May is Military Appreciation Month and we will spotlight former service members in the AWSS family this month. Ray A. Pratt Jr. is an FMSS support service specialist in Detroit. He is also the president of the IRS Military Outreach for Service.
Ray Pratt in his own words:
I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1984 as a way of forgetting my past and starting over. I was a month shy of 33 years old. I was pretty much the old man my entire military career, being older than 90% of my peers. The physical training (PT) was always kind of tough, but the standards are adjusted by age, so I never had a problem passing the Army Physical Fitness Test.
I enlisted as a wheeled vehicle operator with basic and advanced training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, right next door to McGuire Air Force Base. I just knew that the Air Force was in cahoots with the Army. They flew those doggone C-141 transport airplanes right over the barracks day and night. They were trying to break us down. Upon graduation, I was assigned to Bravo Battery, 1st & 5th Field Artillery (B 1/5 FA), 1st Infantry Division, Ft. Riley Kansas. Aaah, Kansas! Toto, we’re not in Michigan anymore! What an experience that was.
Artillerymen have a culture of their own, including being called batteries rather than companies. During the three-year assignment, I went on a Reforger (Return of Forces to Germany) exercise to Germany (Czechoslovakian border) and Holland for about a month. I also got a free trip to the middle of the California desert to the National Training Center (NTC) in beautiful Ft. Irwin, California.
Toward the end of the enlistment, I qualified to reclassify as a 52E, prime power production specialist. The school was one year long and was located at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, about 20 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. What an awesome change that was - going from the middle of Kansas to the Washington DC area - but it was a very intense school.
The 15-week academic phase earns 38 college credits in subjects such as algebra (one week), physics (one week), basic electronics and thermodynamics. There was an operations phase where I learned to operate and maintain 4 Megawatt (MW) and 3.5 MW power plants and a specialty phase where I learned to be a power station electrician. As a 52E, I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; Ft Shafter, Hawaii; Ft. Lewis, Washington; and Camp Humphries in the Republic of Korea.
My job was to deploy, install, operate and maintain 3 Megawatt power generating stations with associated switch gear and distribution equipment. I provided base power in Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Guantanamo Bay, Bosnia and Kyrgyzstan. I provided disaster relief emergency power after eight hurricanes. I also earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Chapman University.
After I retired in 2005, my wife and I returned to our families in Michigan. I was hired by IRS AWSS Facilities Management as a support service specialist. I believe that it was the experience and education that I gained in the army that helped me get the job.
I often think back on those experiences and remember the things that I learned in the army. Simple things like understanding the roles of managers (officers) and subordinates (enlisted) or property accountability or understanding the need to protect sensitive property and what sensitive property is. Not everybody out there likes us. I often say that if someone had told me when I was driving a taxi in the ‘80s that I would be working for the IRS in 30 years I would have told them that they were crazy. It’s funny how things work out.