.
"I was completely overwhelmed by all the equipment and technical knowledge needed to run a cellular network, but thanks to my helpful team I had many resources of knowledge and training at my disposal."
As a network field engineer Heilman is constantly learning and developing new skill sets. "When I first started I had to learn all the basics of our day-to-day job: tower lights, HVACs, and Unix commands to talk to the equipment. I learned this mostly through on-the-job training," she explains.
"Technology changes and grows, so I'm still attending classes through U.S. Cellular. Since I've been here I've seen the transformation from TDMA to CDMA, then EV-DO, and we're now beginning the launch of LTE."
Every advance in technology requires new skills and more training, she says. "U.S. Cellular has been terrific about enrolling us in the courses we need to do our jobs and bringing vendors in to teach us about their equipment. Knowledge is shared, not only within our region or departments, but company-wide."
Heilman still uses her military skills. "The Army taught me to be flexible. Plans can change very quickly in my current job, too, and the military gave me the quick decision-making skills to handle it."
The Air Force Research Lab likes the military's cutting-edge training
Translating military experience into a government-format resume for federal civilian jobs can prove challenging, says Bryan Stevens, lead minority scientist and engineering recruiter for the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH). "Many veterans are not even sure which of the various veterans' hiring authorities are used for federal employment."
AFRL leads the discovery, development and integration of war-fighting technologies for U.S. air, space and cyberspace forces. Stevens notes that the lab employs 272 people with service-connected disabilities out of a total civilian employee population of 5,751. He adds that AFRL is very focused on hiring disabled veterans.
"The cutting-edge training and education veterans have gained during their military careers, along with unique leadership and teamwork skills, is very important," he says. "We are an equal opportunity employer focused on diversity and want to be the employer of choice for all."
Hector Guevara: networking into AFRL
Hector Guevara, who grew up in Los Angeles, CA, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1988 with a BSME. He earned his MS in materials engineering from the University of Dayton in 1992, and went on active duty in the Air Force, working mostly in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission area.
"My education, leadership and work experience let me mature my skill set in a field that continues to grow in importance," says Guevara. "Our enemy now is hard to find; that's why ISR is so critical to today's military."
Guevara's Air Force career began in the Flight Dynamics Lab, now the Air Vehicles Directorate. He went on to work at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), the ISR wing of the Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC), and finally AFRL's human effectiveness directorate.
After retiring from active duty in 2009 Guevara spent two years working in Dayton, OH for defense contractor SAIC (McLean, VA) before joining AFRL this spring.
Guevara is chief of the radar systems branch in AFRL's sensors directorate. He leads a team of research scientists and engineers working to develop the Air Force's next generation of radar sensors.
"I learned about this type of job from networking with ISR professionals at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) during my service career," says Guevara. "It's a tremendous advantage that I worked in all aspects of ISR: R&D, acquisition and operations.
"Scientific and technical changes in one aspect of an ISR system drive ripple effects across the entire system. So it's critical to understand how all the pieces fit together, and how your work interacts with both up- and downstream people, processes and products."
Guevara spent his active-duty service career as an engineer and program manager leading teams to transition new products and services to the warfighter. When he retired from active duty he was given a 90 percent disability rating for a whole range of service-connected medical problems including degenerative disc disease, hypertension, arthritis, sleep apnea and sciatic neuritis.
"Damage is cumulative over the years," he says. "The physical nature of serving in the armed forces finally caught up with me after I turned forty, and I started having serious medical problems."
He learned strengthening and stretching exercises during several years of physical therapy to decrease the pain from his herniated discs. "I also try to get up and walk around every half hour if possible."
The AFRL provided a special ergonomic chair for Guevara to minimize his lower back pain. "It has made a huge difference," he says.
Guevara's WPAFB assignments gave him knowledge and experience that readily translated to his current position. "I continue to interact with my old friends across WPAFB ISR units," he says. "I appreciate the synergistic effects that can only arise from dedicated professionals working as one team to tackle tough warfighter needs."
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