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NNSA salutes its charter employees for the 40th anniversary of DOE

NNSA charter employees, from left: Ralph “Rick” Collier (in light suit), Janine Ford, Roland Frenck (in light suit)

In October, DOE celebrated its 40th Anniversary so NNSA would like to recognize its charter employees – dedicated professionals who have had careers at the Department for 40 years or more – and thank them for their dedicated service. NNSA salutes its eight charter employees: Teresa Tyner, Robert Jones, Ralph “Rick” Collier, Janine Ford, Mary Mendez, Roland Frenck, Gordon Szeto and James Hannigan. 

Below, some of these long time employees share their experiences of how things have changed over the years.

Janine Ford – Safeguards and Security NNSA Albuquerque Complex and Sandia Field Office

What was your first day of work like?

I started my career at the Albuquerque Operations Office as a secretary shortly after graduating high school. Since the office had been understaffed with clerical support, they were elated when I started. However, that meant there was no time for an orientation. They showed me to my office, which was in a vault-type room, and immediately gave me a classified document to type. I was very nervous, and back then it was manual typewriters and carbon packs so you did not want to make any typographical mistakes. Those first few documents, they took me some time to type.

What are some of your most interesting memories? 

Some of the most interesting memories I have are from the times when I was called upon to assist with high-profile projects, meetings and visits. I have coordinated and prepared material for Secretary of Energy visits, Governors update meetings and the Department’s Nevada Regional Science Bowls.

Roland Frenck – NNSA Headquarters Germantown, MD

What motivated you to stay at the department over these years?

The challenge of successfully delivering complex, billion dollar nuclear projects has enticed me to stay past my retirement date and continue the search for ways to execute this class of projects quicker and more economically.  

What are some of your most interesting memories? 

I have been part of multiple initiatives aimed at improving DOE’s project management capabilities and procedures. These include developing partnerships with professional organizations such as the Project Management Institute and leading universities such as Stanford, together with developing the original DOE Order - Program and Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets

Teresa Tyner – NNSA Headquarters Management and Budget

What was your first day of work like? 

My first day of work at the Energy Research and Development Administration in February 1976 was exciting. I left NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center to follow several of my co-workers in procurement to this newly formed agency, which transitioned into the Department of Energy in October 1977.   

What motivated you to stay at the department over these years?

Since joining the Department, I've worked in several different organizations. I've been fortunate to work with great co-workers and supervisors. I learned a great deal through on-the-job training from my co-workers as well as my supervisors. I have held positions in the front-office of presidentially appointed leaders and have also worked pretty far down in the organization structure. All of my positions have been rewarding in different ways.  

What are some of your most interesting memories? 

One of my most interesting memories involves my time in an OPM (Office of Personnel Management) developmental program. I was fairly early in my career and was competitively selected to participate as one of two DOE employees in this government-wide developmental program. During the one-year program, I completed some interesting rotational assignments, including an interagency task force comprised of a dozen agencies researching shared administrative services across agencies. 

Ralph “Rick” Collier – NNSA Production Office, Y-12 National Security Complex

What was your first day of work like?

Taking the oath as a new federal employee was the highlight of my first day.

What significant innovations have you witnessed over the years?

The computer stands out in my mind as one of the most significant innovations spanning my career. The supercomputers of today are just amazing. And to realize the Department is able to utilize these supercomputers to continue the certification of the nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing is simply remarkable.

What motivated you to stay at the Department over these years?

The missions of the Department have been and continue to be extremely important to the United States.  In any area that I have worked during my career, I was always able to make a strong connection between my work, the DOE mission, and the benefits to the American public. For example, the work I am currently engaged with is in direct support to the nuclear deterrent and the national security of the United States.  

What are some of your most interesting memories? 

I have worked at the facilities that produced the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) for the nuclear weapons program and helped fueled the U.S. Navy fleet. I have worked at the Department's national laboratories where cutting edge technology has been developed. I have worked at Department facilities that converted coal into liquid and gaseous energy forms. I have worked at the facilities that store oil as part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. At all of these stops along my career, I have met and spoken with great, wonderful people that were supportive to the Department's missions, such as former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, the Secretary of Defense, and many others. 

James Hannigan – Naval Reactors, Nuclear Technology Division

What significant innovations have you witnessed over the years?

Computer capability and use has moved forward at a dizzying pace such that computer tools, models, searches and calculations are now a big part of all aspects of our work. Clerical staff to type letters and reports have disappeared and engineers now type their own reports. And the work force is much more diverse than when I started, which is a good thing. 

What motivated you to stay at the Department over these years?

I was assigned to work on several challenging technical problems and given the resources and authority to pursue solutions. The people who worked with me and for me were highly-skilled and motivated and all driven to resolve our challenges. In addition, I was working on problems important to our country's defense – not the profit line of a large corporation.

What are some of your most interesting memories? 

My fondest and most satisfying memories involve finding solutions to challenging technical issues and seeing them successfully implemented.

Mary Mendez – Albuquerque Complex, Office of Personnel and Facility Clearances and Classification

What was your first day of work like?

In 1972, I was hired as a “summer-aid” along with many other young people. The first day was filled with unfamiliar but friendly faces. We all wanted to look like them, so smart and sophisticated, and have an important job like them. Our main goal was to prove ourselves to the Atomic Energy Commission and be offered a permanent position. I won that lottery.

What significant innovations have you witnessed over the years?

I’ve been here too long to remember the implementation of so many wonderful advances. Of course, I remember the computer. Those big bulky things that sat at our desks so awkwardly, yet could accomplish so much at the stroke of a key. When it was announced that computers would replace the typewriter, one director’s secretary, having many years of service, declared that she would retire before anyone would replace her typewriter, and she left.

What motivated you to stay at the Department over these years?

After almost completing a secretarial major, I was offered a permanent position as a clerk-typist. And, although the titles change, my heart still beats to the tune of an old-school secretary. My motivation has always been  the pride and privilege of working for the government, and the honor of meeting and working with some of the best professionals here. I learned from the best, the old-school secretaries, who knew the job and took pride in it.