Posts Tagged ‘E-4B’

Another Anniversary: 30 Years Of Service

9 July 2014

This is kind of a cool day for me. I joined TRW 30 years ago today, and started working with, and in, the E-4B Program Office at Tinker AFB.

I got here in kind of a roundabout way. I was hired in Feb 84 while still at OSU by a company in OKC that was going to develop new ways for automatic reading of checks for payee and amount (that’s common today, then it was way out there). The company was bought in April by a Dallas area firm that shut down all the research projects by the company; I found out the day before graduation that I was out of a job! My boss there was kind enough to call people he knew, and one of them worked for TRW, and knew the company was looking for “computer programmer types”.

When TRW called the first time, the answering machine got it. All I knew about TRW was that TRW Reda Pump in Bartlesville was constantly in the news for laying people off. I had just lost a job and so thought that sounded kind of sketchy. They called back a couple days later, we talked, and I found out about how TRW was a “conglomerate”. I interviewed a week or so later, got my first very high level view of the E-4B and EC-135 aircraft, and was hooked.

My first day of work, my new co-worker (and later and until very recently, my boss) and I stayed in the office until 2200 building a demo (on a 64K IBM PC-1 with CGA; no hard drive) for an automated aircraft scheduling system, that was to be demo’d the *next* day to the Program Office Colonel.

My job has evolved over the years from building Office Automation programs, to direct support of modifications, to IT/IA, to system architecture. Travel for the job has taken me to 22 states and DC, including a full year in Waco, TX, of which no more needs to be said.

I’ve some very interesting work that will be going on in the next couple years that I hope to be my legacy on this weapon system. I’m a very small part of a large team that is scattered around the country, and every one of them deserves a huge THANKS for making the past 30 years an incredibly interesting and mostly fun run.

E-4B 35th Anniversary Celebration

25 July 2010

I just got back from a dinner and social event celebrating 35 years of the E-4 aircraft (A and B models) performing the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) and National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) missions. The mission actually goes all the way back to 1962, when it was performed by EC-135 aircraft.

The celebration was organized by the Nightwatch Association, which I shall be joining soon. The main activities for this event are the dinner and social, and tours of the aircraft for family. I brought Raegan and the kids all the way to Omaha specifically for the tour. They have not been on the aircraft since the 25th, and so I’m looking forward to them being able see the the changes in the aircraft since then.

The dinner and social were outstanding. These were held at the Embassy Suites in La Vista (a suburb of Omaha), and the food and service were really good. Even better was the social. I saw people that I have not seen in 20 years, and met a couple people that I had indirect interactions with as far back as 1986. The speaker (who kept it short), was an EC-135 battlestaff member in Eur and helped define the E-4 aircraft, and he did a good job as well.

I’ve been working with the E-4B since 1984 (26+ years), I’m proud of what I have been able to contribute, and it’s easy to get a big head from that. But being able to talk to, and hear the stories of, the (mostly) men and women that sat the alerts that were 24/7 for weeks at a time, for the rest of us as Americans, really puts contribution into perspective.

So the tour tomorrow is the last of the events, and I hope to be still working to support the E-4B for the 45th anniversary.

30 July 2010 update:

The tour was a lot of fun for the family to see the airplane that takes me away so many times. We had one of the 1ACCS ROs as a tour guide, and she and I had the usual banter about while was more important, radio or data (it’s DATA, of course!).

An Auspicious Anniversary: 25 Years of Service

9 July 2009

As of the close of business today, I completed 25 years of service to the Air Force E-4B program. I started 09 July 1984.

Back then, TRW had been trying to establish a foothold at Tinker AFB. The office was small, and had an on-base contingent and an off-base office. The total number of people was something like 10. Five people were on base working software testing for the E-3 radar software, three were TRW Oklahoma City people working with the Worldwide Airborne Command Post (WWABNCP) System Program Office (SPO), and two were TRW Albuquerque people working nuclear survivability issues for the WWABNCP SPO. A couple other people were working B-1 and other programs. We had an office manager and two admin troops. The office was a former apartment building that had been converted into offices. The Midwest City Sun newspaper had the downstairs area, and when they ran the printing press, the whole building stank.

One person had been hired into a SPO support job a month or so earlier, and another person was hired the week after I was. It should be noted that the person hired prior to me is now my boss, and the guy hired after me is now the site manager for the entire Northrop Grumman Oklahoma City site (and was my boss for about seven years). I’m still supporting the SPO, and pretty happy about it.

I interviewed in late June 1984 for the job. My hiring manager had been an Air Force lieutenant who worked in the SPO before coming to TRW, and really hated the parking situation outside Building 3001, where the SPO was. He came in, told me he had checked my references and read my resume and didn’t have any questions for me, and then he said “You are going to love working here, since you don’t have to fight for a %$#@ parking place every day”. I note for the record that about two weeks later, he worked a deal to assign me to Building 3001. I have been working in that building on and off ever since.


My first day at work, I came in wearing a full suit with vest, coat and tie. My boss, my coworker Diane (now my boss), and most of the rest of the staff were in jeans. I spent the first part of the day filling out paperwork for a base badge, security clearance, etc. My boss took me out for an almost two-hour lunch/search for parts for his Volvo.

When we got back, he told me that he would like me to work with Diane on a 10MB 64K IBM PC-XT with a monochrome display to build a demo of what an automated aircraft maintenance scheduling system might look like. OK, I said, when does it need to be completed? Tomorrow, said Tony. Now, you can’t build a demo without have some functionality, so we got started defining the functionality. Then we got to coding. The PC had BASIC built in, and a 180KB diskette drive to save stuff to. A lot of code was generated in a short time. We worked from about 1400 right through to about 2100 and got a decent demo. Diane said that Tony was giving the demo, and that he would be running the PC.

The next morning, I showed up in jeans and a polo shirt. At 0900, a bunch of Air Force civilians and military came in, including a full bird Colonel and a LTC. Everybody in the office was wearing coats and ties, except me. I decided I would hide in the office at my desk, until Tony said come on in and give the demo. Shit, said I to myself. The demo was successful, and we got a tasking that turned into a full Management Information System (MIS) for the SPO, so I guess we did OK.

The SPO at the time managed the mission communications systems for the E-4B and the EC-135 airborne command post fleets. A really cool bunch of airplanes. The EC-135s were retired in the 1990s, but I’m still working on E-4Bs. Over time I moved from just the MIS system to modification support, both hardware and software.

Over the years I moved onto and off and onto the base, depending on how much space and desks the government had. Aside from a year or so when a major remodel on base moved the entire SPO to a different building, the desks I have worked from have all been within a 100 ft radius.

TRW eventually moved across two parking lots to a former racquetball court that had been converted into offices. Back in 2002-2003, Northrop Grumman bought TRW and then ate it. We worked under what where essentially 1-year contracts that whole time. A couple times, we won contracts that were nominally for five years, but the government would only authorize a year at a time, and almost every contract anniversary we didn’t get renewed until the last day or so. We were a Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractor. Now the term is Advisory and Assistance Services (A&AS).

In 2005 Northrop built a new building just south of Tinker, and all the Northrop people in the OKC area moved to that building.

I had one diversion from 2005-2007. A small company called EMEC based in Columbia MD sent an unsolicited bid to the government saying they could do the A&AS job for a lot less than Northrop, and that they planned on hiring the Northrop troops to do this. The government pulled the Northrop contract and gave it to EMEC, which then hired the (now ten) people supporting the contract. I had a big decision to make (Northrop and a new, completely different job, or EMEC, and stay working on the E-4B); I ended up staying with the E-4B. In the end, it was not pleasant. The E-4B work was interesting and good, but the EMEC company part of it was not. Not to put too fine a point on it, but EMEC did not do all they had promised. I do not think that they told us stuff in bad faith, but I do not think they planned very well. One comment that was made was “this projects travel budget is larger than any previous entire contract we’ve had”. EMEC did not get any new business anywhere, and slowly dwindled.

In the meantime, the government was revamping how they did A&AS contracts. EMEC didn’t make the cut of authorized contractors, but Northrop did, albeit as a subcontractor. EMEC elected to not try to team with another prime contractor, so I worked with Northrop and the prime on the proposal, which brought the team back to Northrop. I was very happy about this. Northrop even let us keep our years of service unbroken, so I got a 25 years of service certificate even though I was gone for two years; that’s really decent. We also are in Year 2 of a true five year contract, the longest one I have ever had.

While I have worked for the E-4B SPO my entire TRW/Northrop time, my bosses were good enough to let me work on some other stuff when things were slow. I wrote software for doing electromagnetic pulse prediction, making reliability predictions, and similar stuff. I also got to work on some big proposal efforts. All of these were really great for expanding my skills and keeping me interested in my E-4B job.

I’ve done a lot of interesting stuff. I’ve got almost 500 hours of E-4B flight time, and about a billion hours ground time doing testing and stuff. I spent six months in 1992 doing two weeks on/two weeks off in Waco, TX, followed by a year living in Waco on a modification, followed by a short break, then about 12 weeks of follow-on testing in Omaha. I’ve been able to travel all over the country, and work with some first class outfits in various places. I’ve been able to build and have deployed several systems that Air Force people use daily on the aircraft. I have also personally been able to save taxpayers about ten million dollars that would otherwise have been poorly or unnecessarily spent, and worked with others to save even more.

There is a lot of travel, and how we do it now is much better. When I started, there was a travel card for the site, and we used a travel agent in Del City. You called them up and told them when and where, and they cut paper tickets. They also made hotel reservations, but occasionally, you didn’t find out where your hotel was until the day you arrived at your destination. For meals, you got a travel advance out of the petty cash fund that TRW maintained at the office. Once you got back, you filled out a paper expense report that got typed up, and mailed to the Travel Accounting people, who would sit on it, look at it, and then eventually approve it. From there it went to Accounts Payable, and in due course a paper check for reimbursement would be put back into the mail from California back here.

Now it’s all online, from the reservation to reimbursement. A lot of time, from the time I get back and do the expense report, the approval and reimbursement is in place a couple days later. Much better.

My very cute and highly tolerant roommate used to joke that we’d only lived together about half the time we have been married. She has occasionally called the E-4B my mistress, since I run off to her at all hours, and don’t tell all that I do with her. Hey, who else gets to have FOUR mistresses, in different configurations?

I’ve had a total of four bosses during this time. I was not always the easiest employee to deal with, but I think and hope that all is forgiven now. I am even a boss now (part time), since the Northrop people working the E-4B report to me. I don’t do much managing, they will tell you. Recently, I asked one of them what he was doing the next day, and he said “A good boss would already know that”. I replied the only way I could: “You’re right, a GOOD boss would already know. So what are you doing?”.

I will be perfectly happy to do this until I retire. I get to specify and test networks, computer systems, communications systems, and the coolest airplane around. I get along with everybody I work with. Some of them occasionally make me crazy, but I’m sure I make other people crazy also (but a lot less then they make me crazy, I’m sure). I work a hell of a lot of overtime, but darn it, the job is fun! I really enjoy it. I could make more money working for one of the primes, but this way I get to serve my country by making sure that a platform that is used for the most serious purposes around works like it supposed to.

I’ve worked with too many really great people over the years, but some that come to mind right away that I say THANKS to:

Clark, Gayle, Ray (A and D), Eddie, Angela, Bruce, Kevin, Jim (A and M), Steve, Brian, Chuck, Paul, Lois, Johnny, Adam, Fred, Diane, Norm, Greg, Bob, Dave, David, Ron, Paul, and Harold. There are dozens more.

My very cute and somewhat single-parent roommate deserves a lot of thanks for putting up with my overtime and travel, and so do my kids.

Now, for the NEXT five years!