NAVAL AIR WEAPONS STATION CHINA LAKE, Calif. - Meet NAWCWD employee and learn why he said "I don’t just work here to earn a paycheck; I really love what I do.”
Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons DivisionNaval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division consists of about 6,800 personnel and only a small percentage knows firsthand what it is like to be the warfighter using the technology developed here.
The case is different for Ridgecrest native Marine Cpl. Isaac Graham, a reservist who is an electronics technician for the NAWCWD Laser Instrumentation and Designation Team in the Land Range Optical Systems Branch. Graham has the unique opportunity of being a warfighter working on the development of laser designation equipment that he and his fellow Marines use in real-life operations.
“When my buddy in the field has to call in an air strike, I know it is going to hit and that is the best reward I could have,” said Graham.
Graham’s induction began July 21, 2007 as he stepped onto the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
“I always knew I was going to be a Marine,” said Graham. “I tried to enlist at age 17 but my parents didn’t agree. One year after high school I woke up and realized I was a shoe salesman in Temecula. At that moment I knew it was time to pursue my dreams. I love competition and the Corps can be very competitive.”
The U.S. Marine Corps trains men and women to be the best, and recruit training is where it all begins.
“Recruit training was hard for me at first and I was miserable,” he said. “I am so grateful to my drill instructors for pushing me past my limits. I soon began to see the purpose and reasoning for the way Marines are made. After earning the title Marine, it has been my base, my center. I will always be a Marine and no one can take that from me.”
Graham’s Marine occupation is a main battle tank mechanic for the M1A1 Abrams. While fulfilling his reservist responsibilities, he reports to Alpha Company, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve at Camp Pendleton.
As a Reservist, his average schedule is one weekend a month, two weeks a year. Graham recently returned from joint-military exercise in the Republic of Korea.
“I enjoyed going to the Republic of Korea and cross-training with the ROK Marines and learning how they operate in military operations.”
The Instrumentation Operations Branch hired Graham on as an electronics technician civil servant at the end of 2012. Before that,
Graham was working as a contractor in the same profession. Graham helps provide laser designation capabilities to the range. His team ensures the designator is properly functioning and is constantly improving operations to produce a more accurate result.
“I love working with lasers so much that the guys make fun of me,” Graham said. “I am kind of a nerd. When I see the technology we develop being used in combat operations, my day is made. I know what I do is important and is vital to mission success.”
Graham is one of many electronics technicians here and dedicates his full focus on a project to develop the most accurate technology available.
“Being a Marine who has the opportunity to work on equipment used by my brothers and sisters in arms is very rewarding,” he said. “I could improve a weapon that could very well be the thing that saves my life one day. I have friends serving in combat right now and if I don’t perform my job to the best of my ability, it could directly affect someone’s life. Knowing that helps with my commitment to my job. I don’t just work here to earn a paycheck; I really love what I do.”
As a civil servant, Graham sees the importance of the civilian workforce that most service members are not privy to.
“Most servicemembers are so busy with day-to-day military responsibilities, that they don’t have the time to focus on one specialty and spend the time it takes designing something,” Graham stated. “The military could not operate without the civilian workforce. Civilians work without the fear and stress that combat brings. The people here come up with brilliant ideas that are critical to mission success. People here care about what they do.”
When not developing lasers or performing Marine Corps duties, Graham spends as much time as possible with his 5-year-old son. Graham coaches his son in basketball and is a basketball referee in the local community.
“Being a father is my greatest joy,” Graham said.
“Graham is extremely loyal to the Marine Corps and upholds standards and requirements 24/7,” said Matt Cropley, an engineering technician at NAWCWD. “For his generation, Isaac is something special. He is a dedicated hard worker whom I can give a task to and not worry if it will get done. I can really rely on him.”
Not sure if he will serve a full 20 years, Graham said he will not leave the Corps unless someone is there to replace him at his command.
“I will not leave my Marines unprepared,” he said. “Traditions die if you don’t sustain them. I will sustain the tradition of excellence the Marine Corps has taught me. The reality of life is there will always be a bad guy or negative influence and as long as the U.S. military and Marine Corps overall goal is to defend against that then I will answer the call to serve.”