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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
SYSCOM employees retire with combined 60 years of service

By Pamela Jackson | | October 8, 2009

Cooper retires after 32 years

In today’s economy, fewer people are retiring early and for some, not at all, as they are forced to remain in the workplace a little longer. Even so, it is rare to have two employees from the same office retire together on the same day.

Dennis Cooper, logistics management specialist, Program Executive Office, Marine Corps Systems Command, retired Sept. 30 with 32 years of federal service.

Cooper is originally from Pavo, Ga., and graduated from Thomas County Central High School in 1961. He worked at Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville, Ga., for a little more than a year, then decided to join the Air Force because “the Army was after him.”

“After serving four years in the Air Force from 1963 to 1967, I moved back home and worked in two different retail businesses over the course of the next 15 years. I started work here in January 1982 as a GS-5 engineering technician in Technical Data Management Systems, Materiel Division, which is now Marine Corps Logistics Command,” he said.

In 1985, Cooper transferred to the ground transportation engineering system motor transport section where he has spent the last 24 years as an equipment specialist, weapons systems manager and logistics management specialist.

In 1990, he was promoted to GS-12 pay grade as a weapons systems manager, supervising inventory managers, supply clerks and equipment specialists.

“I had the heavy fleet [vehicles] at that time and we fielded the equipment and vehicles to ensure the more than 47,000 pieces were sent to where they need to be. In 2000, when the divisions split, my position title changed to what it is now, minus the supply clerks and inventory managers,” he added.

Since 2000, he has been responsible for the logistics vehicle replacement system and the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement systems for the Marine Corps.

Cooper also worked in the Light Armored Vehicle program for three years as an equipment specialist. His job was to provide the provisioning for the equipment by working closely with the original manufacturer to look at every part number in order to get national stock numbers assigned and determine where to have the vehicles repaired.

After a period of time the vehicle is broken completely down, parts and numbers are verified, and then the vehicle is put back together. This ensures that when the manual gets back into the fleet, the Marines doing the work on them will have the proper tools and procedures to go by,” he said.

Thomas H. Miller, project manager, Program Executive Office Land Systems, SYSCOM, said, “Dennis is a highly motivated individual with a unique body of knowledge from his many years of experience. He brought a great amount of dedication to his job and always asked himself how what he did everyday would affect the Marine users.”

Cooper said it has been a rewarding experience to have worked for the Marine Corps by providing logistical support to the Marines in the field with the equipment he has worked on for the past 28 years.

“I have made many friends throughout the Marine Corps. There is a great group of wonderful and dedicated people who work here and it has been a real pleasure. The employees here are dedicated to supporting the Marine in the field and providing them with the best equipment and all the necessary supplies they need,” he said.

Cooper said he has nothing special on the agenda for his retirement except doing what he wants to everyday.

“I love woodworking and making things in my wood shop at home as a hobby. My plans are to spend time building and making things, traveling to a few places I never had the chance to visit and spending time with my wife, three children and seven grandchildren,” he said.

Cooper admitted that he has mixed emotions about leaving.

“I have met a lot of wonderful people during my time here, traveled to a lot of places in the performance of my duties and appreciate the opportunity I have had to work for and with the Marine Corps. In every job there are ups and downs, but I have never regretted a day of it. I looked forward to coming to work every day and it is a great feeling to get up and come to work,” he said.

Cooper said his advice to those he leaves behind and those yet to come is to accept the challenge of learning the job because it takes years to learn everything you need to know. Take advantage of all the years of knowledge in the office because the staff knows what to do and does it well, he added.

“I had some great people along the way that taught me a lot of things over the years and I was willing to learn. There is so much going on, especially with the new fielding and armoring of trucks, but I leave good people behind to carry on the work,” he said.  I’m almost 68 years old and feel that it is time to move into the next phase of my life.  Even though I feel like I could put in another three or four years of good, productive work, I want to spend that time with my family.”

Miller said, “Both Dennis and his co-worker, Jeff, will be greatly missed.  Their shoes will be very hard to fill.”

Verner retires after 28 years

Making the decision to retire early came fairly easy for Jeffery W. Verner, equipment specialist, Program Executive Office, Marine Corps Systems Command, who is retiring exactly 28 years from the date he started work here Sept. 30. 

His supervisor, Dennis Cooper (above), retired the same day with 32 years of service.

He graduated from Harris County High School in 1970 and joined the Navy Reserve during his senior year. 

After being on a waiting list due to the Vietnam War, he served two and a half years on active duty and 26 years in the Reserves, retiring from the Navy in 2001.

“I completed my active duty in Newfoundland, Canada where I met my wife, Maud.  When I got out of the military, I moved here to help my brother work at a company that is no longer in business. Even though I had lived in Georgia all my life, I never heard of Albany until then,” he said.

Verner worked as a mechanic and sold heavy equipment for six years at J.I. Case Co. in Albany, then came to work here on Sept. 30, 1981, in Warehouse 1221 for Materiel Division, now Marine Corps Logistics Command. 

He worked as a GS-7/8 inspector and was responsible for inspecting heavy construction equipment.

In 1982, he was appointed as bulk fuel manager for the warehouse where he was responsible for upgrading fuel systems returning from Vietnam, 10 years earlier. 

One year later, he was promoted to a GS-9 quality assurance specialist.

“I was promoted again in 1986 to the position of equipment specialist for heavy combat engineering equipment.  I was later promoted to GS-11,” Verner said. “In February 1990, I moved over to the motor transport section, which I am in now, but was called back on active duty in December 1990 for a six- month tour during Operation Desert Storm.”

Verner said in 2006, his section reorganized into what is now the Program Executive Office for Land Systems. 

One major achievement during his tenure is that he was recognized as the 2008 Provisioner of the Year for the Marine Corps.

“Even though my title is equipment specialist, my main job is as a provisioner.  I am responsible for getting the national stock numbers and building manuals for the heavy equipment used by the Marine Corps,” he said.

Verner said he has loved working here for the past 28 years. He came to work here after working as a mechanic where he was always dirty and sweaty from being in a warehouse and on the road, but that it was different working here on the base. 

“The people who work here are much different than those working on the outside.  Out there it is money-driven, but here it is mission-driven. I really wish I had started earlier than I did, but have had many great experiences during my time here.  The majority of the people I have met have been great to work with and I have traveled to many places, but spent most of the last 11 years working in Wisconsin with Oshkosh, a manufacturer,” he said.  “They were awarded the contract for the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement or seven-ton truck in 1999.  We have been working on that project since then because we have to keep the manuals updated.”

Verner, at age 57, is proud of accomplishing the major goals and achievements he set for himself more than 28 years ago.

“I retired from the Navy Reserve, qualified for social security and am retiring again from the federal government,” he said.

Verner added that as part of the planning committee for his upcoming 40th high school class reunion, he is excited about seeing who else has retired this early.

“I have made such good friends and plan to ride my Honda Gold Wing motorcycle to many of the places I visit next summer.  I’m a big motorcycle fan and am currently the chapter director for the Albany Chapter of Gold Wing Road Riders Association.  Motorcycles are my passion and riding will consume a lot of my retirement days visiting my father, friends and other family,” he said.

Thomas H. Miller, project manager, Program Executive Office Land Systems, SYSCOM, spoke about Verner’s work ethic.

“Jeff has a great sense of humor and a dedication to high quality work for the Marines, which is a great combination.  He is one of the recognized experts on provisioning in the Marine Corps and his expertise will be hard to replace,” Miller said.

Following retirement, Verner said, he will do ... “What I want to do, when and how I want to do it. I have no real plans, especially since my wife will still be working for at least three more years.  She likes to ride the motorcycle with me, so we will travel up to see our three grandkids who live 220 miles from here.  That is a good enough distance so we don’t have to live with them, but visit them often,” he said laughing.

Verner said he plans to take one day at a time and maybe one day he will return to work, but it won’t be anytime soon. 

“I wanted to retire early because I always thought I would miss something if I did.  I did not want to wait around for health problems or other issues,” he said. “Now, if I want to do something else like be a contractor, that will be another chapter in my life.  It’s my time and I just want to try it – because I can,” he said.