From Logging to Government Contracting

April 5, 2021

By Noel Quinn
King Aerospace senior proposal manager

I’m at an enviable point in my career. I’m right where I want to be, doing just what I want to do: government contracting with King Aerospace. I don’t write this to brag, but to offer encouragement. If you don’t like the path you’re on, forge a better one. I would tell you to follow your dream, but it’s hard to do when you don’t know what it is. I sure didn’t.

Here’s how I found my way.

A Course Correction that Changed Everything

After graduating college in deep East Texas, like many, I tried to stay in beautiful Nacogdoches. Jobs were scarce, and I fell back on my mechanical skills to earn a living. I was a heavy equipment mechanic in the logging industry and it was very dangerous. I am still grateful that I have all my fingers. I see TV shows about the logging industry, and it rings true with me. I don’t miss coming home every day covered in sand and hydraulic fluid, or having to use electrical tape for a Band-Aid. I’ll spare you the worst details.

I realized I had more in me than what I was doing. After talking with my dad, I decided to try harder and try different. I met with an Air Force recruiter. I mustered in at Barksdale Air Force Base and changed my life. I learned that I could excel and graduated from technical school as an honor graduate.

Succeeding gave me confidence, and I continued my education in hopes to complete an engineering degree while in the Air Force. The coursework in chemistry, calculus and trigonometry was challenging. After completing all the work listed by my academic advisor, I had a setback. The advisor missed a required course. I didn’t have enough time to complete the course before leaving the Air Force. It was a big disappointment but one has to learn to get back up when knocked down.

After my service, I worked as a calibration technician in the standards laboratory of a large ISR defense contractor. My management recognized my technical writing skills, and I became the person writing justifications for test equipment for the engineering department. Writing was easy for me because of the books I enjoyed as a kid.

An Affinity for Data Lifted My Career

Fast forward: I rose through management and was on a Very Important Person Special Air Mission (VIP SAM) program. I was asked to join a proposal team for a glass cockpit upgrade program. I had no idea what a proposal was or how government contracting worked. After a Shipley course, I joined the proposal department.

There were about 40 people in the department, and we were supported by a large company print shop and a company bindery. We produced 4,000-5,000-page proposals, both classified and unclassified.

Being a lifelong learner, I became interested in personal development. Technology was easy for me but people skills is a different discipline altogether. In organizations or in life, how we relate to each other is as important as it gets. So I completed a master’s degree to learn about organizational and personal behavior. I also completed a Project Management Institute certification while working full time in the proposal business.

Along the way I had a little fun, too. My dad got me interested in seaplanes, and I had the pleasure of getting my last checkride at the same place my dad got his training long years ago.

government contracting senior proposal manager noel quinn
The bush pilot from Alaska (to the right of me) taught me some cool stuff on this seaplane based in Florida. I am barefoot because my shoes didn’t fit on the narrow Piper J-3 rudder pedals.

As mergers and acquisitions occurred in the industry, my peers and I “followed the crops” like harvesting crews do in agriculture. I worked proposals from Australia to Kuwait – and numerous places in between. I saw many examples of what I consider criminal or at least unscrupulous behavior by the organizations I was trying to represent as trustworthy.

Through the years, I gained valuable experience in CONUS and OCONUS aviation maintenance, management and modification; government contracting; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems; cape launch operations; and logistics. Equally important, I learned what I wanted in my career. That was to be with a company known for integrity that starts at the top and flows all the way down.

Go Where Your Heart Leads

I felt I had another career move in me, so this was a big decision. In the end, though, my choice was clear: King Aerospace. I joined this team of difference makers in 2019. It is a good feeling to look customers in the eye and know that no other contractor will do more to hold up their end of the bargain than King Aerospace.

This company has always been a proponent of servant leadership, serving people with love. I see and feel that. Now I do my best to practice it, too. Ongoing training helps with such towering leaders in the field as James C. Hunter. So while I have no plans to go anywhere else, my career continues to evolve and gain momentum. Each day feels new as we examine our “why.” Purpose adds meaning and direction.

government contracting senior proposal manager noel quinn
Here I am flying another Piper J-3 at a fun seaplane fly-in on Lake Texhoma several years ago.

Our mission is on making a positive difference in the lives of those we employ, serve and encounter while earning a fair profit. As Founder Jerry King often says, we just happen to work on airplanes.

Noel’s proven integrity and desire to make a difference make him perfectly suited for our business development. His winning attitude extends to our clients. Together, we succeed. Noel has more than 15 years of experience in CONUS and OCONUS aviation maintenance, management and modification; government contracting; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); launch operations; and logistics. Prior to joining our team, he served as proposal manager for Vertex Aerospace, L-3 Vertex Aerospace, AECOM Government Services and DynCorp. For almost 22 years, he worked for E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 Communications in such roles as information technology team lead and business development specialist. Noel served as an avionics specialist for the United States Air Force. He studied chemistry at the University of South Carolina and calculus/trigonometry at St. Leo University and earned a master-of-arts degree in organizational behavior from Amberton University.