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#12 I Have Always Wanted to Live Near Miami!

There was a lot of trouble in the Ontario shop by the end of 1984. I had been at GE for 3 years and knew I wasn't gonna stay at Ontario long term. I had basically joined GE to build up a war fund to go to law school but I really hadn't saved anything so that was off the table.

Finally in the late summer of 1984, shortly after Derrick Terry, the Union had gone on full strike. Probably a contract year and they were after money. I had a scab crew (mostly flat iron guys) working on getting a few frames out the door for Tinker. John Bonasia was the plant leader and he was in the shop on afternoon and said, "Ya know Dan. I really don't' know why these guys are on strike." Oh, great. The boss has no idea what's going on - I could see that there weren't only union troubles but with an HR guy like Petroze, a leader like Bonasia and other management whizzos this was not going to be a successful place. I remember another guy Tony Divincenzo did a little local PBS thing. Here's this guy standing in front of a jet engine very animatedly saying, "And the air comes in here, it goes whizzing along and catches fire with jet fuel then that fire comes zooming out the back..."Definitely not Bill Nye, Science Guy.

There were a couple of leaders that escaped Ontario and went to Cincinnati. Ed Arsenault was a great guy and good friend. He ended up running Cincinnati's final production shop. That was the most stressful job in the world IMO. Every quarter you are slammed to make deliveries and the pressure is intense. But pales in comparison to the year end numbers - I doubt he ever saw a Christmas with his kids - LOL... Ed eventually went to sales and I had a couple of interactions with him late-ish in my career.

Back in those days GE had a service business that would send guys out on special projects, like if all the fuel pumps at an airline need to be changed due to warranty or something - These were called Temporary Duty Assignments or TDYs. There was a list of guys that could be plucked out of Ontario and sent to airline shops to bail them out of trouble. This was per diem and huge pay. Only most senior engine shop guys, well embedded in the union got that duty.

GE all so had this "international" support group called Field Service. What little I knew about it I knew I wanted in. My motivation was to see the world and specifically get assigned to Australia where most of my family was living. Field Service hired lots of guys from Ontario as they already had experience.

So they had a cattle call and Pat DeCambra was coming from Cincinnati to do interviews. Pat was the Western Hemisphere Regional Director of Commercial Field Service and ran everything in north and south America. I threw my hat in the ring. A week or so later Petroze tells me that I am not going to get an interview when Pat visits. I was disappointed but probably more frustrated because I knew all the guys getting interviews and I was better than any of them.

Remember Bob Winteler? We went to A&P school together, worked on Convair 240's together, he encouraged me to apply to GE? Well Bob had worked his way up to engine shop leadman, I think. Or maybe assembly shop foreman probably, yeah he was definitely a foreman. He was getting an interview and while I love Bob, I know I am better choice than him.

So the interview day arrives and I go about my day. Around about 4pm Petroze calls and says, "Hey this Pat Decambra guy has a little time left and he'd like to talk to you."

So I go up and meet Pat. Black balding hair and thickish rimmed half glasses, 5' 8" or so, in his 40's and a little paunchy.

Pat proceeds to not so much interview me but advise me on things I need to do to "qualify" for an interview next time. I call it a thanks but no thanks interview. After telling me basically that I need to go work in assembly and then engine assembly and probably get some test cell experience he asks me if there is anything I'd like to say. So figuring I had no chance I, no shit threw this Hail Mary.

"Pat I know every guy you've interviewed today very well and I gotta tell you, for every 10 of those guys you hire you better hire someone that knows what the hell he is doing." Then I went on for like 5 minutes telling him why I'm that guy. My basic theme was that anyone can bolt stuff together but I knew exactly how the parts got fixed, I knew production better because instead of bolt engine 123 together tonight I knew the matrix of parts priorities that delivers all the parts to the bolt it together guys on time and in the right order - yada, yada, yada...

After I punched myself out and stopped talking he put his half glasses on his forehead, leaned back and said, "Well I didn't expect that... I am gonna go back and talk to the rest of the guys and we'll let you know."

A couple weeks later I am told I was selected to go to Cincinnati for further interviews with the top guys. GE pays for a ticket to Cincinnati, a rental car and a great suite at the Sheraton. Needless to say I am really impressed. Wow! They pay TDY guys great money and they treat candidates for this like executives - I really want this to go well!

It so happened Bob Winteler was in the hotel with his wife Dee Dee. Dee Dee was a great gal but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So sweet and gentle. So interview day comes and I show up in the right place. I quickly realize that this is not really an interview. It's a get to know. I meet the Global Director of Commercial Field Service. I meet the East and West Hemisphere commercial guys. I meet the Global Military Director and his regional guys. I meet the HR director.

I really liked the Commercial Global guy, Karl Schneider. He was laid back but super smart. I could tell he was not the kind of guy that would blow up in a panic. Tall skinny, thinning hair and spoke with a bit of a drawl I couldn't place. I also met the Military Leader. He looked like a retired general. Big stocky guy, white hair, military cut straight arrow kind of guy. Again super friendly. I didn't meet anyone that seemed like they hated their job - LOL...

I met Karl last and he told me that I was gonna get hired and they had two "shop rep" jobs available. A military job at Tinker AFB and a Commercial Job in Manila. He told me that Bob Winteler had first choice and Field Service was gonna bring Dee Dee in with him for an interview.

Basically there are two kinds of Field Service guys, line reps who take care of engines on wing at the flight line and shop reps who get embedded at airlines that have their own overhaul shops. Without test cell or a military background (GE hired a lot of ex military into Ontario as well) Bob and I were shop rep candidates - which was later to be very fortunate career wise.

It was also really hard to live overseas in those days. No internet, international phone calls were super expensive, there was very little American goods outside America, cultures were really foreign and there was almost zero "American" tv and entertainment. I watched "Top Gun" in a theater in Manila in like June of 1986. I thought the Filipinos were really rude walking in front of the screen all through the movie. Then I realized that I was watching a video-taped US screening of the movie that had been re-recording back onto reel and that was a first run movie in those days in Manila - LOL... For this reason they interviewed the wives to assess how they would handle being far from home in a culturally shocking place. Even at that something like 80% of all Field Service marriages end in divorce.

I was probably a interesting candidate. I had been a key player in Tinker's TMF and Fan module programs so was attractive as the Tinker guy for relationships. But I lived in Australia and already had overseas experience so there was that.

I knew Bob wanted to go overseas too and would choose Manila as he told me so. I waited at the hotel with baited breath for Bob and Dee to come back from her interview. We had lunch and I asked about it. "We're going to Tinker AFB in Oklahoma." - "Wait! What happened."

So in the interview they asked Dee what she thought of going to Philippine Airlines in Manila and she apparently very exuberantly replied, "Oh Manila? That's great. I have always wanted to live near Miami!!!!"

In hindsight Dee Dee never would have survived Manila in 1985. She woulda been on the forst boat back to mama.

The only glitch in all this is that with overtime I made like $40k in 1984. Field Service paid no overtime and as an L9 (or whatever) my pay was gonna be $26k a year. Like a 1/3 pay cut. But I knew that GE subsidized housing, rental cars, home leave travel and there was a Cost of Living / Hardship bonus for every location. It was like 10% baseline hardship to live in the US cities and most western Europe cities all the way up to like 40% for India, Turkey, Pakistan etc. I think Manila was like 25% or 35%. On top of that the COLA was added. I have a book somewhere with all the FS policies from that era somewhere.

Dianne and I had reconciled (unhappily) and were living in Fontana. When I told her I was applying to go overseas she basically said, "Nope. No way. We are gonna put this nonsense away and buy a house next to my mom's." So I moved out into my mom's house and we got a divorce. By the time I got interviewed in Cincinnati Diane was well in the rear view mirror. We dated for like a year and I think were married for like 3 months from ceremony to divorce filing. I got my final papers to sign in the mail in Manila. Classic starter wife - LOL...

So Bob and Dee were headed to Oklahoma and I was on the way to Manila!

Transportation in Manila vs. Transportation in Oklahoma - We aren't in Kansas any more Dee Dee. Every time Bob and I would get together we'd laugh about Dee Dee's interview. I want to say that Bob and Dee eventually divorced. Probably when he was sent to Israel on a military assignment - LOL... Bob and I didn't meet up but a few times after that. The Military and the Commercial just have their own stuff going on. Their conferences happen at different times, etc.

They say that a Field Service guy needs three things to go on assignment. A cash advance, his divorce papers in his back pocket and a set of engine manuals under his arm - I was ready to go!

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I just remember Dianne from my visit in 82-83, I never knew when or why you guys divorced. The only thing I remember about her is that she REALLY wanted you to take up tobacco somehow so kept giving you cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco.

I will never forget the time you paid me to help work on your plane and we had some beers and some chaw - most disgusting stuff I have ever had ! If nothing else put me off tobacco then that would have been it !

Dan Deutsch
Dan Deutsch
Jul 27, 2022
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Dianne had a brother that also worked at Ontario for a while. I would pick him up at like 3:30 in the morning for "early overtime" and he would show up with his shoes off and a coffee cup. He'd load a big slug of Red Man and I don't think he spit in the whole 40 minute drive. Just swallowing tobacco juice and coffee the whole way. When not on duty he would literally walk around with a 12 pack under his arm constantly drinking Bud Lights non-stop as long as he was awake. I never took to chew in any real way but I am a chameleon and tend to blend into my surroundings adopting a "local" persona. I…

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