This is one of those posts where I am going to have to obscure some details in the name of anonymity. The general thrust, the “coolness” of my father’s job, and the nature of federal government work in his field are accurate, though the details may be less so.
My father is about to go in to re-retirement. He originally retired a couple of years ago, but his replacement decided to take a position in the private sector. They needed a quick replacement and my father was the obvious pick as he still lives in the area and is the kind of person willing to make that kind of sacrifice.
The sacrifice is that he only makes a fraction of what he used to. The law has it so that if you are collecting a pension and return to work, you can only collect the difference between your pension and the starting wage of the job that you take. Mom complains endlessly about how Dad is cheap labor. Of course, a fraction of what Dad makes is twice what I made working in Deseret. So it was hard to feel too too much sympathy.
Before I was born, Dad was working in the private sector. It was during the Vietnam War and my father was of draft age. His employer held that over his head ruthlessly. Since he worked for a defense contractor, he was safe. But if they were to let him go, he would become cannon fodder in Saigon, they warned him. A lot of overtime. Not so much pay. They announced after he had taken the coursework that they would not reimburse his master’s degree as they had promised. What was he going to do? Quit?
The draft ended and everything changed. Because of the Cold War, the defense industry was still a very good place to be. He now had a master’s degree and no reason not to take it somewhere else. But he and Mom sat down and decided to take stock. They never wanted to be in the situation they were in ever again. They wanted a family and the last thing he wanted was to be at work while his kids grew up. So he took a pay cut and they headed east where he took an entry-level civilian job with the Department of Defense, United States Air Force.
My father’s master’s degree in military economics was perfect for a job that opened up in Colosse. He still worked for the DoD, but he was part of a team of auditors on-site of a big-time defense contractor. By the time he retired, he had worked his way up to the Chief Auditor whose job it was to monitor the progress of experimental USAF fighters. His office served consulted major motion pictures featuring the military and on at least a couple of occasions he got to go see theatrical premiers attended by the movies’ stars.
In the area where I grew up, there were an awful lot of people that worked in military R&D. It wasn’t until I was in Deseret that I realized that some people thought that was really cool. The more I thought about it, so did I.
It is naturally a pretty competitive field for people to get in to. They almost always hired from within and especially as the Cold War ended, vacancies were never filled or were filled by subcontractors from the private sector. It came as a pretty big surprise when he asked me if I knew any financial analysts or engineers less than a couple years out of college. Not only were they hiring, but they were hiring from the outside and they were hiring people wet behind the ears. It’s one of those things that if the openings had been more highly publicized, they would have had more applicants than they knew what to do with.
It almost makes me wish I had gone back and taken a handful of extra years to get an engineering degree!