Carey, Don


jpg picture jpg picture Don Carey

The path after graduation from Enid High seems long and varied in retrospect-Don Carey

The fifty years after graduation from Enid High has been more varied than I could have imagined. I attended the University of Oklahoma, majoring in Aeronautical Engineering. After two years, I was sure that I would be in the military in some capacity in the future. Being an airplane nut, I applied to the Air Force Academy and was fortunate to receive an appointment. I graduated in 1963 and was assigned duties as a Civil Engineer at Vandenberg AFB, CA building satellite launch facilities. That career field was not my calling, so I attempted to cross-train into research and development. I attended the Air Force Institute of Technology and received a Master’s degree in Astronautics/Space Facilities. Graduates were being prepared for work on the Manned Orbiting Lab (MOL) program, the planned prototype for what is now the International Space Station. Unfortunately, the Air Force did not get the MOL mission, so I was immediately obsolete. My assignment was back to Civil Engineering as a Combat Engineer in Vietnam.

In June 1968, I was assigned to the faculty at the Academy in the Engineering Mechanics Department. While there, I was selected for a NASA-sponsored team to develop a design concept for a self-sustaining lunar base. After five years, I attended Ohio State University and received a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering. I returned to the Air Force Academy to implement a curriculum in Materials Science. After five years, I was totally burned out on the academics. It was time to “learn a trade”, so I transferred to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque to work in the R&D (Research & Development) field. I was assigned to work on the laser portion of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

In 1983, I retired from the service, and began work with aerospace contractors such as TRW and Northrop-Grumman. This work was a continuation of other aspects of laser development. In 1996, I got caught in a downsize, so I found work as a Manufacturing Engineer with Johnson & Johnson working on endoscopic surgical instruments. I was functioning as a consultant, so this work ended after two years.

I was then really fortunate to be hired by Corning, Inc. to manage the Albuquerque Operations for development of optical switches for telecom. That also turned out to be short-lived as Corning withdrew from optical components and concentrated on optical fiber manufacture. The plant was closed and 45 highly select people were on the street. At this point (2002), I tried the consulting business again with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the office responsible for the construction of education facilities for all the Tribes. This appeared to be a position in which one could make a real impact to improve life on the reservations. Like most bureaucracies, the negative inertia proved to be a constant hindrance. My contract ended in 2005 and retirement beckoned.

On the family front, I was fortunate to meet my wife Christa early in my Air Force career while at Edwards Air Force Base. We were married in October 1963 and raised three children: Jennifer (41), Jacqueline (38), and Andrew (34). We have four grandchildren and one on the way. Four live close to us in the Phoenix area, so that occupies a lot of our time. I also have a continued interest in promoting various forms of renewable alternative energies.

Don Carey