To celebrate Veterans Day, EM highlights former service members who have joined EM on their journey in civilian work-life.

Two men in military uniforms shake hands and one is presented with a certificate
Shawn Hawkins, at right, receives recognition from his troop commander.

Name and what you do at EM?

Shawn Hawkins, support group manager with oversight responsibilities of information technology, records management, document production and property for the technical assistance contractor on the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project.

What branch did you serve in; when; where stationed? How many years of service?

In July 1992, I started my military career enlisting in the U.S. Army as an OH-58 (Bell 206) observation scout helicopter repairer. My first duty station was at Fort Hood, Texas, now known as Fort Cavazos, proudly serving the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1 Cavalry Division. 

In February 1995, I traveled overseas to Camp Stanley, South Korea, 2nd Infantry Division. We were a part of a small helicopter fleet of four, commonly known as the Air Taxi Fleet for all the top brass in the theater. This was my first experience with foreign culture shock. Towards the end of my tour of duty, I was tasked to begin decommissioning and disassembling the fleet; hence the nickname X-Mister on my going-away placard. 

In 1996, I came up for reenlistment and due to the reduction of forces during the Clinton Administration, I could not reenlist into the same military occupational specialty or similar aviation position. So, I took the next best opportunity and reenlisted as a military police officer. My first duty station was Grafenwoehr, Germany. I loved living and traveling in Europe but did not enjoy being a military police officer. I looked for opportunities to get back into aviation, but again the opportunity just was not there. So, when an opportunity presented itself in 1998, I took advantage of an early out and joined the civilian workforce. 

A mural painting on the wall with helicopters, an airplane, and the word "Outlaw"
Known for his artistry skills, Shawn Hawkins updated the commander’s office wall with his troop call sign “Outlaw,” representing the cavalry troops of the past fighting with the cavalry troops of the present.

Most memorable event/moment during your service?

I loved every opportunity flying with the pilots on the aircraft I worked on. On one occasion, we deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, and spent a 30-day rotation at Fort Irwin, California’s National Training Center (NTC). In route to NTC, the troop flew from Fort Hood and made several stops along the way, including San Angelo, Texas, El Paso, Texas, Phoenix, Arizona, and Blythe, California, where my helicopter broke down and I stayed behind several days coordinating the shipment of a replacement hydraulic pressure switch. My ex-grandmother-in-law lived in Quartzite, Arizona, 26 miles away, and picked up the crew and we celebrated an early Thanksgiving Day with them. Once the part arrived, repairs were made and off to NTC we flew, catching up to the rest of the troops in the field.

How has your military service helped prepare you for the job you do in EM?

The military taught me invaluable technical, social, mental and leadership skills that allow me to help troubleshoot and implement solutions to the problems we encounter in the work we do. In addition, developing and nurturing the ability to network with many different types of people has contributed to our success in accomplishing many of the tasks and challenges we face each day. I am proud of my commitment in service to my country and I am grateful for the many skills I learned that I still carry today. In every experience we encounter, we grow in our ability in facing the next challenge.

A large Helicopter on a landing pad
The OH-58C was the aircraft Shawn Hawkins was assigned to while at Fort Hood.

When did you begin working for EM and what got you interested in the cleanup mission?

I transferred from DOE Legacy Management (LM) to the Office of Environmental Management (EM) in August of 2022. Yep! Hard to believe it’s been over a year now. Working at LM, I managed the records department for the Grand Junction Office, which managed many of the UMTRA sites that transitioned to LM for long-term support and maintenance. Knowing that Moab was soon to transition to LM, I wanted to partake in the experience of collaborating and coordinating with the project team in facilitating that transfer.