Dynamic duo committed to veterans
October 28, 2008
By Kevin Toolan
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Veterans Day holds special meeting for a Tobyhanna couple. Aleida and Les Sharp met in Germany in 1973 while serving in the U.S. Army. Earlier this year, their relationship attained another milestone as they each celebrated 35 years of federal service, including nearly 30 years at Tobyhanna as coworkers.
They count themselves among the more than 40 percent of Tobyhanna employees who are veterans of the Armed Forces. They also are actively involved in programs that honor veterans, not only on Nov. 11, but throughout the year.
Along with their Army service, the couple shares many other interests. In addition to their volunteerism for veterans, both work in electronics; both volunteer in many other organizations; Les likes motorcycling, Aleida is a Red Hatter (a woman's club), and they have raised a daughter Stephanie, who is pregnant with their first grandchild.
They had been in the Army about two years when Les met Aleida in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Les served as a radio relay and carrier operator; Aleida was a telephone switchboard operator. They married in 1974 and later moved to Fort Hood, Texas. Les and Aleida were honorably discharged from the Army in 1978 and the young couple moved to the Poconos, where Les had lived since 1963, when his family moved from the suburban Philadelphia area. Aleida was born in Puerto Rico, but calls Brooklyn, N.Y., home.
Aleida began her depot career first, coming to Tobyhanna in November 1979 under the Veterans Readjustment Act (VRA) program. Les soon followed, also as a VRA hire, starting in what was then the General Supply Division. With their military training in communications and electronics, both eventually began working in maintenance shops. Today, Les works in the Command, Control and Communications/Avionics Directorate's Navigation Systems Branch. Aleida is an electronics-mechanic in the Communications Systems Directorate.
They both are members of the Tobyhanna Veterans Council; Les currently serves as president and Aleida is secretary. Aleida holds the same post with the Tobyhanna Women's Club. They both were involved in bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall Memorial to the depot in 2000 and more recently in the multi-year effort to build the POW/MIA Memorial. "The memorial represents a debt that none of us can ever repay. It honors the sacrifices of many to preserve the liberties that so many take for granted," Les says.
Aleida's volunteerism includes donating blood; she has given more than 13 gallons. "I just like to help out where I can. I get a nice warm and fuzzy feeling when I do. It's my community service. My motivation is that I can help someone," she says simply. Les also is a frequent donor, with about six gallons to his credit.
"I think the volunteering just comes from a desire to help out others," says her husband. "The time I spent in the Coast Guard Auxiliary grew out of a desire to be a safe boater, and I felt it was a good way to help others understand both the dangers and the pleasures of recreational boating. As far as volunteering here, and with the Patriot Guard Riders, I think it comes from being veterans ourselves, and while not really realizing what that meant back in '78, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the current sacrifices being made by our military and their families in the war on terrorism, have really made it important to understand what some Americans are willing to do, for us, for our nation," Les explained.
Over their long careers, they have seen many changes at Tobyhanna. Aleida started in the Drafting Section. "I saw the Drafting Section go from drafting tables, mechanical pencils and erasers, to using the CAD-CAM (computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing) system," she says.
Les believes the ongoing modernization of the physical plant best illustrates the changes he has seen. "Notable changes would include the modernization of the physical plant, getting away from the warehouse type environment," Les notes. That is mirrored by the mission's technological advancements. "We certainly have made the transition over the years from refurbishing really dated items, World War Two and Korean War-era equipment, to more modern, solid-state items."
Working together at Tobyhanna solved one problem for a young couple with just one car. "When Aleida got hired here and I was working in Cresco, I would drop her off and go to Cresco, then pick her up around 5 p.m. It added about 20 miles to our commute, but gas wasn't $3.50 a gallon either. With both of us working here, it was also much easier to raise our daughter, as we could alternate being off if she was sick, or had a snow day, but it was also good for supporting her in school activities and other things," Les says.
Aleida jokes: "Working with your spouse is nice, especially in the winter. I don't have to drive in the snow!" But she notes that the depot's size and their positions keep them apart. "We work in different buildings, have different lunch breaks, so it's not like we're always together."
With no plans for immediate retirement, they look to continue their careers and their voluntary service, together, in the years ahead. Travel and the anticipated arrival of their first grandchild complete a full life for this special couple.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.
Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence (CITE) for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center (TRC) for ground communications and electronics.
About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.