Our Veteran Employees – Part 4

CF Evans Construction is proud of our employees who served in the United States Military. Their work ethic and commitment to service shines through in all they do for us, and helps to make us successful. In the weeks leading up to Veteran’s Day, we will be posting interviews with five employees who selflessly served their country, and continue to serve alongside their coworkers to create communities.

This week, meet Carl Byars, Preconstruction Manager here at CF Evans. If you know Carl, you know that he has a way with words! Rather than using our previous interview format, we’ll let him speak for himself:

“I enlisted in the US Naval Air Reserves when I was just 17 along with 4 other buds, still seniors in High School. No, but thanks for asking- not great patriots, this was during the height of the Vietnam War, so this is how we chose to serve vs. rolling the dice with the draft lottery. Draft Lottery, what? Yup, that’s how they did it, and don’t remember those “lottery winners” doing backflips. The Navy offered a 6-yr program, part time active duty and the rest Reserve duty, which fit my plans to attend the University of Florida while serving my Reserve years. (How could I possibly know I’d end up missing the best parties on drill weekends?)

Barely shaving, but with a freshly shaven skinhead, I was taught how a teenager could become the scourge of the earth at Navy Boot Camp Memphis, birthplace of Elvis. Turns out, I was nothing but a hound dog! May as well grow up fast, or be eaten. Fortunately for me, the Navy needed folks to serve as airborne electronic technicians on the P-3 Orion, a patrol and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) plane. So, the fresh young “Boot” was off to training for electronics and flight crew duty.

I was assigned to VP-62 in Jacksonville, FL, a Reserve ASW/Patrol squadron. Reserve units spend their time training to do everything the regular Air Navy does in the event they are “called up”. After spending 2 years as active duty, the balance of my service was 1 weekend per month plus 2 weeks in the summer. Active duty and weekends were spent flying missions to relieve the regular Navy, while the two-week summer training was a fire drill to deploy the whole squadron overseas to prepare for the ‘real thing’.

We would engage in war games patrolling ocean sectors, training exercises with the surface and submarine Navy, while occasionally flying humanitarian missions, all the while trying not to break the airplanes beyond repair. Our summer deployments took our team to some really cool places: Spain, England, Italy, Azores Islands, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Train hard, play hard: A Navy tradition.

Now for the fun stuff. As you probably know, the Military gets the all the best and coolest technology first. Example: The Internet evolved from the military’s global communication platform. P-3s were built for the Navy by Lockheed, and were a very tough bird capable of flying through hurricanes. Our version was equipped to perform patrol and ASW work. They had wall-to-wall advanced electronic equipment primarily to hunt submarines; seek and destroy. Detection technology at the time was pretty amazing: acoustic signals transmitted from sonobuoys launched from the aircraft were analyzed by onboard computers capable of identifying the acoustical signature of any ship, both surface and subsurface, including propeller RPM & ship speed, and with more than one buoy, direction and position. The antenna for the magnetic detector was in the long fiberglass tail boom. We carried torpedoes and depth charges in the Bombay, rockets and missiles under the wings. The P-3 had transatlantic range capability, and could stay on station for 18 hours by shutting down 1 or 2 engines to conserve fuel. When engaging in active search operations, we typically operated at 400 feet off the water (radar altimeter hold) for best sonobouy deployment and ordinance efficiency. Ahh yea, that’ll get your attention, and then you started wishing you hadn’t drifted off during life raft survival class.

Peacetime missions were obviously different, but the Navy philosophy was to train hard to prepare for a real event, meaning we remained on station regardless of weather, mechanical problems, or getting in our own way. The training excitement included the occasional bonus of being struck by lightning, seeing St. Elmo’s fire on the windows, real engine fires, and learning how to do your job and toss your cookies at the same time.

Doing anything complex takes lots of practice to be good at it. Doing something once a month, Err not so much. The Nation can rejoice they never had to rely on us to save the day. However our teamwork was  pretty good, we tried hard (sort of), had fun, and I think we could have eventually been very good at it if we had to be. I’ll admit it was a little disconcerting at times to see the weekend pilots with flight manuals open in their laps, but we never ran into anyone or accidently dropped a sonobuoy on anybody, and we generally returned the A/C the way we found it.

In retrospect, although it seemed like a pain in the neck at the time, I would do it all over again given the chance. The training and experiences were priceless, the teamwork and complicated problem solving together taught us the value of communicating effectively, fighting compliancy, and keeping our eye on the main objectives regardless of complications. Plus, Uncle Sam has some pretty cool big boy toys.

This duty left me with a special appreciation and respect for all who have served our Nation, especially those who have faced combat, (including my Dad, a WWII ball turret gunner on a B-17) and all those who have been wounded or made the ultimate sacrifice. God Bless America”

We look forward to sharing more of our employee’s stories in the coming weeks. Are you interested in joining them and becoming part of our team? Visit our careers page to see current opportunities or to be notified of future openings.