By Nicole Smith, ACC-WarrenDecember 7, 2011
A gallon of gas in 1946 was 15 cents, the classic holiday movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," was released and John Bruce, Jr., was on his way to Michigan for a temporary government job.
On December 3 history was made in Warren, Mich., when Bruce celebrated 94th birthday and retired from the U.S. Army Contracting Command --Warren after 69 years of federal service.
Bruce has enjoyed an illustrious career and because he enjoyed what he was charged to do, getting up every morning and making his way into the office wasn't a chore. He attributes his longevity to enjoying his job, a good wife, Jean, and a loving supportive family.
According to the Office of Personal Management, Bruce enjoys the distinction of being the oldest and longest-serving employee of the U. S. Army. This occasion was recently marked by a celebration in his honor with his colleagues, family and friends.
Bruce credits his longevity to enjoying his job and showing up every day with a positive attitude and a thirst for new opportunities.
Growing up near San Pedro, Calif., Bruce would often visit the beach with his father, a former officer in the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.
Dec. 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, was a pivotal point in Bruce's life. As a senior at the University of Southern California, the younger Bruce felt compelled to follow in his father's footsteps and join the U.S. Navy. However, the first time he tried to enlist he was turned away as there were just too many people with the same idea. He was turned away a second time due to a rapid heartbeat.
Undeterred, he set his sights on the U.S. Coast Guard, and then the Marines with the same results. He decided a little thing like a rapid heartbeat wasn't going to stop him from attaining his goal so he decided to try the U. S. Army. During his physical his pulse was too low and his blood pressure too high but because of his persistence, he was given a chance and was signed up.
After serving in World War II, Bruce was honorably discharged and planned to settle down in California. However, a temporary job and a ride from the train station in Michigan from a woman named Jean changed his plans. Bruce settled in Michigan, married Jean and spent 30 years together, raising two daughters, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
In 1946, Bruce began his civilian career at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren. He started out as a CAF-8, working his way up to GS-15, the grade level he holds at the time of his retirement. Throughout his career, Bruce held various division chief positions before being appointed the Support Equipment Product Support Integration Development associate director.
His many accomplishments include taking part in the then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's examination of the contracting process which called for moving many of the department's disparate contract administration responsibilities to the Defense Logistics Agency.
When asked which position was his favorite, Bruce quickly talked about his time as division chief of the combat vehicles division. He explained it wasn't necessarily the position which made the job great, it was the people who worked with him.
"They were super group chiefs who did their jobs and made me look good," he said.
After watching 12 presidents take the oath of office, 33 commanding general changes of command at TACOM, five major wars, and the first woman appointed to the rank of four-star general in U.S. military, Bruce decided that he had seen enough history.
He leaves with some advice to those who would succeed him.
"Make sure you enjoy what you do and give the very best you can. Don't try to force things," he advised. "Today, everybody is vying for a better position, more money and to be the head of something.
"Sometimes you have to look at why you want a better position or more money," he said. "If you don't think you will truly enjoy it, don't bother; you will not do well. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time and it will happen."
After more than six decades of getting up and heading out to work Bruce has no big plans for retirement, but will enjoy hitting the snooze button.
"I've travelled the United States and the world. Been there, done that," he said. "But I do have a to-do list and the number one thing is to clean the basement."