The eldest of seven children, Pat Vittitow said only she and her youngest sibling are still working. That will change Dec. 31.
Vittitow, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command safety director, has dedicated over four decades to recognizing and controlling hazards and ensuring the workplace is relatively free from danger.
Though born in Logan, West Virginia, Vittitow considers Louisville, Kentucky, her hometown. “I graduated from University of Louisville with a Master of Science degree in engineering – chemical engineering is my discipline – in 1976,” she recalled. “I worked at Atlantic Richfield Oil Company right out of school.”
First working as a process engineer at the oil company, Vittitow then was a paint/coatings engineer at Ford Motor Company and, finally, a production engineer at Hercules Sealing Products working in explosives manufacturing – that in and of itself requires safety to be at the forefront of the mind daily.
In 1979, she joined the Field Safety Activity in Charlestown, Indiana, where she worked in chemical agent and explosive safety. Vittitow has been in government service ever since.
Many government civilians at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, have a military tie or a family history of service. That’s not the case for this Kentuckian.
“The Field Safety Activity was part of a round of satellite office closures. I received a job offer from Space and Missile Defense Command to come to Redstone and moved here in May 1992,” Vittitow said. “Thought I wouldn't be here long but I love the area and loved what I was doing. I left SMDC in 2006 for AMCOM.”
“Pat Vittitow has not only been an incredible asset for AMCOM and AMC but, literally, for the Army and all of DoD,” said AMCOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Todd Royar.
Here, Vittitow is responsible for providing safety engineering oversight of and managing the safety messaging process for all aviation and missile platforms under the AMCOM umbrella. Occupational and health command safety programs also fall within her purview.
“The warfighter is the ultimate customer of AMCOM's materiel. Every safety release is done with the warfighter in mind and how any safety shortfalls will affect the safety of the user – the warfighter,” she said.
Vittitow’s primary focus has been in large missile and air defense systems. The recognized expert in large rocket motors has served on multiple U.S. Army safety review boards and working groups in varying capacities.
“We all know what Pat Vittitow does and, let's face it, the aviation industry has given Pat a lot of work over the last year and a half to two years with several significant material concerns,” said AMCOM Chief of Staff Col. Richard Martin. “But she’s as equally involved in the missile enterprise and other Department of the Army- and Office of the Secretary of Defense-level Occupational Safety and Health Administration programs. She’s definitely doing a heck of a job and we are really going to miss her when she retires.”
That hard work and dedication resulted in accolades aplenty; among them, OSD Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service, Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Commander's Award for Civilian Service, International System Safety Society President’s Achievement Award and the USASMDC Technical Achievement Award.
“Her focus and leadership while serving on and leading key joint safety boards have given our warfighters safe and reliable systems,” Royar said.
AMCOM is the 14-year bookend that caps off a storied 41-year career of government service.
This isn’t quite the end of her career Vittitow imagined. “Not how I envisioned my last year in a long government career,” she said. “I'm not a telework person – I like people and interacting with people.”
Vittitow said being forced to work from home has made her appreciate the people she works with, her friends and the work she does.
“I am so grateful for all my experiences – good and bad. I have learned so much and did so much that I can't envision a better career and the places it took me.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Vittitow began sewing masks for friends, family and to give away as donations. To date, she’s made about 300.
Having time for family – daughter Amanda Stack and grandchildren 15-year-old Austin and 13-year-old Taylor Stack – is at the top of Vittiow’s retirement list. A self-described avid quilter, she looks forward to more quilting and visiting people and places she’s been unable to in a long time.
She has plans to visit her siblings – Bonnie Hammond, Stephanie Cline and Fred Stiltner – in Louisville, Kentucky, as soon as she can. Another destination is California, where her brother Patrick Stiltner lives.
“My siblings have planned several get-togethers that I have been unable to participate in,” Vittitow said. “I would like more time to visit with them.”
To her quilting pal and sister Cindy McDaniel, in Belchertown, Massachusetts, “I want to see snow!” So she will make her way there, too.
In the meantime, while Vittitow sorts out her anticipated journeys, she said she may finally get around to cleaning out her closets.