DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah --Fifty years ago, Milton Berle aired his final show, the Newlywed Game premiered on TV and the Six Day War began between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The world's first ATM was installed in London and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band went gold. Vietnam was nearly 12 years in.
That same year, Marion "Bud" Ford, an operations specialist and operations security manager at Dugway joined the federal service.
"I've been assigned a lot of places, it's been a wide and enjoyable career," Ford said after receiving his 50-year certificate and pin in December. "But it's not over."
Still going strong at 77 years, Ford is a comfortable, weathered man with snowy hair and whiskers. He is delighted to chat and smiles broadly, emphasizing the craggy lines near his eyes, which underscores his years of outdoor work.
A photo of himself, taken as a young man is on his computer. It shows him in an Air Force uniform with all the expectation and eagerness of youth written on his face.
Ford wanted a career in the U.S. Army, but his parents wouldn't agree to it. His father finally said if he was determined to leave home, he would consent to his joining the Air Force. Thus began Ford's 50 years of federal service.
"It was culture shock. I came out of the hills of Kentucky not knowing hardly anything, basically a hillbilly," he said with a grin. "But I loved it. The first time I climbed onto an airplane, I was thrilled beyond belief."
Ford joined the Air Force just 11 days after his 17th birthday. His first assignment was
an aircraft electrician at Nouasseur Air Force Base in Morocco, North Africa. An airman taught him to drive.
"It was a deuce and a half--a 2 ? ton truck. The Staff Sergeant showed me the gears and told me to keep practicing until I 'got it.' Then he went for coffee. I started changing gears, backing up and pulling forward. When he returned, he said: 'That's good enough. Let's go get your license.'"
Six years later, with no rank advancement after attaining the rank of Airman First Class (now called Senior Airman) due to glut of World War II and Korean Veterans, Ford's commitment with the Air Force ended.
He "bummed around" the U.S. for six months before hitch-hiking to Bangor, Maine, where he met an Army recruiter who enlisted him as a Private First Class, fulfilling his boyhood desire and ambition of a career in the Army.
"In the Army I was a Nike Hercules Missile Electronic Material chief, a Hawk missile crewman, a part time Infantry guy (perimeter defense in Vietnam and once in a while outside the wire), a truck driver, an administrative supervisor, and a courier of classified material," he said.
He added. His biggest challenge was "Vietnam" and "staying alive."
Over the years, Ford continued to build his career with a variety of professional skills.
"If I had to pick a favorite job, I guess it would be my time with the Air Force," he admitted, though it's clearly a tough choice for him to make.
Ford said he worked on every type of cargo aircraft they had between 1956 and 1958; plus the B47 Bomber, the KC97 aircraft refueler and a B66 electronic intruder.
Later, he upped his expertise working on the Jupiter "C" Inter-Range Ballistic Missile and on the Atlas "D" Series Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile.
In 1980, he taught at the Great Lakes Naval Station under contract to the College of Lake County of Grayslake, Illinois for 5 years with classes on the Navy Missile and Gun Fire Control Radar and in "computer trouble shooting."
In 1986, he landed the only environmental protection specialist job at Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. There, he was responsible for both the Installation Restoration Program and the Compliance Program with 1 million acres on the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona and a half million acres in the Chocolates and Blues Mountains of California.
Four years later, he transferred to the Navy for 12 years where he built a solid skill set in environmental compliance documentation and resource management.
Ford recalled, "I came to Dugway in 2002 from the Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. I knew Steve Klauser who worked at the Environmental Technology Office at the time."
For five years, Klauser encouraged Ford to apply at Army Test Evaluation Command because of his expertise in environmental compliance.
At Dugway, Ford served as a National Environmental Protection Act Coordinator. He helped write the Dugway Environmental Impact Statement in 2005, several environmental assessments and the Environmental Check List that both the Army Test and Evaluation Command at West Desert Test Center and the Army Installation Management Command in English Village still currently used. He also worked closely with his state counterparts throughout Utah.
Mike Robinson who now anchors the environmental office shared, "When I started my civilian career with the Army, I was preparing environmental documents, which Bud reviewed. He was a fine mentor. I learned a lot from him and came to value his knowledge and constructive advice to improve our documents. We soon realized our common experiences and values as Army Veterans and became friends."
For the last four years, Ford has served at the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security for Dugway Garrison as an operations specialist, training coordinator and the operations security manager, which he enjoys.
"I personally admire Mr. Ford's service to our nation and dedication to our service members during the past 50 years," said Matthew De Pirro, director of Garrison DPTMS. "Bud's broad and extensive experience, which he readily shares, makes him an asset to the team."
"If you're content with your job, it's easy to be happy," Ford said. "At DPTMS we all have similar backgrounds and shared life experiences in the military. We have a natural respect for one another and work well as comrades to get the task done,"
Ford has no real plan to retire, but said his wife of 37 years, Brenda, is considering three more years. Their plan is to spend more time with their three daughters and six grandchildren. "Three girls, three boys," Ford said proudly.
But when pressed on retirement, Ford shakes his head and furrows his brow. "Those guys who retire only last about 10 years before they get bored to death." A chuckle follows, but he likely not kidding.
Ford's words of counsel to younger federal employees: "People sometimes have an idea of what they want to do when they are young. My advice is to get as much experience as you can, think about it before you settle on your choice, then move forward and pursue it with all you've got."
Would he do it all again? His reply: "No regrets."