REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Some people are daddy’s girls.
Beth Bullock was “Big Daddy’s” girl – and even that doesn’t adequately sum up her love and admiration for her grandfather.
“People go to their grandparents and they get spoiled – I pretty much got spoiled 24/7,” said Bullock, an electronics engineer for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center. “That was a very special experience that most people don’t get.”
From a very young age, the AvMC engineer was raised by her grandparents, Tulon and Gwen Bullock. But it was more than just ensuring she had a roof over her head and food on the table – Bullock’s very career path was formed by Tulon, affectionately called “Big Daddy” by his grandkids.
When she was about 3 or 4, Bullock discovered her grandfather’s longwave radio was broken, so naturally, she fixed it. Noting her affinity for electronics, Tulon provided Bullock with the tools she’d need to succeed in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics field. At age 9 she began programming. When she begged for a computer so she could play video games he bought her one – but only so that she could create her own.
“He pushed me to do what I do now,” Bullock said. “He saw that I had a talent for it and he pushed me and encouraged me to do that from a very young age. He really wanted to hone those skills within me. He knew that was something I could go into and I would be very successful in.”
Tulon, an expert in propulsion and structures, was a successful engineer in his own right on Redstone Arsenal, having started with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, which eventually became Marshall Space Flight Center. While he didn’t talk much about his work for NASA, Tulon was a founding member of Marshall, a part of the Challenger Action Analysis Team that told officials not to launch that day, a contributing member to mechanical engineer textbooks under several different publishers, and even helped with the movie “Apollo 13.”
“He was very modest and you had to pull it out of him,” said Bullock, whose other grandfather, Henry Nocke, also spent part of his engineering career on Redstone and held the rocket engine structure patent.
When it came time decide on a career, Bullock had her choices narrowed down to three – engineer, veterinarian or artist. Tulon helped her weigh the pros and cons for each, guidance that eventually landed her at AvMC, where she has worked since 2011.
“It felt very much like I was following in his footsteps,” Bullock said. “It just felt right. This is where I was meant to be.”
While he passed away in 2007, Tulon’s impact on his granddaughter lives on, not only in the work she does for the Warfighter, but in her memories of fishing together, exploring the outdoors, and him cheering her on at swim meets.
“He was a great role model – morally, ethically – he always encouraged me to do the right thing,” Bullock said. “He was a perfectionist. I always try to do as good of a job as I can on everything that I do. I’m never satisfied. Every iteration that I do I try to increasingly do better. He taught me to keep building, to get better and better. That’s something I always strive for.”
As the nation pauses for Grandparents Day Sept. 13, Bullock has one thing she would tell Big Daddy if she could see him again.
“I would just tell him how much I loved him,” Bullock said.
The CCDC Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.