Last October, Gabriel “Gabe” Pugh joined the NNSA Production Office (NPO) as the Deputy Manager at the Pantex Plant in Texas. With almost 30 years of experience with the Department of Energy (DOE) in the areas of Nuclear Facility Safety, Nuclear Explosive Operations Safety, and Nuclear Weapon Program Management, Pugh recently served as the Deputy Manager of Business, Security, and Missions for the NNSA’s Los Alamos Field Office in New Mexico.
Pugh’s introduction to DOE came early, courtesy of a scholarship that ignited a passion and shaped his career. “When I first came to DOE, I was right out of high school,” he said. “DOE offered me a scholarship in engineering and, as part of the program, I was able to work with safety engineers and watch as many of them in their career progression became nuclear weapon program engineers. These engineers are highly sought out and so early on, as a kid, I knew I wanted to do that someday.”
I want to ensure everyone understands their roles, and that they feel empowered and appreciated. That’s what drives me to come to work every day -- to inspire people and thank them for the great work they do.
Over the course of his career of 29-years and counting, Pugh has worked in safety and all aspects of weapons programs, and this new role with NPO provides him a chance to continue the weapons work he truly enjoys.
“It is a chance to work closer to the thing I’ve had a passion for since I was a kid,” Pugh said. “The opportunity to get closer to working directly with nuclear weapons is what enticed me. Working on the weapons side of things gives me a chance to learn more about the manufacturing process for the work we do. For me, it’s about getting the opportunity to work with people I’ve worked with before – but in a different role.”
Along the way, Pugh’s had what he describes as amazing work experiences, including the chance to meet Dr. Edward Teller as part of the Sandia Weapons Program; riding in a Trident submarine; flying in a Black Hawk helicopter; and attending a NATO course in Germany.
“When I started right out of high school, I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t have imagined that 29 years later I’d be where I am today,” Pugh said. Pugh attributes his professional growth to mentors –leaders and managers alike: Passionate leaders who inspired, challenged, and empowered him, and managers who trained and guided him. He values and emphasizes this distinction, as it defines how he seeks to support others.
“My aspiration is to be effective at both of these things: being an effective leader and manager,” he said. “My passion is to make a positive difference and inspire others to want to make a difference.”
“Quality, safety, security, operations, legal, meetings, correspondence, etc. – everything that everyone does is an essential part of why the organization as a whole is successful. I want to ensure everyone understands their roles, and that they feel empowered and appreciated. That’s what drives me to come to work every day –to inspire people and thank them for the great work they do.”
Pugh enjoys getting to know people, learning about what excites them. And when discussing what hobbies he enjoys, Pugh is quick to note that he likes working with his hands. As a child, he often went to work with his father, a welding instructor who allowed Pugh to spend time in the classroom of the shop floor. Pugh certified as an arc welder by 12 years old. It was a hobby that nearly became his profession.
“I thought I was going to be a welder, but I had the opportunity to go to engineering school,” Pugh said. “But I never lost the passion of working with my hands. I enjoy it. At the end of the day you can actually see what you’ve made, what you’ve done.”
Pugh is teaching his son to weld and his daughter how to change her own oil and tires. “My son and I are making a metal weave fence for around our yard, around 200 linear feet of fence, six feet tall. It’s almost done.”
In terms of current projects, Pugh recently purchased a home in Amarillo and is in the process of remodeling it.
When discussing plans for the future, Pugh looks forward to continuing to serve at Pantex, even as he hopes to spend more time with his family – and finish the remodel.