Falcon McDoulett has but a few more sleeps at his home in Tuttle.
Next week, the 19-year-old leaves behind a quiet farming landscape in southeastern Grady County for the shipyards of Newport News, Va., some 1,400 miles away.
McDoulett was recently offered what he believes is the opportunity of a lifetime.
The recent Canadian Valley Technology Center graduate competed at the June national SkillsUSA machining contest in Louisville, Ky. After finishing 12th in the nation, McDoulett visited a number of corporate tables at the on-site job fair. Household corporate names represented included 3M, Boeing, Bosch, Carhartt and Snap-on.
He only had a handful of resumes but saved one for his last stop, which was a lesser-known company at least to folks in central Oklahoma.
McDoulett said the talent scout for Huntington Ingalls Industries caught him by surprise, because she wrote notes on his resume while he touted the skills he acquired at CV Tech. A few days later, the phone rang. McDoulett received a formal job application and subsequent job offer as a machinist at the company’s Virginia headquarters.
Huntington Ingalls is located on 550 acres of the north shore of the James River, along many miles of waterfront in an area that became the first enduring English colony established in North America in the early 1600s.
They build boats there. Big ones.
The company’s claim to fame is the title of America’s largest shipbuilder, employing 41,000 people globally. It is the sole builder of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and one of two builders constructing nuclear-powered submarines for the military.
The company is planning a 2020 maiden voyage of the $11.3 billion USS John F. Kennedy, a nuclear-powered carrier being prepped for missions involving the U.S. military’s latest F-35C Joint Strike fighters.
Meanwhile, Tuttle’s claim to fame is a local dairy that provides farm-fresh products at 300 regional stores. That and a rich sports tradition that includes Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, who grew up in Tuttle.
McDoulett said the reality of leaving home has not yet sunk in, but he relishes the opportunity ahead.
“It’s kind of intimidating,” he said. “They make very big parts and precise parts.”
Foot in the Door
McDoulett said his expected starting pay will be over $21 an hour. A generous benefits package kicks in after 90 days. He qualifies for pay raises after six months and again after 18 months that should increase his hourly pay to $24, or roughly $48,000.
“The company flew me out to Virginia to show me around,” he said. “I toured their machine shop. I was impressed. They had machines that cost millions of dollars.”
McDoulett said he got interested in machining based on the testimonies of friends at Tuttle High School who were enrolled in the program at CV Tech’s Chickasha Campus.
“They told me they got to make cool stuff and play with big machines all day,” he said. “It’s very hands-on. I found that I really enjoy it. It is relaxing to me. I make parts and make them pretty. It’s not so much a job to me. It’s more of an art form.”
Machinists use machine tools, such as lathes, milling machines and grinders to produce often extremely precise metal parts. Some machinists produce one-of-a-kind items. The metal material varies from aluminum to steel and even titanium.
McDoulett said his family has had mixed emotions about the job opportunity.
“My dad is just like me and is excited,” he said. “He is ready for me to go on an adventure. But my mom … not so much. She is losing her baby boy.”
Falcon is the second oldest of four McDoulett children. Two siblings remain at Tuttle High School.
“I remain excited for a new chapter, but I am nervous that I might jump in over my head,” he said.
He leaves behind a cherished 1980 Chevy Camaro. McDoulett will live in a small apartment about 200 yards from his work site and will make the 20-hour drive in a bit more practical and reliable 2007 Chevy Malibu.
A couple days each week, he will attend apprentice school. He will be paid regular wages while learning the proprietary side of the company. The other three days will be spent in a machine shop.
Nearly 470,000 machinists are employed nationally, according to information supplied from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also predicts modest job growth of about 5,400 in the coming year.
CV Tech’s Precision Machining instructor Wesley Hess said he thinks McDoulett will serve the program and the school well as an east coast ambassador, though virtually all program graduates receive job offers closer to home.
“Falcon was a great student,” Hess said. “He worked his tail off. He is an example of somebody who has the drive and desire to do great things, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”