Story by Michael Ard on 10/14/2016
PORT HUENEME, Calif. - Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) recognized Kit Mack for his over 50 years of Federal service to the U.S. Navy as a structural engineer with Naval Facilities Engineering Command, September 27 during his farewell event.
Mack's official retirement ceremony and 50th wedding anniversary were held in July, coinciding with the month in 1966 he graduated from California Polytechnic State University, started his career with Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory and married his wife, Kris Donna; all accomplished in two weeks' time. That same year he bought his 1966 Mustang, which he still drives today.
Growing up in California during a different era, Mack walked from home to his grade school in Compton until his family moved to Buena Park. He remembers during the move his parents driving past an amusement park that was under construction. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and he remembers wondering if anyone would visit the park in its desolate location. The park, named Disneyland survived.
He played football, basketball and ran track at Western High School, earning a track scholarship to Fullerton Junior College, Fullerton, where he received some good advice from a faculty member.
"My academic counselor at Fullerton saw that I was good in math and drawing," said Mack. "He recommended continuing into an architecture program. There are many paths in architecture and I took the path which led me to become a structural engineer."
Mack graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture Design. He had several interviews and came close to taking a position with the Army Corps of Engineers in Sacramento. Instead he started work on July 5, 1966 at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory in Port Hueneme, as an engineer in training; a GS-7 position paying $7,700 per year.
During a career that spanned nine presidents and 17 secretaries of the Navy, the only significant presidential impact to Naval engineering he recalls was during the Carter administration, 1977-81.
"Business was better for Navy engineers with more in-house projects," said Mack. "Then President Carter made a push for government contracts to be bid out to private enterprise. It took work away and we're still struggling with it today."
Over the last 50 years, Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory became Civil Engineering Laboratory which was renamed Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory before becoming Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center which is now NAVFAC EXWC. During this time frame, the biggest change Mack feels he has seen is the computer. Today every employee has a computer workspace which wasn't the case when he began. He kept slide rules in his former office both as a reminder of where he came from and to show new engineers who can't fathom a time before computers.
"I remember when my command bought three Hewlett-Packard scientific pocket calculators," Mack reminisced. "There were 500 people sharing three machines, and we thought we were in heaven."
He also had to find someone who would appreciate the catalogs of drafting accessories and hardware products he had saved. Every engineer needed these before the introduction of computer- assisted drafting; another big change in his tenure as a professional engineer.
Mack furthered his education gaining his Master's Degree from University of Southern California by carpooling and attending night classes. He gave back to his engineering community by participating with the American Institute of Steel Construction and teaching structural analysis to engineers studying for their National Society of Professional Engineers' exam. He received five patents over his career and feels like his final position was his best.
"It's been a journey," said Mack. "All my positions were rewarding, but my current position is the most rewarding. I've been allowed the opportunity to integrate teaching employee development courses. Teaching has added life to my time here."
As a collateral duty, Mack has been afforded the opportunity to teach government employees classes he put together on Teamwork and Qualities and Traits of a Leader. To date, over 500 have attended his classes.
"His positive example of leadership speaks volumes to his team, to the department and to the command as a whole," said NAVFAC EXWC Ocean Facilities Department Head, John Kunsemiller. "He has made a lasting impression on those with whom he has come in contact, and inspired the next generation of leaders."
Looking back, Mack said he learned early not to assume or be too quick to judge. He credits his faith in Christ, from whom he learned his values and lessons on what is most important in life. He credits his father for instilling a love for people and his mother for the discipline and passion to read, which helped him tremendously in his chosen field.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in their September 2016 Economic News Release, the median number of years that professional architecture and engineering occupations have been with their current employer is 5.5 years but was generally higher among older workers ages 55 to 64 at 10.1 years. Far exceeding the statistics, Mack credits the tremendous support from various supervisors over the years that encouraged him and let him go in his own direction.
"I made an effort to contribute since day one," he said. "Being in a design group gave me a wide variety of work, very diverse, which kept it interesting."
Retirement doesn't bring any drastic changes; he still has a wide variety of interests from photography, reading, collecting foreign coins, ten grandchildren and travel.
"We've always traveled," he said. "We try to backpack at least once a year and that won't change. We've climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu and even done a trek that covered five countries in the Alps."
With a half century of Naval engineering experience and a long resume of accomplishments, his advice to current and future EXWC engineers was summed up in his retirement speech.
"Be proud of what you do, but be humble, not arrogant. Be hungry to come to work; Look for people that are smart, not academic, but street smart. Think about sticking to these things yourself. Be humble about it, hungry about it and stay sharp. Pay attention to what's going on. Unless you break a leg or some major injury, be sure you run through the tape. Don't slow down and this will carry you through life."