By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 19, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Not many can say they have a career that spans half a century, but one man is getting the recognition he deserves for more than 50 years of dedication to Aviation.
Larry Riggs, Aviation Center Logistics Command Federal Aviation Administration branch chief, was awarded the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award for his years of service and impact in Aviation, a feat that not many are able to achieve.
"I guess if you live long enough you can get it," Riggs joked. "I like Aviation and I like mechanical stuff, and I get satisfaction knowing that I'm making a difference."
According to the FAA website, in order to be eligible for the prestigious award, one must hold a U.S. Civilian Aviation Authority or FAA mechanic or repairmen certificate, have 50 or more years of civil and military experience worked consecutively, and not have had any airman certificates revoked.
For Riggs, that journey began half a century ago when he entered the Air Force in 1966 as an airplane structural mechanic. Since then, his career has taken him all over the U.S. in a number of different jobs -- from a mechanic, to a bush pilot in Alaska, to working on special operations for the Department of Defense, including counter-narcotics programs for the Drug Enforcement Administration during the height of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar's grip on the drug trade in the mid to late 1980s.
He's flown over 4,000 hours in 40 different fixed-wing aircraft throughout his career, both commercially and in the military, for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines in a variety of programs, he said.
Throughout his years, Riggs has seen the advent of technologies from their inception to their becoming commonplace -- like global positioning systems -- which he admits is an interesting phenomenon to experience.
"I worked on the first GPS programs and now everybody's got a GPS system," he said. "We did all the strange programs that were part of a lot of leading-edge stuff."
It's those parts of his career that Riggs said stood out the most because when working with developmental technologies or special operations, the environment and work is constantly changing.
"I like working the special ops stuff because it's so varied and you're always working real-world, real-time problems," he said. "You don't work with companies -- you work with people -- and there are a lot of good folks out there."
One of those folks that Riggs has become accustomed to working with for the past nine years is Shawn Howard, ACLC quality assurance specialist, who submitted Riggs for the award.
"Because of his knowledge, and the things he does for the command and for us, I really thought he needed to be recommended for it," said Howard of Riggs. "I was here when he showed up (nine years ago) and he rescued us.
"He works long hours and has a willingness to operate in a team environment," he said. "And part of the reason that Cairns (Army Airfield) is a success is because of his willingness to work together as a team."
Howard said that for anyone to be able to reach a 50-year milestone in any career should receive the recognition they deserve, and because of Riggs's extensive experience, the team at Cairns is able to learn from his knowledge.
"A lot of us have learned to excel at what we do and always be knowledgeable about what we're dealing with," said Howard. "He has taught me to always keep my mind sharp on federal regulations and federal thinking, so that you can always have that part of the business in mind, as well as dealing with the military side of it, because that's the whole other half.
"It's a great thing to be able to tap into his knowledge," he continued. "He's taught me more about civil federal Aviation stuff than I ever learned before I got here."
Although the recognition is appreciated, Riggs said being a part of the team and working with people who are as dedicated as he is to the cause is the reason he continues to do what he does. And he doesn't see himself stopping any time soon.
"As long as I'm healthy, I'll continue working," he said.