Engine mechanic Kathryn Glasgow has been fixing military helicopter engines for more than three decades. Glasgow works at GE’s engine services plant in Strother, Kansas. Her forte is the T700 engine, a war horse that has clocked some 60 million flight hours and powers the iconic Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, among other aircraft. The engines come to Glasgow’s shop with all sorts of wounds, from sand and sea water wear and tear to war damage. “Once in a while there will be one that comes in with a bullet hole,” Glasgow says. “In the back of your mind there is a story, there are faces that go with this hardware. You just hope that everything turned out OK. You hope that there was a happy ending.”
This spring, Glasgow got to find out. In 2004, the unit of former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Brondhaver rode into an ambush in Samara, just north of Baghdad. A direct hit with a rocket-propelled grenade killed one of Brondhaver’s Army buddies. The explosion shattered Brondhaver’s pelvic bone, dislocated joints and left his body riddled with 300 pieces of shrapnel. Brondhaver was rescued by a couple of Black Hawks. “Even though I had a hearing loss at the time, and still do, I could feel the vibration hear the wonderful sound of that [helicopter rotor] heartbeat,” he says.
This spring, Brondhaver, who still walks with a slight limp, traveled to GE Aviation’s headquarters in Evendale, Ohio, for an emotional meeting with a team of GE engineers and mechanics who work on the Black Hawk’s T700 engine, “the unsung heroes,” he says.
“I was not sure what to expect,” Glasgow says. “But we were all standing there and he came in and it was like you’ve known him forever, like he was always part of your team. You always think of us thanking the military for their service and here’s this guy standing there and thanking us.”
Glasgow’s colleague, Marty Nagy-Wentz, senior engineer who designs control systems for the T700 engine at GE’s plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, was there too. “He’s a glass half full kind of guy, so relentlessly positive” she says. “I’ve always thought of the Army or Navy as the customers. But now that I’ve met him, I think more about the people on the ground.”