When Derek Reigel was a kid, he took toys apart to see how they worked; as a calibration technician, he’s still taking things apart, only now he is also responsible for putting them back together.
Reigel works for the U.S. Army Test, Measurement, and Diagnostic Equipment Activity at Corpus Christi Army Depot in southeast Texas, a subordinate element of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.
As a precision measurement equipment calibrator, Reigel said he primarily works on electronics, such as multimeters, spectrum analyzers and frequency counters.
“We mostly work on electronic or physical equipment, basically making sure things are accurate,” he said. “For instance, we make sure scales read correctly; we have weights that are calibrated at higher levels. They tell us exactly how much our weights weigh and then we put them on the scales and adjust them to match the weight; we ensure accuracy.”
Prior to joining the USATA workforce as a civilian, Reigel spent 25 years on active duty in the Army, where he was a 95H, or a test measurement and diagnostic equipment maintenance support specialist.
“I joined the Army because I wanted to see the world and get some college money,” he said. “I went to Alaska, Germany, Korea, Washington, New Mexico. I liked Germany best because of all of the travel opportunities in Europe. I spent the millennial New Year's Eve in Venice, Italy, that was fun.”
Reigel deployed to Macedonia, in support of the Kosovo Conflict and Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired in 2015 as a sergeant first class and he believes most high school students should serve in the military prior to going to college.
“It will help kids grow up and get a little perspective on life before they go to college,” he said. “It's also a good way to see the world, get some core classes knocked out and get money for college, so when they do get out, they’ll be a little more mature and focused. I think the military is a good transition for kids because their parents aren’t around, but they still have [noncommissioned officers] as quasi-parents, who are still looking out for them, both on and off the job.”
Reigel followed his own advice and joined the Army immediately after graduating from high school. He considers himself lucky to find a career he loves.
“I found a job that really fit me and my personality,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved electronics, tinkering with things and taking them apart. It’s like that old saying goes, `find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’”