ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – If a job posting read “experience wanted in Aerospace industry” Lieutenant Colonel Pat Lis, officer-in-charge of the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command’s surgeon office, would be the one to call.
He has worked in the aerospace industry for 33 years and counting.
“I became interested in aerospace when I first entered the military as a jet engine mechanic working on F-4s for the Air Force back in 1979. I also worked on F-15s, T-37s and T-38s,” said Lis, who served four years on active duty in the Air Force, and has 26 years of combined service in the Army and Army Reserve.
He credits Army training with helping him succeed in his chosen career field.
“The Army taught me a lot of organization skills, to be able to establish teams, a good work ethic and how to deal with different people and personalities in an effective manner,” said Lis.
Lis currently works for Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, based in Melbourne, Florida.
“Being an Army officer helped me with my current position,” said Lis. “My management observed that due to my Army training. I was able to work independently and resolve issues with little to no supervision.”
He has worked on a variety of projects since he began his aerospace career back in 1987.
According to Lis, two of the most interesting projects he worked on were developing the wing assembly for the Boeing C-17 Globe Master aircraft, and working as a mission planner and configuration analyst on the Spacelab program during the early 1980s.
Spacelab was a reusable laboratory developed in a joint effort National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the European Space Agency (ESA), and ALITALIA (Italian Space Agency) amongst other global agencies. It was housed in the shuttle cargo bay on certain shuttle flights and allowed scientists to perform experiments in a micro gravity environment.
“When I worked on the Spacelab program, we were responsible for configuring the experiment housing assemblies in order to integrate each experiment which were unique to every mission.” Lis said. “The shuttle would take experiments up to the space lab. The astronauts would conduct experiments, analyze the results and bring back data. They would bring fish and plants up to space to see how they react in a zero gravity environment which contributed to the development of self-sustaining food sources for the astronauts.”
Lis has also worked on several space transportation system missions including the Mars Rover, Galileo and Cassini missions. According to NASA, Cassini traveled 4.9 billion miles during a 20-year mission to learn about Saturn.
“I was there for the launch of the Cassini mission at Cape Canaveral on October 15, 1997. It was a satellite that went to explore the rings of Saturn. It was successful,” said Lis.
“I also worked on the Galileo program. They have to clean the cargo bay of the space shuttle very well. They deployed Galileo from the space shuttle,” explained Lis.
Galileo orbited Jupiter for nearly eight years and was the first spacecraft to orbit an outer planet.
Throughout his military career, Lis has served on two overseas deployments to Kuwait and one stateside deployment at Camp Blanding, Florida.
“I was in Doha for my first deployment in 2002-2003; I was a transportation officer in charge of deliveries and supplies to Iraq,” he said.
During a second deployment to Kuwait in 2012-2013, he worked with then Colonel Kris Belanger (now Brigadier General Belanger assigned as deputy commanding general for Human Resources Command) as her Deputy G1 for the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
“I was in charge of Officer Evaluation Reports status tracking, promotions, the Organization Inspection Process for the downtrace battalions, and additionally coordinating the Army Career Assistance Program, which at the time, was a redeployment requirement for Soldiers that were not currently employed and to assist in their re-employment upon re-deployment."
During his stateside mobilization, he served at Camp Blanding.
“I was both the S-1 (personnel) and Unit Administrator for the deployment for the 2/350 Logistics Support Battalion,” Lis said.
Throughout his service, Lis has also found value in mentoring.
“Mentoring is extremely important because you can pass on your experience and lessons learned in your career to help your colleagues,” Lis said. “From fellow service members in uniform to fellow engineers, I have enjoyed numerous mentor-mentee relationships."
Lis also serves as the community chair with his veterans group at Northrop Grumman called VERITAS which stands for (Veterans Employees Reservists Inspired To Act and Serve). VERITAS is an employee resource group that supports active duty, Reserve, National Guard and veterans.
Lis credits his experiences in the Army with the positive progression of his long career.
“My time and training with the Army Reserve has taught me how to make good, timely and sound decisions with integrity, and at times, utilizing the military decision-making process taught (to me) in Officer Basic Course, Captain’s Career Course and Intermediate Level Education, and the overall mentoring I received from some past great leaders throughout my military career such as Brigadier General Kris Belanger. It’s been of great benefit” said Lis. “Had it not been for what I’ve learned in my career with the Army, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my current civilian position.”