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If the key to Success City is preparing oneself


to take advantage of


opportunities, then Kaman’s Senior Director of Business Development Roger Wassmuth has worn that master key to a nub. “Taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves on my path pretty much got me to where I am today. I enjoyed most of the path that I took,” he circumspectly says.


The path has been no leisurely stroll down a meandering way; rather, Wassmuth’s career path ascended to his senior position beginning at a fast and purposeful pace. The Columbus, Ohio, native — and big Ohio State University Buckeyes fan — entered the military in 1978 directly out of high school, where he served as a Navy maintenance technician. He honed his maintenance skills even earlier as a boy in his father’s full-service gas station. (You may remember those now-extinct establishments: service attendants wore ties, and usually a smile, as they checked your oil, belts, battery, and tires while topping off your tank.) The boy started out pulling weeds on the station’s lot and worked his way up to performing repairs, tune-ups, and oil changes. The station had a service contract with the local U.S. Postal Service to maintain its fleet of Gremlins. (The little cars, not the little mischievous movie characters, although some might say the Gremlin automobile was uglier and at times caused more trouble than its movie namesake.) Even today, although Wassmuth now has a master’s in aeronautical science and went to A&P school to become a licensed mechanic, he enjoys working on simpler, ground-based stock and relives his early wrench-turning years by slowly and surely restoring a beloved 1971 Chevy pickup truck. It’s not kept in showroom condition because it has a higher use — cruising to the beach — for the Wassmuth blended family that includes three daughters and two sons. “Every time I take it out on the road, I get a thumb up from somebody,” claims the proud owner.


IN THE NAVY


Wassmuth’s first Navy assignment was to the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier, which is apropos as Wassmuth is conducting our Skype interview from his summer home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, not far from the historic Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port.


He did three years of sea duty on the JFK. “Of all the ships I was around, I liked the carrier best because it was exciting and massive with plenty of room. There are 5,000 people on board; it’s a floating city.” he says. Wassmuth found the Navy so agreeable that he upped his initial commitment for two more years when he was assigned to a helicopter squadron, HSL-34 Greencheckers, where he worked on aircraft built by his future employer, Kaman. (Wassmuth says the name’s pronounced similarly to ‘command.’) A Kaman civilian tech rep., Homer Helms, whose name Wassmuth remembers to this day because “he changed the direction of my


Wassmuth’s halcyon Hawaiian days were cut short when the head man, Mr. Kaman himself, requested tech reps return and help him with a new aircraft project: the medium lift K-MAX. He wanted his tech reps to bring their maintnenance expertise to the new aircraft that his team was designing. Wassmuth recalls, “We were integral as to where components and access panels were placed, and focused on issues like the support tooling required. Mr. Kaman thought about more than just the pilot in the cockpit, but how the aircraft could be maintained.” Wassmuth, as head of field service, was also involved in hiring tech reps for K-MAX field service.


rotorcraftpro.com 17


life,” approached and asked the young maintenance technician if he would like to join Kaman when he concluded his Navy commitment. Helms’s pitch included “We’re like the Marines; we’re looking for a few good men.” Wassmuth recounts his thinking at the time: “I was going to night school on base at Embry Riddle and taking advantage of every opportunity (our “Military2Civilian” columnist, Stacy Sheard, is smiling on page 16) I had and felt I’d done about everything I could do in the Navy. I filled out the Kaman application and they flew me up for an interview; within an hour after arriving, they offered me a job.” The young man knew the aircraft, but they wanted him to relearn it from the OEM side. After nine intense months of training and working on the production line, Wassmuth became the youngest tech rep. Kaman ever had.


TRAVELING MAN


Wassmuth wasted no time between career transitions. “I was discharged from the Navy on April 30 and started at Kaman on May 1, 1984” he says. “Right after Kaman training, I went to my first company assignment as a tech rep. on January 1, 1985, to the naval base at South Weymouth, Massachusetts.”


From that New Year’s Day until 1993, Wassmuth moved where Kaman needed him. Beginning with the reserve squadron at South Weymouth (HSL-74), he went as a technical representative to a reserve squadron in Pennsylvania (HSL-94) and then to the active duty squadron (HSL-37) at Barbers Point, Hawaii. It was a good place to be. “That was one of my favorite assignments because it was operational, and how could you not enjoy Hawaii?” Although he enjoyed the Aloha State, it wasn’t all play; for his technical service the U.S. Navy Squadron awarded Wassmuth the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his contribution to its overall operational readiness. It was a gesture that surprised and pleased the former Navy man.


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