Walker reminisces about his AEDC family and career

  • Published
  • By Raquel March
Many people leave their homes and families most mornings to join another family of sorts - their colleagues at work.

After 33 years, Bob Walker, Arnold Engineering Development Complex's (AEDC) civil engineering branch technical director, is retiring.

During his time at AEDC he has left his family at home to work with an AEDC family he calls "wonderful people."

"If it wasn't for the people, it [AEDC] would just be a bunch of stuff," Walker said. "I'm always amazed when I open the door at the warehouse or I meet someone that I haven't met before no matter where it is, sometimes the most unique places and you meet people from around here. Their kids go to school with your kids and you know you can have an instant relationship."

Walker explained how he relishes the friendships and funny moments of his career at AEDC.

He's had times where raising his son alone prompted help from his AEDC family.

"I think some funny moments have been raising my son," Walker said. "All the ladies at AEDC have helped me raise my son.

"They were always there to tell me 'you need to do this, you need to do that' and that was good. I really appreciated that."

While growing up in an Air Force family, Walker admits that he was pushed for greatness by his father, who retired from the military, and by his mother.

"My parents pushed me when I was a kid to be an eagle scout or be first on the swim team," he said. "I've learned to push myself, and then I push people around me to be great.

"AEDC is a very successful place because people push us to be great."

Walker's knowledge of AEDC began with his parents moving to Tennessee after a military career, to live close to family.

He credits his opportunity to work at AEDC to his mother who worked at AEDC.

"I was working in Huntsville with Army Missile Command and came up to interview with Ron Polce," Walker said. "Dicky Wyatt hired me and I started doing some projects."

When Walker began his career at AEDC in 1987, one of his jobs was to work on pressure vessels.

He recalls the contractor and government relationship between him and General Physics, an AEDC contractor, and their care for the mission and pressure systems safety.

He said, "The General Physics experts we selected to help us were dedicated, customer focused driven, and to deliver the highest quality results. That made my job a whole lot easier.

"We just had some great moments where we found things that we needed to correct and we got them corrected. Along with our AEDC operating contractors, we were a very good team."

Not only did Walker experience great moments with his first job at AEDC but also an awkward moment.

"I think I wasn't here two weeks and they told me I had to go on a trip to Cape Kennedy," said Walker. "I was with contractors in a VOQ (visiting officer's quarters) and I had to ride with contractors in cars.

"Where I worked in Huntsville that wasn't appropriate, so I learned immediately there were going to be challenges, and it was going to be different."

The challenges didn't stop there.

Walker said, "My whole career I have worked with contractors, but I've never worked for contractors.

"I've always worked for the government and the role of the government, when you are hiring someone or evaluating their work, sometimes you can't always be friends. You have to make tough decisions."

Throughout the years Walker has led many divisions and made many friends. He said he enjoys having fun with the people he has worked with over the years.

"I think the rolling on the floor, laughing out loud moments in the Engine Test Facility Support Building break room were great," Walker said. "You work so hard, but to take a break at lunch to enjoy your friendships with co-workers and share a laugh or two, that is special."

Walker also admits he has fun playing guitar with his colleagues while participating in the Arnold Lakeside Center First Friday Jam Night. His love of music genres range from Jimmy Buffet and the Eagles to the Beatles and Tim McGraw.

He said, "Play guitar? Some people may question that.

"I get up there and have fun."

Walker's plans after retiring are to mentor either through teaching at local universities or colleges and volunteering with the Lions International eye exam program for youth. He presently serves as the vice president of the Estill Springs Lion's Club.

He also has plans for recreation.

"I bought two tickets to go down to the "Hang Out" music festival for seven days in Gulf Shores in May," Walker said. "I want to take a little bit of time, about six months, and relax, hit the beach, fish, relax.

"And then I think I'm going to want to work some more."