From sea to shining CNS: Employees share experiences from working with a U.S. president

  • Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 7:36 am

Graphic of White House and American flag

All Pantex and Y-12 employees have a story about how they got to CNS, but only a few can say the journey included working with a sitting U.S. president. Eight employees who had that experience shared the similarities between the two entities and detailed their duties with the commanders-in-chief.

Garcia B.
Garcia worked for the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) during three presidential terms: Obama, Trump, and Biden. As part of the communications team, he was an audiovisual technician and White House Television (WHTV) director.

Garcia said his White House experience prepared him well for his latest role at Pantex. “Being at the White House allowed me to work with people from a variety of backgrounds with varying personalities, ranging from senior staff members to interns to foreign dignitaries. Learning how to communicate effectively with personnel enabled me to adapt to the different personalities in the civilian sector,” he said.

Jeff C.
President George W. Bush was commander in chief during Jeff’s tenure as a member of the Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), commonly known as the Presidential Helicopter Squadron.

“I served as the quality assurance (QA) chief and trip leader, where I led the QA division that ensured that HMX-1 executive flight detachment assets for presidential/chief executive and White House transport were properly inspected and maintained for maximum safety and on-call availability with a 100% mission success rate,” he said.

Jeff’s time with the squadron helped prepare him for his work at Y-12 as an engineering advisor.

“The high level of responsibility I was accustomed to for ensuring the safety and mission success of presidential support missions made transitioning into a nuclear environment much easier,” he said.

Linda F.
Linda began her career in the White House when she was 19 as a member of the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. After 3 years, she moved to the Office of Administration and served as the administrative assistant to the deputy director of administration in the West Wing, along with President Ronald Reagan’s senior staff.

Linda said her time at the White House “was an exciting job” and instilled a very strong work ethic in her at a young age, which she’s still grateful for. “Every day brought new challenges and new solutions,” she said. “Anyone working there tried to do their very best every single day.”

She still uses the same work ethic she developed from her time at the White House as she faces new challenges every day in helping to maintain all the equipment and facilities at Y-12.

Brenda G.
Brenda also worked for WHTV. She flew on Air Force One (AF-1) during President Obama’s tenure and was tasked with recording any briefings the president might give.

“WHCA prepared me for this role [at Y-12] by perfecting my attention to detail and organization skills. There were zero errors allowed at WHCA. The world has to see and hear the president without incident. I had to ensure the right people got to the right place at the right time in order for this to happen,” she said. “At CNS, it’s the same principles and work ethic: doing the task the right way, the right time, every time.”

Joe H.
There are not many CNS employees who can say they ate chocolate chip cookies baked by Nancy Reagan, wife of President Ronald Reagan. However, Joe can make that claim, as it is one of his fondest memories working with the Reagan/George H. W. Bush administration during his time with the WHCA from 1984 to 1988.

“It was a special duty to get assigned to WHCA,” Joe said. ““I was in my early 20s, so all of this was really cool to me. I got to travel the world and work at the White House — way cool!”

Joe noted that President Reagan was just like “one of us.” There was no Wi-Fi or internet connection during this time, so Reagan enjoyed simple pleasures like walking or riding horseback on his ranch and trimming trees.

“Whether you’re military, a federal employee, or a contractor, we are all serving a greater mission,” Joe said. Pantex and Y-12 call upon employees who are dedicated to the values of supporting our nation in order to meet our nuclear deterrent mission. To Joe, that is precisely the similarity between working with a president/at the White House and for CNS — the sense of duty to support a higher calling.

Greg K.
Greg worked with the Trump and Biden administrations as part of the Presidential Support Squadron, Air Force Security Forces.

“My role was to provide direction and guidance to the Security Forces personnel and ensure the safety and security of Air Force One and its support complex,” he said.

Greg came to Pantex through the DOD SkillBridge Program.

“My previous role prepared me to work at Pantex by allowing me to understand the importance of national security, from the lowest to highest level, and has allowed me to understand Pantex’s role in ensuring the safety of the nation,” he said.

Matt P.
Matt worked at the White House during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. He was on the travel advance team, setting up and running events globally.

“I would travel anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks in advance of the president to coordinate and set up event sites, including sound amplification, media displays, staging, lighting, national television and radio press feeds, the president’s podium and presidential seal,” he said.

Matt also came to Y-12 through the DOD SkillBridge Program.

“The tenets of ‘A Learning Organization’ are just as applicable. ‘Set High Standards’ is one that sticks out to me,” he said. “We had a standard at the White House called ‘Presidential Quality.’ It is the best of everything, and it was the lowest standard everyone had to meet. Anything less was a failure.”

Michael V.
Michael worked as a uniformed officer with the U.S. Secret Service, where he controlled and maintained access and security for the White House, the Treasury Department, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and the New Executive Office Building during President Trump’s administration.

He said, “The Secret Service prepared me for Y-12 by training me to control access and maintain security. I think Y-12 and the White House are pretty comparable as far as the job goes that I perform.”