Norm Piper is one of those guys that you meet and you immediately know he's a professional...and a great friend!
and I started working together at Parris Island, South Carolina in
January of 2010 and we're just finishing up a job in Quantico, VA when the picture below was taken.
Me and Norm before the Navy vs Arkansas State game
I've had the pleasure of working with Norm across the US and I always look forward to seeing him on our next job wherever that happens to be.
Norm has been a UXO Technician for about 2 years and has a great story to tell.
I believe, along with all the other EOD and UXO Techs that know Norm, that he has a strong future in the UXO industry. I hope he stays a long time as the industry needs him.
Below is the interview I had with Norm. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed interviewing him over coffee in the lobby.
2012 Update: Norm is has been a UXO Project Manager for a large Environmental company with thousands of employees globally! Basically, he's kicking ass!
What's your background prior to coming in to UXO?
I attended Western Michigan University and graduated with a BS in Business Management and with minors in Japanese and Economics.
I lived and studied in Japan twice during school teaching ESL and also was a ski instructor at Lake Tahoe for 3 years.
How did you find out about the UXO industry?
My wife's uncle was a US Marine EOD Tech and had told his brother and sister-in-law about the business. They ended up making $11,000 a month in pay and Per Diem. That's hard to miss in conversation!
My first thought was "They do what?!!!" "I don't want to die!"
With my receipt hanging on the wall, I was selling ad space for a newspaper and living pay check to pay check. Ramen Noodles was on the menu most of the time.
I went to TEEX for school and it was intense. You
have 30 days to learn how to identify and safely work with unexploded
ordnance. Of course, you do get to blow s@#t up at school.
How long was it until you were hired out of school?
I took me 2 months after graduating to land my first job. I worked in Alaska and what you find out at your first job is how to keep getting hired. Once your foot is in the door and you're doing a good job, you'll keep busy. Don't get discouraged and keep communicating.
Where else have you worked besides Alaska?
After Alaska I went straight to Ft. Leonardwoood, MO and then to Flagstaff, AZ both with a different company than the original I started with. I was making flat rate Per Diem so the money was great!
You and I have been working together for most of the past year. What do you give credit to for being so well employed as a UXO Tech I?
Learn the business. Any time you get a chance to learn something new, run a piece of gear or drive something, get on it and become the expert.
I learned how to use the Trimble GPS better than anyone else in the company and that works for both of us because everyone knows the data will be correct when it's uploaded.
I was also able to learn how
to operate an excavator in Maine. It's about being a total package and
being valuable to the company that hires you and the customer.
What would you tell someone that is looking at making a change to this industry that so few know about?
Let me put it this way. I was working a job that I hated and now I'm making 4-5 times more doing a job that I love.
it dangerous? Sure, what isn't? Don't be complacent and keep a high
safety standard for yourself and those around you. Be smart and be
How long will you be working in the UXO industry?
Sky's the limit. Why would I leave? Maybe to be home more but it would have to be down the block.
You can make a choice of staying home, doing something that doesn't pay well and visit the food pantry when you don't have enough money for food. That's your choice not mine.
I haven't seen an opportunity that where you can make this kind of money, pay off your debt, work with great people regardless of your background and blow things up.
If you're smart and work hard, you can achieve your goals!
If you have any questions for me or Norm, use the "Contact Me" form and we'll get back to you ASAP!