Dang defies odds, defines success
August 28, 2012
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- His life is the sort of story you read in a book or watch in a movie. From humble beginnings in Vietnam to a career as an interdisciplinary engineer, Ngoc Dang has proven that anything is possible.
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, in April 1975, Dang grew up in a small village with no electricity or running water. Along with his older sister and two younger brothers, Dang helped with his parents' farm every day after school.
"My parents worked very hard just to provide us basic needs," he said. "It was very hard for us. All we had was our love for one another."
After finishing school in Vietnam, Dang's aunt and uncle sponsored a trip for him and his family to come to America in 1992. Unsure of what was ahead, Dang made the trip in hopes of attending college to receive a degree and learn the English language. After living in Fairfax, Va., for about a year, the family moved to Reading, giving Dang the opportunity to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. He studied as a radio frequency and microwave engineer and landed a job with Lockheed Martin shortly after receiving his degree. This was the first step down a path that led Dang to the depot in 2004.
"I worked for Lockheed, Bell Labs, Northrop Grumman and Triquint Semiconductors before I became an engineer consultant at Tobyhanna," said Dang. "Wherever I've worked, I have always strived to set my goals high and aim even higher."
Dang works in the Production Engineering Directorate's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Engineering Branch. He is the commodity expert for ISR systems. Branch chief Joseph Salamido says his expertise and experience are what set him apart from the rest.
"His expertise with radar, in particular, makes him the go-to guy for resolving technical issues with current systems and for preparing Tobyhanna to support future radar systems," said Salamido.
After having to work so hard to learn English once coming to America, Dang applied that same mentality to his work at the depot.
"Dang's work ethic is second to none," said Salamido. "He is always willing to work long hours and answers his cell phone at all hours of the night to ensure technical problems are resolved as quickly as possible. He has a unique ability to troubleshoot complex problems quickly." Salamido believes this gift comes from Dang's extensive knowledge of radar systems and the theories behind how they operate. Combining this knowledge with extensive hands-on troubleshooting experience, he plays a vital role in the depot's commitment to the warfighter.
"His position is extremely critical to supporting the overall mission of the depot. He resolves complex problems quickly, enabling us to meet schedules for critical systems and return these systems to the Soldiers in the field," said Salamido. "His assistance is so helpful that he has been specifically requested to help resolve issues with Firefinder systems at Forward Operating Bases in Iraq."
Dang's commitment to his job, the depot and the warfighter has an impact on those around him. C4ISR Maintenance Engineering Division Chief Mark Viola says he has seen few people with the same amount of dedication.
"Dang has always struck me as a person who knew what he wanted to do with his talents and abilities and then gave 125 percent to achieve his goals," said Viola. "Dang consistently goes the extra mile, day in and day out. He never complains about the demands of his position. His level of dedication is among the very best that I have ever witnessed in anyone."
While his journey through life is inspiring and his rise through the ranks at the depot serves as an example of where hard work can lead you, Dang's humility speaks louder than any of it: "I'm just doing my job."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of 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.
About 5,400 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. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., 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.