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Space and Veterans.

The military has a long history with space. We hear from veterans who made the move from the military into the space industry.





In lieu of our normal programming, we wanted to take today to honor our veterans- from our own team at N2K, to those that have made massive contributions to the aerospace industry in the US. Throughout this program you will hear stories from military veterans and spouses about how their time in service to their country shaped their careers in the aerospace industry.

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T-Minus Guest

Charles F. Bolden, former Administrator of NASA, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General, and a former astronaut

Ché Bolden, Marine Corps veteran, CEO of The Charles F. Bolden Group

Eileen Collins, retired NASA astronaut and United States Air Force (USAF) colonel.

Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby, CEO Venus Aerospace

Alice Carruth, T-Minus Producer

Brandon Karpf, T-Minus Executive Producer

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T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. © 2023 N2K Networks, Inc.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Welcome to a Veterans Day special edition of T-Minus. I'm Maria Varmazis and it is Veterans Day here in the United States, so in lieu of our normal programming, we wanted to take today to honor our veterans from our own team at N2K, to those that have made massive contributions to the aerospace industry in the United States. And throughout this program today, you'll hear stories from military veterans about how their time serving their country shaped their careers in the aerospace industry. NASA has a particularly strong connection to the U.S. military. When the agency selected the first groups of U.S. astronauts, all of them were military pilots, and that held true until selection of the fourth group. Since its inception, NASA has selected 360 astronaut candidates, 299 men, 61 women and of which 212 have come from the military. During a 1959 news conference, when NASA's original seven astronauts were announced, John Glenn commented on the sense of duty that he felt serving in the Marines and as an astronaut.

>> John Glenn: I'm John Glenn, I'm the lonesome Marine on this outfit and I'm 37. And an answer to this same question a few days ago from someone else, I jokingly, of course, said that I got on this project because it'd probably be the nearest to heaven I'd ever get, and I wanted to make the most of it [brief laughter]. But my feelings are that this whole project, with regard to space, sort of stands with us now as if you want to look at it one way like the Wright brothers stood at Kitty Hawk about 50 years ago with Orville and Wilbur pitching a coin to see who was going to shove the other one off the hill down there. And I think that we're -- we stand on the verge of something as big and as expansive as that was 50 years ago. I also agree wholeheartedly with Gus here on I think we are very fortunate that we have, should we say, been blessed with the talents that have been picked for something like this and I think we'd be almost remiss in our duty if we didn't make full use of our talents. I had -- every one of us would feel guilty I think if we didn't make the fullest use of our talents and volunteering for something that is as important as this is to our country and the world in general right now. This can mean an awful lot to this country, of course. Thank you.

>> Maria Varmazis: We spoke to former NASA Administrator and Astronaut, Charles Bolden. Bolden had a 34 year career with the Marine Corps, which also included 14 years as a member of NASA's Astronaut Office.

>> Charles Bolden: First of all, I'm a product of the Jim Crow South. I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, my mom and dad were school teachers. They had both gone to historically black college, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they -- when they graduated in the class of 1940, they both came back home to Columbia and started teaching. The next year, my dad was drafted into the Army, and so he served from 41 to 45 when the war ended. Came back home, but they raised my brother and me and to just -- before I tell you how I ended up in the military, they were my initial and even in death remain my primary role models and mentors. My mother was my high school librarian and worked me pretty hard and my dad was my high school football coach. And he had a saying, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." And so, that -- he taught me how to cry. He, you know, he said, "That's fine for men to cry. In fact, you should feel really bad if you lose a football game, so cry, get it over with and then get back in there and don't lose again." But they taught me three things. One was if I wanted to do anything, I could do it as long as I was willing to study and work hard and never, ever, ever be afraid of failure. And in seventh grade, I saw a program on television called "Men of Annapolis" about life at the Naval Academy and had not thought about the military at all prior to that. And I was so infatuated by this place, "The Yard," as they called the Naval Academy grounds, that I decided as a 12 year old that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy. That's where I wanted to go to college and didn't know anything about the Navy, nothing about the Marine Corps. I knew I did not want to go into the Marine Corps because I had grown up close enough to Parris Island to see the young graduates of recruit training come up and wreak havoc in my town after they graduated. I just thought Marines were crazy. And I had no desire to fly airplanes because I thought that was inherently dangerous, but I just wanted -- I wanted to go to the Naval Academy, sight unseen. I had never been there, and I started applying when I was in ninth grade in high school for a congressional appointment. It -- for young men and women who may be listening to this and don't know, everybody is eligible for a vice presidential appointment. The vice president of the United States can appoint anyone who is a U.S. citizen from anywhere. Everybody else who doesn't opt for that, the president can only appoint sons and daughters of congressional honor winners and active duty military. So, the other category is congressional appointments, which come from your two senators, U.S. senators, and your congressional representative. And when I was in high school, the leader of the South Carolina delegation was the venerable Strom Thurmond. And Strom Thurmond and Olin D. Johnston were my two U.S. senators. Albert Watson was my congressional representative and all three of them made it very clear that they were not, could not appoint a black to any service academy. Although I think it was Olin Johnston, offered me an appointment to The Merchant Marine Academy, but I said, "Thanks very much, but I want to go to the Naval Academy. Don't want to go anywhere else." I had fortunately applied to Yale and University of Pennsylvania and was accepted and had also applied for Naval ROTC, because I -- by that time, I decided I really wanted to go in the Navy. So, when President Kennedy was assassinated my senior year in high school, November 22nd, same day we won the state championship in football, my hope of going to the Naval Academy went out the window because I was counting on an appointment from the vice president. And Lyndon Johnson I had been talking to for a number of years by mail and he kept saying, you know, "Write me back when you're a senior in high school." So, my mother kind of she saw how devastated I was, and she said, "Are you going to quit?" And I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Are you going to give up?" And I said, "Well, what do I do? I'm -- I don't have another place to go." She said, "You figure it out." So, I pulled out an old typewriter and I typed out a letter to the President of the United States, to Lyndon B. Johnson and I said, "Look, this is me, it's -- I'm the same Charles Bolden that's always wanted to go to the Naval Academy, I need help. And I understand and I can't get an appointment from you, but please, if there's anything you can do to help me get an appointment to the Naval Academy to do it." And I've never heard from him, but within weeks a Navy recruiter showed up at my front door asked if, you know, "I was the one that wanted to go to the Naval Academy?" I said, "Sure." And then several months later, President Johnson sent a retired federal judge from Washington, D.C., Judge Bennett, sent him around the country visiting with schools in the South mainly, looking for qualified black and Hispanic young men who wanted to go to the service academies. And so, with those two supports, I ended up getting an appointment from Congressman, William Dawson in Chicago, Illinois. So, my application package was built and everything as me coming from Chicago. So, that's how I got to the Naval Academy. My mother went to her grave, always believing that Strom Thurmond, although he couldn't politically appoint me, that he had played a role in getting my appointment. I told her, "You know, that's -- you can believe that if you want. I'm not sure I do." But to support her theory, every milestone in my military career from the time I got to the Naval Academy until Strom Thurmond died at the age of 100, I would get a, as long as he could, I would get a handwritten note from him, a congratulatory note on this milestone, you know, on making the Dean's list, on graduating from the Naval Academy, something like that, so maybe, you know. He at least knew or somebody on his staff knew who I was and would do that. And although I said the two things I would not do were go into the Marine Corps and fly airplanes, the very first person who impressed me, who made an impact on my life when I got to the Naval Academy, was my first company officer in my first year, my freshman year, Major John Riley Love. He was a young Marine Corps Infantry Officer who was responsible for the 150 or so of us in 29th Company of the 36 at the Naval Academy. He was like my dad. He was tough, but eminently fair, and he sought to it that every opportunity was presented to me as a midshipman, although there were only -- I was the only black in our company. As we graduated, there were only four of us in the graduating class in the class of 1968. And when I got there, there were only 12, so there were 12 blacks out of the 4,000 members of the brigade, but Major Love was always there for me. And when I looked back four years later, getting ready to graduate, I was, you know, I had to decide what I wanted to do and I said, "You know, I could do anything I want to. I want to be like him. I want to be like Major Love." And so, I decided I was going to be a Marine Corps Infantry Officer. I went to the basic school, which is a six month course of study in Quantico, Virginia, to teach everybody, no matter what you're going to do, to be a rifle platoon commander, to be an infantry officer. And I found out during our three day war in the cold and snow and ice of Quantico, Virginia, at the end of November that I really did not like crawling around in the mud. And so, I said, "I don't think I'm going to do this." I told my wife that I was going to go ahead and take an aviation option and go to Pensacola. She was unbelievably happy because she had been trying to talk me into that. So, I went to Pensacola, fell in love with flying the first time I got in an airplane and that's how I happened to become a marine who ended up flying airplanes.

>> Maria Varmazis: There are so many threads in your story that I'm hearing about perseverance and also being open minded in your experiences and having really great advocates along the way as well who are sort of there for you at key moments. I'm wondering, just keeping on the thread of, you know, your start in the military and your amazing career in space that followed after, how do you feel that the two interplayed? How one prepared you for the other?

>> Charles Bolden: You know, I think because I'm asked frequently, what was it like to go from the United States Marine Corps to NASA? I found it a very easy transition and I think the transition was made so because somewhere along the line, and actually believe it or not, that somewhere along the line was very early in my aviation career before I even got my wings. Before I was even out of flight school, one of my pro -- one of my flight instructors was a guy by the name of Major Pete Field. He was another marine. You keep seeing these Marines come into my life, but Pete was a -- he was a test pilot who had been sent back to the training command to teach people to fly airplanes. And he would subsequently go back to Patuxent River as a test pilot to run the F18 development program for the Navy and Marine Corps. Every time we flew, Major Field always talked about being a test pilot and he talked about how demanding it was, how precise you had to be. It wasn't a scarf hanging out the window like people envisioned. It wasn't very glamorous at all. It was very, very demanding and precise. And so, I kind of said, "Boy, that sounds like what I want to do." And so, I started applying for test pilot school as soon as I graduated from flight school. It took me about six years or so, applying twice a year, being told no, until finally I went out to the University of Southern California, as I -- I was a Marine Corps recruiter when I came back from Vietnam in Los Angeles. And USC offered a master's degree program that I am -- in which I enrolled. And I finished the degree requirements, got my master's degree from USC and I said, "Okay, I'm going to apply one more time and if I don't get in this time, I'm going to take it as a message from God that, nah, you're not intended to be a test pilot." I put my application in and lo and behold, the Marine Corps selected me that year and sent me back to Patuxent River to start training to be a test pilot and I became one. Coming from the test community into NASA was just like coming from NASA to NASA, because the way we do things that -- you know, in the space agency are essentially the same way we do them in a military test community. When I went back to the Marine Corps to the Operating Forces of the Marine Corps after my 14 years in the Astronaut Office, I found that the transition was again, very easy because I had gone from serving as a commander on a space shuttle twice where I had a crew. There were seven of us on both of my flights, but I had a crew of seven and a two billion dollar spacecraft for which I was responsible, and I had had to work with the training team to get us appropriately trained. And I was responsible for getting the vehicle to space and back safely and in one piece. And when I came back to the Operating Forces of the Marine Corps, I found that I was back in an organization that was the same size as NASA, about 18,000 people, when I got to my command in the Marine Corps, anyway. But I was fortunate to go back to the Naval Academy first and that allowed me to get what the Marine Corps calls, "regreened." So, I got back into a military environment right out of the Astronaut Office, fell in love with it. I was the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy. You know, I found it very easy to go from the Space Program to the Naval Academy and then back to the -- what we call the Fleet, the Fleet Marine Force. So, it was an easy transition going both ways because the Astronaut Office was fundamentally a military like organization. You know, the original seven were all military officers, so, they had built the Astronaut Office structurally and functionally to be very much like a military organization.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Charles Bolden's career also had an impact on his son, Che Bolden, who is the President and CEO of the Charles F. Bolden Group. And the group is an executive leadership firm that focuses on cultivating and enhancing new leadership archetypes and is particularly focused on the future of space. Che shared his experiences as a son of a marine and an astronaut, and how it shaped his career choices.

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>> Che Bolden: My first introduction to the military came before I was even aware of anything. My father was a United States Marine. He was commissioned in 1968 out of the United States Naval Academy and so, when I came along in 1971, he was already well into his career. And so, everything I knew and experienced as a child, all the way through to my formative years, was as a military brat. I wouldn't necessarily consider us traditional military brats because in 1980, my father was selected to become a United States astronaut, and so we moved to Houston, Texas just prior to my fourth grade, and as a result, I ended up staying in the same place for a good amount of my youth. All of the people that I found to be incredibly impressive for a variety of reasons, they commanded their respect of their community, they were kind people. They took care of the things around them, and they always try to make things better than the way they found it, happened to be folks who had been in the military, specifically Marines. And so, that was a very easy pointer for me to say, "All right, maybe the military service isn't so bad to create decent human beings." And so, that's how I kind of grew up in the shadow of the United States Military and eventually became military servicemen myself.

>> Maria Varmazis: Can you tell us a bit about your military career, please?

>> Che Bolden: Absolutely. I often tell people I grew up in the shadow of shuttle. You know, with my father being an astronaut and a Marine that was ubiquitous in my life. And when it came time for me to decide what I wanted to do, I had all the same dreams as a lot of younger kids. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a pilot, but throughout all of that, the one thing I kind of knew with a consistency was that I wanted to serve. I didn't know what that meant at the time, I just saw these examples, and so I decided to apply to the United States Naval Academy. The pathway for me to get to the Naval Academy was a little bit different than other folks. My father had already done 20 plus years as an active duty Marine, and so, that entitled me to be eligible for a presidential nomination. I commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1993. I went down to the basic school in Quantico, Virginia, just like every other lieutenant, not knowing what the Marine Corps had in store for me. I was fortunate enough that TBS was fun and interesting, and so I performed well enough to get an aviation slot, and then I became at one point a student naval aviator down in Pensacola, Florida and learned how to fly and become a pilot. My eyes weren't the best and so, I got what's called a NAMI-whammy. So, NAMI is the Naval Aeromedical Institute, I think, and they're the ones who are responsible for saying yes or no on someone's physical qualifications, and they said that my eyesight was not good enough to be a Naval Aviator. Fortunately, there was a spot as a Naval Flight Officer, as a student Naval Flight Officer had opened up, so I moved over into that field. After that, I progressed on to become a Weapons and Sensors Officer in the F18 Delta. I flew that almost 2,000 hours, became an instructor across the board at every possible vertical that we had. I went to Top Gun, and I went to the Marine Corps Fighter -- Marine Corps Weapons and Tactics Instructor School. Went to combat, but a variety of things in the military service, as those who have done it, it starts to wear you down a little bit, so I needed a little break. My wife and I talked about it, and we decided we wanted to go on an adventure and so, I accepted orders to the Command and Staff College in Madrid, Spain and went to school in Spain for a year. And then I ended up working in the Embassy for two years after that. So, that opened up a whole new world for me, where I had been an aerospace and aviation expert, now I was kind of an international affairs or diplomacy neophyte, you know, I was just learning the trade. But it was enough to broaden my horizons and expand what I was looking to do. And when I came back to the active Marine Corps after spending three years in Spain, I got assigned as the Weapons and Tactics instructor slash Officer for the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, and then we deployed to Afghanistan for a year. While I was there, I got exposed to this thing called uncrewed systems. It used to be called unmanned aerial vehicles, UAV's, or, as most people know, drones and so, I was kind of bit by that bug. And so, I went from being a crewed or a manned aviator to a uncrewed or unmanned aviator almost in the blink of an eye just because it a new area where there's a lot of interest and it was exciting to me. And so, I started to advocate for that a little bit more. I eventually became the Commanding Office of an unmanned squadron, uncrewed aircraft squadron [inaudible] down in Cherry Point, North Carolina. Amazing pivotal time in my life. It showed me that the true value of the military is not in our gear, not in our equipment, none of that, it's in the people. Because what we were able to do with a with a slightly better than balsa wood model with a bunch of enterprising Marines, they were able to provide untold amount of intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance. It was an amazing thing to witness the young women and men who raised their right hand to become Marines, learn this trade that they had no idea they were going to learn, and they learned how to employ this tool in a method that, quite frankly, nobody had really knew the limits of what that could do. And so, that opened up a whole new world and they we're able to start to advocate for uncrewed systems to become a little bit more part of the operating model of the United States Marine Corps. So, when all was said and done, I really enjoyed my time as a Marine. I actually finished my 26 years in critical infrastructure, yet another Jack of all trades type of a move. But once again, it told me that technology is there to improve the way human beings work and interact with one another. And that was a great last experience in uniform because it set the stage for me to move into the things that I'm really interested in doing now.

>> Maria Varmazis: Would you mind walking us through what you're working on right now.

>> Che Bolden: I would love to. All of the experiences I was given, both growing up and then in my time in the military, really did set the stage for what I -- what I consider to be, you know, true, like, calling type work now. So, as I kind of mentioned earlier, I grew up in the shadow of shuttle, but I really didn't pay that much attention to the space business. You know, my father being an astronaut, was to me akin to my father having worked at one of the petroleum plants that were nearby that we worked in, or if he had been an engineer or even a teacher for that matter, you know, he's just my dad, but space to me was a job. It was not until I had retired from the Marine Corps, set out on my own to try to become an entrepreneur and I was trying to find where I fit and there are only two things that I knew that I was pretty decent at. I know leadership, whether I'm a good leader is not the point, but I know what good leadership and bad leadership is and I also know people. You know, I just -- I have a good way and a relationship with people in which I can connect with them and have them connect with other people.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Former NASA Astronaut and retired Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins was one of the first women to serve as a test pilot for the U.S. Air Force. She was the first woman ever to pilot the Space Shuttle and the first to command a Space Shuttle Mission. She shared with us what it was like to lead the way for others.

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>> Eileen Collins: So, the Air Force decided in 1976 to allow women to become military pilots and it was a test program. Now, I was not -- I was still young and in college when the first groups went through, so they selected ten women. It was a very, I want to say competitive program, it was nationwide. Those ten women went to pilot training in Phoenix, Arizona and I heard about this in the news, and I started following it. And I said, "Wow, this is what I want to do." My senior year in college, I'm in ROTC, which is the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and I'm on track to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. And the job they had set up for me, back then we called it Strategic Air Command, and I was going to be a Computer Systems Design Engineer. I was going to work in missile targeting, I mean, that's what the Air Force had me set up for. This is back during the Cold War, and it was 1978. Well, this test program then opened up to women just graduating from college, so I became eligible and previously you had to be on active duty. So, now the younger women, I was 21 years old, were now eligible. So, my professor of Aerospace Studies sent my name in, and there were about 100 women from around the country and eight of us were selected. I was sent to Vance and this to me was a massive dream come true. I mean, this was a huge turning point in my life when I was selected for this program. And of the eight of us, four went to Arizona, where the other women had trained and four of us went to Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, and we were the first four women to ever go through pilot training there. And we might have been the third class overall throughout the Air Force, maybe the fourth. I tried to figure out, I'm not sure which one we were, but we were one of the earliest. And the times that I spent at Vance as one of the first women to ever train there, I wrote a whole chapter on it in my book because there were so many interesting stories that happened and how the men accepted us and some that --some that didn't accept us. But it was to me, just a dream come true, because now I'm 21 years old and I'm flying jets. And I went solo in jet aircraft, the T37 and the T38 at the age of 21. It's a huge amount of responsibility to give to somebody at that age, but frankly, people that are 21 are highly, I want to say, ready to take on responsibilities. At that point I was a college graduate, but I was living my dream. And I'm not going to say it was easy because I was studying constantly because not only did I want to get my wings, did I become a pilot, but I was part of a test program, and I wanted other women to have the same opportunity as me. And if we had failed, then those other women -- that they would have shut down the program and the women younger than me wouldn't have had the opportunity. So, we were doing it for ourselves as well as other women.

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>> Maria Varmazis: And sometimes the military is at odds with what's going on in the space industry. Former NASA Astronaut, John Harrington shared with us what it was like to make the switch from being a Naval Aviator during the Cold War to an astronaut working with international partners.

>> John Herrington: I was given a -- I was given a student to tutor who was a retired Navy captain who flew Dauntless dive bombers in World War II. He became my Navy tutor, I was his calculus tutor, and so he encouraged me to join the Navy. I did that in 1983. My job was to hunt Russian submarines, that was my job. I did that for four years, you know, in the Western, Northern Pacific and I hunted Russians, you know? Hey, they were our enemy, right, Cold War. And by the time I became an astronaut, I was working with Russians. I was living in Russia. I lived in Moscow. I lived in Star City. Two of my crewmates I was going to fly in the Space Station with were cosmonauts, Russian -- Russian military officers. One guy was, that guy was a flight doc. But, you know, it's, I'm working with the people that my entire professional career as an aviator, I was told to fear. I was told they were the enemy. And the reality is they're not. You know, the political system is different. We know it's going on full force right now, but in terms of the cosmonauts and the astronauts, that wasn't our job. Our job was to work together to do mission and to do it safely. I took -- I took a Russian to space on the Space Shuttle, and we brought two Russians home. So, very, very strange and a wonderful experience from what I was trained to do early on.

>> Maria Varmazis: And it's not just astronauts who've had their careers shaped by the military, of course. We spoke to Sassie Duggleby, CEO of Venus Aerospace, who told us how her husband's time as a U.S. Navy Reservist shaped the idea of launching her own company.

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>> Sassie Duggleby: Andrew is also in the United States Navy Reserves. In the Navy capacity, he's called an Engineering Duty Officer, and he does ship repair. And 2018 was a really bad year for the Navy and they had more ships that they needed repaired than they could get back to the United States. So, he actually got called up and we deployed to Japan. And so, we pulled our daughters out of school, we have two kids, pulled the kids out of school, moved to Japan. And it was actually living in Japan that we had the idea for Venus. It was a Sunday afternoon; we were sitting out kind of on our balcony overlooking Tokyo Bay and talking about that it's 13 hours to get home and just how big the world really is. And we have traveled internationally, but we had never lived overseas, and it was literally that Sunday afternoon Andrew said, "Well, you know, there's this new rocket engine coming down the pipeline," that he had been watching both as a professor and then at Virgin Orbit. And he said, "I think if this rocket engine is ever proven," he said, "We could put it on a plane and we could be home in an hour." And so that was the moment -- I actually laughed at him, if I look back, but we started dreaming on what would it look like? Like, what if this engine really is proven, could we commercialize it? Could we actually take that step? So, fast forward, you know, it was proven at a university kind of at the academic level in 2019 and so, we kind of incorporated the company. I was trying to figure out how do you raise venture capital? And then as soon as we got Virgin Orbit to the first launch, which was June 2020, we quit our jobs and it was in the middle of COVID and, you know, our kids were home from school and started fundraising and really digging in and saying, "We think we have something here and we really need to go pursue this."

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>> Maria Varmazis: And we should mention T-Minus producer, Alice Carruth is married to an Army veteran. Although she met her husband after he left the military, his continued career as a civilian for the U.S. military led her to her career in space.

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>> Alice Carruth: Adam was in the Signal Corp and served two tours of Iraq and left the military to go and work for a commercial company, but really was attracted to go back into the military as a civilian contractor and that's how he ended up in Qatar, where we met. And really it was meeting Adam and moving with him to the U.S. and to New Mexico that led to my career in aerospace. I had no idea about space before I moved here to the state, and really it was being here and learning about this incredible history of space in this state that led me to realizing that I could become a communicator in space and now, as the producer of T-Minus Space Podcast.

>> Maria Varmazis: Brandon Karpf joined N2K straight out of the Navy. This is his story.

>> Brandon Karpf: I was raised in a family that deeply respected military service, but we didn't have a lot of it. Really, the only member of my family who was military was my grandfather. I was his only grandson, and so, he and I were quite close. He was a Army Infantry Officer through the entire South Pacific campaign of the Second World War. He enlisted in 1939 when he saw the war coming, deployed out to Australia, received a battlefield commission. Fought in most of the campaigns under MacArthur, trying to get back to the Philippines, you know, Borneo, New Guinea, some of the other islands throughout that island chain of the South Pacific. Was wounded in battle twice, contracted malaria twice. Had a couple of extraordinary harrowing experiences behind enemy lines. He was pretty highly decorated. Needless to say, he had a tough experience and never really shared his experiences with his three sons, but when I came along, suddenly he started to share and communicate. And I was really the first, and for some of the stories, the only member of the family who heard what he went through from an early age. When I was in late elementary school, growing up in New Jersey, 9/11 happened. And having been primed on military service and national service and the ideals that my grandfather fought for, when 9/11 occurred a classmate of mine her father was killed in the north tower. That really affected our community and ignited in me probably what was ignited in my grandfather in 1939, which was this drive to want to defend innocence and defend our way of life after being attacked. From that moment on, my life really focused on getting to military service. I told my dad, even that night, that we had to do something. I remember staying up all night watching the newsreels and that really was the end of innocence for me and for many in my generation. My dad, being probably a smart man, didn't want me to enlist, so started taking me from a young age to visit the military academies. And one of my neighbors, an incredible gentleman, graduated West Point class in 1957, fought in the first battle during the Vietnam War, and the cavalry actually memorialized in the movie, "We Were Soldiers." He was my next door neighbor growing up, retired colonel and he really wanted me to go to West Point. So, my dad took me to West Point first and I loved it. That's where I wanted to go until the following year, my dad took me to Annapolis. And the moment we stepped foot in Annapolis, the first words out of my mouth were, "How could anyone in their right mind want to go to West Point when a place like this exists?" So, go Navy, beat Army. Annapolis is an extraordinary town, in fact, it's where my wife and I moved once we got out of the Navy. It's beautiful. It's incredible, so that's where I went. I worked incredibly hard to get there and I got myself there with the nomination. Had a wonderful experience in Annapolis. Commissioned as a, really as the first fully physically qualified to commission from the Naval Academy Cryptologic Warfare Officer in the history of the Naval Academy. Commissioned as a cryptologist, served in the Cryptologic Force at Fort Meade, both on the national side as well as the maritime side and the cyber side with Cyber Command. And that was great fun. The people I got to work with there, the missions that I got to work, the exposure and the experiences I had were life altering. I'm proud to say that some of the things I worked on made a difference. I know saved people's lives. It doesn't necessarily mean that it was easy. Really opened my eyes to an incredible world, especially across cybersecurity and cyber operations, and ignited the passions that I have today still around developing talent, developing knowledge, developing insights and delivering those to professionals working across high tech to make everyone more effective at their mission. From there, spent some time on a ship tour out of San Diego doing more traditional cryptology. And at that point, my wife, who is also a naval cryptologist, she and I decided we were kind of tired of the lifestyle and it was time to move on, at which point I left the service, separated and joined the private sector. So, my service, I really attribute the skills, the proficiencies, the knowledge, the capabilities I have, and what I've accomplished in the private sector to the years I spent in the Navy. It was the honor of my life to serve in the Navy. I will look back on that time with great appreciation and great pride. I met the best people of my life in the Naval Service. I worked with some of the best Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Soldiers. Extraordinary human beings doing extraordinary things every day. And even though this is Veterans Day and not Memorial Day, I would like to dedicate this entire episode to my teammate, Shannon Kent and her family. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: That's it for our special edition of T-Minus for Veterans Day 2023. To all our listeners who are U.S. veterans, we thank you for your service.

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We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can e-mail us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. And I'm Maria Varmazis, thanks for listening.

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