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Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

  • 1.  Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-19-2018 14:01

    Today, 5/19/2018, is Armed Forces Day.  Memorial Day is coming up fast.  I was wondering how many Chemical Engineers are or were involved in the Armed Forces.   I am sure many ChE students were in the advanced ROTC and served as 2nd Lt and up.   I am old enough that I was drafted.  Bevond that I volunteered AIRBORNE and after completing the US Army Infantry Airborne School, affectionately known as "Jump School" I served the rest of my time with the 82nd Airborne Division.  I know of only 2 others of my College class that went Airborne.

    Are there any others that went "ALL the Way"?

    Frank R Brown III

    Secretary/Treasurer So Cal Chapter 82nd Airborne Division Association    


    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  • 2.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-22-2018 06:18
    Another Airborne Infantry volunteer right here. I enlisted after dropping out of college the first time and served with the 501st IN (ABN). After my separation I landed a job as a QA/QC lab tech at a biodiesel plant, which I worked for a year until my boss convinced me to take advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and get a Chem Eng degree. (Fantastic piece of legislation, that GI Bill -- got me through school DEBT FREE).

    To reference Ammar's discussion topic on "Fundamental vs Operational Knowledge for Chemical Engineering Students" I think my time spent as a grunt and working as a tech in industry did more to get me ready for an operational career than anything school could offer. The majority of students could benefit from a life and experience outside academia between high school and college, if only to get their heads on straight (as I did) and learn how to turn a wrench.

    John Hornor
    Test Operations Engineer
    Stennis Space Center, MS

  • 3.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-22-2018 09:50
    I was one of the fortunate to go through the NROTC program as a ChE.  Great preparation for navy nuclear power - thermodynamics the navy way was easy!  Also great leadership training for when I went into business after my 7 years of service.  Best preparation that I could of had.

    Gary Hilberg PE
    Continuum Energy
    Cypress TX

  • 4.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-23-2018 15:54
    About half of my ChemE class were in ROTC and commissioned in the Corps of Engineers.  I did the same training but changed to Ordnance which seemed to have more ChemEs. I spent 3 years on active duty as a Soecial Weapons and then Special Services officer and left as a Captain.

    David Greene PE FAIChE
    Warren NJ

  • 5.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-22-2018 12:22
    U.S. Marine Corps, 0311 grunt, Advanced Infantry Training, Camp Geiger, October, 1970.   I don't remember much about it, but I vividly remember getting a very low draft lottery number in November of 1969.  Listened to the lottery on the radio with some dorm mates, a couple others who were chemical engineering majors.  They got high numbers.  They are both dead now.  By the grace of God, I did not get WestPac orders.

    John Sharland PE,FSFPE
    Bridgewater MA

  • 6.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-23-2018 02:29
    Edited by Stuart Chan 05-23-2018 03:28
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    I am another fortunate one, Airborne Engineers. I almost went to Desert storm but later time I went to Operation Iraqi freedom..served under the legendary 101st Airborne Division .. So I am an Army proud and  a ChE proud! I have practiced my degree in various industries, food, semiconductor, materials and now ordnance. My Military  service started as an enlisted 91A combat Medic and then got my commission via Army ROTC and Branched to Army Engineers(CORP OF ENGINEERS).  Indeed, I was having a good blast as a Combar Engineer since we have to learn about explosive (chemistry)and do infantry skill beside other tasks Engineer ask to do. As a commissioned officer and degree engineer, I am having a good time of learning civil engineering from the Army while I am in uniform and as a civilian, I was a Process Engineer doing specialty chemical manufacturing, semiconductor processing , food processing..etc.. Also traveled around the world in both civilian and uniform. So my decision didn't go to active duty may be was right... I can practice my ChE degree and earned a good salary.

    For me, learned excellent leadership from the Military from both peacetime and combat . My ChE degree did give me a different view and opportunitues to look at a lot of things related to chemistry like ordnance and propellant.

    Stuart Chan
    Chemical Engineer/Pyro and Demo Team
    Department of Defense/Naval Surface Warfare Center

    Airborne all the way! Engineers lead to clear the way!

  • 7.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-23-2018 03:06
    My Navy service preceded my college years but I knew I was headed for Chemical Engineering and was a benefactor of the GI Bill of Rights.  But this story occurred much later.  One of my ChE friends, also a member of my Local Section, and I were discussing our naval experiences at one of our LS meetings when a third party joined us.  He knew me but not my Navy friend, so I introduced them:  Joe XYZ, meet my friend Bob KLM.  Bob and I both spent some time in the US Navy.  He retired as a Navy Captain.  I retired as a Seaman First Class!

    Emmett Miller PE, FAIChE
    Consulting Engineer
    Emmett R Miller, PE
    Lafayette CA

  • 8.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-24-2018 14:58
    First, I want to reiterate comments from several other chemical engineers and state my full appreciation for everyone who has "supported and defended the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic", particularly our colleagues who served in combat operations.  I was also fortunate that, after commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve in 1972 through Army ROTC at the University of Missouri, I completed the Ordnance Officer Basic Course at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 1973 and was assigned to two Army Reserve units at the Presidio of San Francisco.  My final assignment, which ended in 1980, was as the Ammunition Officer for the 6211th Army Reserve Garrison.  I am grateful that my employer, Chevron Corporation, fully supported me in meeting my Army Reserve obligation.  I am convinced that my experience in the Army Reserve made me a better employee for Chevron and that my experience with Chevron at the Richmond Refinery made me a better Army Reserve member.  My wife and I have appreciated opportunities to participate in local veteran activities which recognize and support those who served in the military and returned to civilian life under trying and disadvantageous circumstances.

    Mark Heinemann
    Danville, CA

  • 9.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-25-2018 00:53
    Thank you, Mark, for expressing the right feelings about the military better than I could have done it.  My class, the class of 1956, was the probably the first to be affected by the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 (RFA 55).   For me, and for most other Army ROTC graduates in my class, that meant an eight year reserve obligation that included a six month active duty for training stint.  My commission was into the Corps of Engineers; I took the Engineer Officers Basic Course at Fort Belvior, VA; and almost all of my reserve service was with the 302nd Engineer Battalion (Combat).  It  was an enriching experience I am glad I had. During my time with the 302nd I served as a platoon leader, battalion communications officer, company commander, and battalion adjutant, and each position was a challenging and valuable learning experience that definitely helped me in the 43+ year chemical engineering career I had.

    Neil Yeoman, PE, FAIChE

  • 10.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-26-2018 10:12
    Thank you for all who seved. And, I am sorry  that some of you were treated badly by other Americans when yo came back to the states (I.e. Vietnam War)

    Michael Mackaplow
    Principal Research Scientist
    Chicago IL

  • 11.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-26-2018 12:33

    Thank you for your post, Mark.  I graduated with my degree and a commission into the Army Chemical Corps in 1968 and served on active duty until 1971,  Then I served in the Army Reserves until 1976.  Both my undergraduate education and military experience proved invaluable to my career success as a process engineer, engineering manager, general manager, and university professor.  Like several others who have posted to this discussion, I encountered some negative reactions to my service upon discharge.  Fortunately, that is no longer the case as we appropriately honor our active duty service men and women and our veterans.


    Victor E. Sower, Ph.D., C.Q.E.

    Author and Quality Management Consultant

    Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Management

    2005 Piper Professor

    Sam Houston State University


  • 12.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-23-2018 03:13

    After completing my BChE in 1968, I was drafted out of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin.  I did serve in Vietnam first as a combat engineer, and later in a construction engineering battalion.  Because I was so tall (6'7") I was limited to Army service.  I served in the IV corp right at the conclusion of TET.  There was quite a bit of "action" in that region, and it was my challenge to literally keep my head down.  I was more fortunate than many since I was not wounded.  After Army service, I was discharged back to the states, where I returned to graduate school and was greeted by the ridicule of my fellow students.  Military service wasn't very popular back then.  The University of Wisconsin, in particular, was particularly inhospitable to us returning vets.  After my masters I transferred to the University of Washington where I was treated far more kindly.  Eventually I earned my PhD in Chemical Engineering.  Because my return experience was really awful, I try to be more appreciative of returning veterans.  

    Thomas Hinkebein
    Albuquerque NM

  • 13.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-23-2018 10:39
    I went through NROTC at Purdue U. while getting my ChE degree;  then served from 1966 to 1968 on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, as an Engineering Officer, including two deployments to Viet Nam.  I ended up staying in the Naval Reserve for 12 years.

    As with many young officers, we did some fast growing up and maturing during active duty, as the military can give young inexperienced officers some awesome responsibilities. E.g., after qualifying as an Engineering Watch Officer, I was responsible for a 500 million dollar engineering plant and 150 enlisted men operating the plant  during my 4 hour watch each day. During my subsequent successful engineering career in industry, I was never responsible for as many assets or personnel as I was as a young naive inexperienced Naval Officer while on watch.

    Anyway, thanks for asking.  While my years of active duty on an aircraft carrier were incredibly exciting and rewarding, we didn't receive many thanks from society back then due to the controversies surrounding the war. That has noticeably changed in recent years, as society goes out of their way to thank all those who have served in the military, including Viet Nam veterans. E.g., many concerts these days include a medley of military fight songs in which we get to stand up when our service song is played.  Most veterans really appreciate this.

    Joseph Alford
    Zionsville IN

  • 14.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-23-2018 18:04
    I was drafted just after my 21st birthday, while in grad. school during the Spring of 1969.  As such, I was afforded an extra 90 days before induction.  By requesting change of induction site, entry into the Army was delayed just enough to allow completing requirements for M.S.  While in basic training at Fort Campbell, I complained about the "career counselor's" lack of appreciation for 5 years of Chem. Eng. education.  Consequently, I was allowed to apply for a very hard to get engineering assistant MOS.  Instead of departing for AIT as a 01C (mortarman), new orders sent me to the Army's Cold Regions Research Lab (CRREL) in Hanover , NH.  Fortunate indeed.  The staff there consisted of civilian
    PhD leaders, supplemented by ROTC officers and enlisted personnel like myself.  After my two years
    of service, I started a career in petroleum refinery operations and economics and planning, retiring in 2003.

    Stephen Zavoluk
    Clean Products Advisor, retired
    Spring Lake, NJ

  • 15.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-25-2018 11:10
    Airborne Combat Engineer with a BS in ChE from Clarkson seemed strange in 1970. Corp of Engineers instead of something more aligned to ChE actually was a blessing as it broadened my experience. Went in for two year, ended up staying for 26. Army provided an MS and PhD, teaching experience at West Point, leadership experience and command (through Battalion). The circle is closing as I now direct an Engineering and Computer Science Division at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and am starting a ChE program. Would not trade my Army time or Army friends for anything. Everyone would benefit from a tour in the service.

    Jerry Samples PE
    University of Pittsburgh
    Johnstown PA

  • 16.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-26-2018 17:56
    I was The only ChE in my ROTC class and the only female.  I Branched Signal but was branched detailed Chem Corp.  I went to Airborne school and served proudly.  I married an Infantry Ranger and got out when I completed my commitment to raise our four girls.  I then followed as an Army spouse as he served for 27 years.  This summer my second daughter enters West Point and plans to major ChE.  Our proud tradition continues.

    Karen Kearns
    Quality Engineer
    RTP Consulting
    Onalaska WI

  • 17.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-27-2018 08:02
    Thank-you all for your service and stories!  I am also an airborne, all the way ChemE, and actually USED my degree while on active duty and the reserves!!

    I attended Drexel University on a 4-yr (really 5-yr) ROTC scholarship studying Chemical Engineering. For two of my 6 month co-op assignments, I worked at the Naval Ship Engineering Center in Philadelphia helping on a shakedown test of the Trident Submarine life support systems.  During my second co-op, I attended airborne school and got my wings in July 1977!  After ROTC summer camp the following year, I was assigned to the 3rd/4th Bn ADA with the 82nd Airborne and got three more jumps in with them.  Unfortunately, that was all my jumping, but that "CAN DO" mindset has always been with me!

    I graduated and was commissioned in 1979, but got a delay to get a Masters in Chemical Engineering at Lehigh University. When I went on active duty in 1981, I was branched to the Ordnance Corps, with a munitions and nuclear weapons specialty.  But some how, I was assigned to Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas, the army's only arsenal run by the chemical corps, in February 1982.

    Pine Bluff produces most of the army's smoke  projectiles and grenades, including having the only White Phosphorous filling plant in the US.  It also stored chemical weapons and bulk agents, like GB M55 rockets, VX landmines, mustard HD in contains and incapacitating agent BZ munitions.  I was assigned to the depot part of the arsenal, in charge of storing all these munitions, but also tasked to run an incinerator complex to destroy waste materials. My initial job was to work on this incinerator complex, parts of which were still under final testing.  This was very interesting, hands on and right down a new engineers line.

    After about 10 months however, I was given an additional task by our CO as project officer for a M17 protective mask testing line.  After only a few months in operation with about 30 people in one building, it was determined that we would expand our testing to the entire army inventory and also do mask rebuild.  We expanded our operations to 6 buildings employing over 250 people, 24 hrs a day over the next year.  It was an exhausting, but rewarding time, but I and a few others were also still working on the incinerator complex, too!

    When my active duty time was up in July 1985, I left to take a field office position with PM Chemical Demilitarization at Edgewood Area at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, overseeing the construction of the agent BZ demil plant at Pine Bluff.  I stayed in Arkansas for more two years, until I was offered a partnership at a small metal finishing job shop back home in PA  to work with two friends I grew up with.

    I left government employment and worked with them for 29 years, but stayed in the reserves, again working with the Chemical Corps (I never did branch transfer out of Ordnance).  I was called up for active duty during Desert Shield and Storm in 1990, working in the Chemical Research Development and Engineering Center (CRDEC) Operations Center for 7 months.  The rest of my time at CRDEC until retirement was working with Acquisition Corps R&D projects related to radiation detection and remote chemical agent detection.  It was all very interesting and I was surprised I was able to use my chemical engineering knowledge for the army!

    Thanks again for starting this post and sharing your stories!  Please remember those who served and are no longer with us on this and every Memorial Day!!


    Jack Oberholtzer
    Jamison PA

  • 18.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 05-27-2018 17:27
    Has anybody ever been a member of Company B at Edgewood arsenal?  It was an outfit of scientists and engineers in the US Army.  In 1970, its name was changed from Company B to Mission Company, and in the late 1970s or early 1980s Edgewood Arsenal Merged with the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.  The only AIChE member that I know of who also was a member of Company B is Pete Lederman.

    Dennis Griffith PE
    Project Manager
    Granherne - A KBR Company
    Houston TX

  • 19.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 06-10-2018 09:39
    I entered the Coast Guard in 1998 as a chemical engineer under a direct commission program.  My first five years included a lot of hazmat regulation, oil spills, etc, and knowing the basics of chemical properties and process equipment (and corrosion!) helped a lot.  I ended up in a different career field, but the Coast Guard has had a small cadre of chemical engineers for years, usually serving officers who earned a graduate degree in the field.  Rear Admiral Kevin Cook (ret) was one of the more senior recent ones.  There's also an enlisted career field of Marine Science Technicians, most of whom have college-level chemistry or environmental science work and many of whom later get commissioned.  With port complexes like Houston-Galveston and New Orleans, and a lot of hazardous chemicals in maritime commerce, it helps to have this skillset.

    Dave Smith PE
    Springfield VA

  • 20.  RE: Chemical Engineers and the Armed Forces of the US

    Posted 06-12-2018 08:08
    ​I was a Naval ROTC student at Purdue, and as I approached graduation I applied for the nuclear power program, thinking that spending time on ballistic missile subs would allow me to spend time at home on a regular basis as well.  During the interview process I was offered the chance to work at Naval Reactors headquarters, and I spent 5 years in Washington, D.C. working in radiological controls and water chemistry.  This was when Admiral Rockover was still alive - he read every piece of correspondence that left NR, and often sent things back with comments or questions.  In an organization of about 250 engineers corresponding frequently with atomic power laboratories, submarine bases and shipyards, that is a lot of correspondence!  I wore my uniform on the day I was commissioned, and then never wore it again - we worked side by side with civilians and Rickover didn't want uniform or rank to interfere.

    When I left the Navy I opted to leave the D.C. area and pursue a more traditional chemical engineering position.  A few years later I entered graduate school and wound up working in the field of biotechnology until I retired.  The Navy was good to me, and it was a good experience.

    James Ryland
    Malvern PA