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Division of Information Technology salutes our veterans

Veterans Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices made by men and women who have served in the armed forces. The day also provides an opportunity to hear stories about how the military service of employees of the Division of Information Technology helped prepare them for the positions they hold today.

Howard Haynes, a project manager with OneCarolina, was a program/project manager for the United States Air Force in Special Weapons Development. He said his 20.5-year service in the Air Force prepared him well for project management on the federal, state and local levels when he retired to civilian life. He said the opportunity to use technologies that had not yet been introduced to the commercial sector was exciting. He cited the utilization of GPS technology in missiles systems decades before they were available commercially.

Haynes said, "Implementing future technologies...for the military and then implementing its use in commercial sectors was challenging and rewarding, then and now."

Brian LaFlam, desktop engineering manager, served as an Electronics Technician First Class, E6 in the Navy. He said, "My nuclear reactor and electronics experience in the Navy opened the door for my career in computers. To quote my first post-Navy boss during my interview, 'If you can operate a nuclear reactor, you can learn how to work on computers.'"

Phil Moore, director of research cyberinfrastructure, also served in the Navy. He supported electronics countermeasures and cryptography systems in California, Iceland and Japan. He said the experience led to a software engineering position after the Navy. He said, "Looking back, seeing the volcanoes and glaciers [in Iceland] and experiencing the frequent earthquakes led to my interest in geology for graduate school."

John Hamilton, information resource consultant/desktop technician, also said his exposure to state-of-the-art technology during his 26-year career in the Air Force led to an interest in computers and a desire to work in a technology-related field.

Hamilton, and other veterans working in the Division of Information Technology, said his military service provided wonderful experiences and opportunities. For example, while Hamilton was working at the National Military Intelligence Center in the Pentagon, President H. W. Bush personally wished him a "Merry Christmas." He also provided coverage for former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, who attended the funeral of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Tommy Knight, inventory manager, served in the United States Army for 29 years, retiring as a Sergeant Major E-9. He also had the opportunity to work at the Pentagon and was present when the Berlin Wall was demolished in 1989. After the wall went down, he was able to exchange military souvenirs with Russian soldiers. He said, "They were as happy as we were that the Cold War had come to an end and we could go back home to our families."

John Zelenko, who served in the United States Marine Corps as a Lead Communications Technician, has a funnier story. He said his company was required to run 1,000 miles a month while stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. While running one day, he turned a corner and came within 20 feet of a large black bear and her two cubs. He said, "I just kept running in place and did an about-face and kept on running."

Navy Veteran Keith McGraw, who serves as a photographer, also recalled a humorous story. In 1968, while stationed in southern California, he and his roommate were running late for work. When he got to base, he decided to take a less-populated back road where the speed limit was 15 mph, but he felt he could speed without consequence.

He said, "I probably topped 70 mph on the nice straight road that made a 90 degree left turn at the golf course and was hard on the brakes when, to my horror, the base commander and his aide walked around the corner that was on the inside of the turn! At about the same time, I noticed that the road was, for some inexplicable reason, about six inches deep in muddy water. I was down to about 30 mph when I hit the lake and sent a sheet of water cascading over the captain and the lieutenant commander! I knew that I was dead! However, if I stopped I was going to be late for morning muster and risked losing my upcoming promotion. I put my foot back in it and watched two very angry Naval officers shaking their fists at me in my rear view mirror."

McGraw tried to leave base quickly that afternoon, but was stopped and told to report to the commander's office immediately. He said, "To this day, I have no idea why my only punishment was having to park off base for three weeks. I never even got the cleaning bills."

Dexter Kennedy, project manager, served more than 16 years in the Army. He served in Desert Storm. He said he remembers barbequing camel burgers for a brigade of 3,000 soldiers and playing football in a dust field in Saudi Arabia.

Many veterans, including Tom Brewer, manager of application engineering, say they learned a great deal about getting along with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and socio-economic statuses while serving in the military. Brewer served in the Navy.

Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Bill Hogue agreed. He said the Army allowed him to meet and get along with people from diverse backgrounds and that has helped and guided him throughout his career.

Hogue said, "I can find common ground with somebody who is [in their 20s] and served in Iraq or somebody who is 89 and served in the South Pacific."

A few of the other veterans who work in the Division of Information Technology include: David Asbill, Wade Bauer, Kyle Brown, Joel Corley, Steve Graham, Henry Greene, Mike Holland, Rob Hubbard, Claude James, Bill Pawley, and Marcos Vieyra.

The University of South Carolina will hold the fifth annual Veterans Day Breakfast on Monday, November 11 from 7:30-9 a.m. in the Russell House Ballroom. All veterans are encouraged to attend.