January 23, 2023
- Alvin Varnadore oversees team of a dozen maintaining U.S. Army Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA) at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
- Grew up in Orlando, Fla., and served 21 years in the Air Force, starting in avionics and moving into maintenance and management. Worked on B-52s, AWACs, KC-135s, with postings including California, North Carolina, Iceland and Lakehurst.
- Worked for several military contractors before joining King Aerospace in 2020.
- Military service is a family tradition. Alvin met his wife, Beverly, during her 22-year career in Air Force logistics. Their daughter, Aisha, works for the Defense Logistics Agency. His older brother served four years in the Air Force, while his younger brother – a pilot – retired as an Army colonel.
Why’d you choose to join King Aerospace and why do you stick with it?
King Aerospace took over the SEMA maintenance contract while I was working here in Lakehurst for another company. I had never heard of King Aerospace, so we did a little research trying to figure out who they were. Steve Sawyer (SEMA program head then, Ardmore general manager now) came out for three days and met with groups of employees and talked about the core values. We had never been so impressed. My instincts were true because they’re different from all the others I’ve worked for. It’s a testament to King being small and deliberate about what they want and the people they hire. They’re loyal to you, and you want to return that loyalty.
What makes King Aerospace and its culture special?
The core principles are not only written but encouraged and reinforced. It’s encouraged from the top down. People grow up with different ideas about how you treat each other and how you show people respect. So it’s just good to see that written down, as King Aerospace has. If we can reinforce that culture and keep it going, your work environment will be the best you’ve ever had.
What does it mean to earn and wear the wings?
It’s a proud moment. You are part of a proud group of people that earned the right to wear those wings. And you’re involved in all the successes of King Aerospace. By the time you earn them, you know how to treat each other with respect, and you understand the core principles, and it just makes work better for you and the people around you.
What does servant leadership mean to you?
It helps create morale and trust among employees at all levels. You treat them with respect and let them know they’re important to the team. And that can motivate them to come to work and give 100% daily, so everybody impacts what you’re doing. As managers, we’re busy and when somebody brings a problem to us, it may not seem important. But I’ve learned to give that attention, because people don’t generally bring things to you that are not important to them. I’ve learned to just stop and say, “OK, I just need to show up for what this individual needs. Right now.”
Tell me about your favorite King moment?
I went to servant leadership training in Arkansas the week of our holiday party. So I was going to be stressed scrambling to get back to New Jersey. And Mr. King said, “You’re going to fly back with us on a corporate jet (visiting company locations is why the jet exists). So it’s me, Mr. King, Mrs. King and Jarid King, and it was absolutely one of the best flights I’ve ever had. Because Jared and I, we got a chance to really talk about our families and our jobs and future possibilities for King. I’ll never forget that flight, ever.