Working with Your Hands

[Post by Chuck Krugh, December 1, 2023]

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been working with my hands. Some of my earliest memories are of taking apart Hot Wheels cars just to see inside after one of the wheels or doors broke off. Since it was already broken and I couldn’t race it, I had fun learning how it was put together. As I got a little older, visiting my grandpap’s Pennzoil service station to see what he was working on always fascinated me. I would usually get to walk there after school or on the weekend to see my dad or grandpap. The shop was a really cool place for a kid like me, especially when I got to work with either of them on one of the cars or trucks in for repair back in the early-to-mid ‘70s, in the days before computers.

Neither of my parents went to college in the traditional manner. My dad went into the military, then got married, had kids and, unfortunately, passed away in his late thirties. My mom, after being left with four kids, decided that she needed to go to school part time to earn her degree. She ultimately earned her bachelor’s degree. She believed education was important for all of us, so like a good son, I attended two years of college post-high school. After all, I had three goals to achieve

However, it became clear to me relatively quickly that college wasn’t for me at this point (this didn’t really endear me to my mom, as you can imagine…) Two years into college, my academic career wasn’t stellar. I wasn’t performing to my potential, plus I didn’t want to be there.

I decided to go into the military (another unpopular choice in Mom’s opinion). My motivation to go into the military was to learn a trade – and not just any trade. I wanted to work on airplanes. My dad had served in the Air Force and worked afterward as a civilian at the local airport. On some Saturdays, I would go into work with him and get to see the airplanes, climb on them and help him refuel them. Those experiences were not only cool for me as a kid, they profoundly influenced my choice of career.

The Army was able to guarantee me a job working on fixed-wing aircraft, so I decided to take the jump (You can imagine how the conversation went with Mom when I told her I was leaving in September). Going into the Army enabled me to obtain a skilled trade and a career path for my future. When I left the service, I was able to use my military experience to test for my Airframe and Powerplant certificates. Once I passed, I had a career track and could start working on civilian aircraft – I had a trade.

Working out of my tool box was one of the ways that my wife and I supported our growing family. It gave us time to stabilize our young marriage, start to plan our future and live comfortably. Like my mom, I went back to school because I knew it would help me attain my three goals, but I went to class part time while I worked. Although balancing work, school and family was challenging, I was ready and my academic performance indicated it.

As I sit in the seat that I have today, I look back at everything we all went through during COVID followed by the workplace upheaval of the great retirement and the great resignation as well as the struggles many people have with paying off huge amounts of student debt. It’s never been clearer to me that we need more people in the trades. And by more people, I mean our kids!

What our company needs are people who can work with their hands to build ships. Our country as a whole also needs more people working in the trades to make other important products and to build things. Our country became what it is today based on our ability to make and build the things we needed here at home. It took all kinds of people to make it happen, but the people who were able to work with their hands were essential – our country would not be what it is today without them.

I plan to return to this theme in future blogs, so stay tuned.

See you on the deckplates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work

President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

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