By Halle Thornton
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — From the view of his office window in Building 210 for 18 years, Rick Holzwarth, quality assurance specialist with the 50th Contracting Squadron, has seen Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, transform from a small base on the outskirts of Colorado Springs into what it is today.
Holzwarth is retiring after 24 years of active duty and 18 years of civil service, Sept. 28., a total of almost 40 years of service.
Holzwarth retired from active duty at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado as the vice commandant for the noncommissioned officer academy for eight years, he was somewhat familiar with Schriever AFB.
“In that job I made a difference,” he said. “I taught at the NCO academy, influencing young sergeants. That was a great way to wrap up a military career, and it was a lot of fun.”
Holzwarth arrived at Schriever AFB in 1998 and began his career as a contractor for the Harris Corporation.
“When I first started, the base was known as Falcon Air Force Station, and they used to call it ‘Falcatraz’ because it was really remote,” he said. “I was almost apprehensive about taking the job.”
Holzwarth added back then, he worked in a building that has since been demolished, and the base didn’t even have a gas station.
“You had to watch your gas tank, because if there was an exercise and the gate was closed, you might run out of gas,” he laughed. “I saw plenty of people pushing cars off the road.”
Additionally, there was no housing, so Holzwarth only saw adults.
“At four o’clock, there was a mass exodus to the gate and this place was pretty much empty,” he said. “The only people left were the people on crew. Now I actually see people out riding bikes and walking with their kids.”
After working as a contractor for a year, Holzwarth became familiar with the base and heard about openings in the 50th CONS, applying for a position soon after.
In 2000, Holzwarth became a quality assurance specialist, and a year later, was promoted to supervisor, now serving over 40 contracts on base, saying he knows 95 percent of the people on base because of this.
“During the course of a day for our office, we’re in the dining facility watching them make breakfast, then 22nd SOPS doing satellite acquisition, then up on the roof of Building 300 checking nuclear detection antennas,” he said. “We see everything.”
However, the work doesn’t stop at Schriever AFB.
“I’ll get a phone call from Kaena Point in Hawaii about an antenna for a space shuttle launch,” he said. “We get to see the entire mission, from making biscuits to flying satellites.”
Although Tech. Sgt. Robert Shoemaker, quality assurance manager with the 50th CONS, has only been working with Holzwarth a year, he will miss his dedication and hard work.
“The Air Force is going to be losing a great asset and someone who has been dedicated to the mission as an active duty member and a civilian,” he said. “I’m going to be bummed not seeing him every morning when I come in the office. I’ll have that weird feeling of disbelief when you know something major changed in your life.”
Dennis Daniels, quality assurance manager with the 50th CONS, agreed with Shoemaker in that Holzwarth was always willing to lend a hand, ensuring mission execution.
“My favorite part about working with him was learning the ins and outs of quality assurance as it pertains to the development and follow-on support of contracts,” he said.
Stephen Cooper, quality assurance manager with the 50th CONS, began working with Holzwarth in June of 2004, and will miss talking sports with him, especially the Mondays following NFL Sunday.
“He loved his Steelers, and would talk your ear off in support of his team,” he laughed.
One thing these contractors have in common is their love for Holzwarth’s stories.
“Many people, not only in our squadron but throughout the facility, enjoyed coming to our office to take a break from their daily routine, and Rick always had a story or two for them,” Cooper said. “All of them leave with a smile on their face.”
“Doesn’t matter what it is, if he’s talking, it’s going to be interesting,” Shoemaker added.
Holzwarth offered advice to the others in the 50th CONS office.
“When you get into the daily grind of what you’re doing and narrow your focus, you lose the bigger picture,” he said. “No matter how this turns out at the end of the week, you’re still part of something bigger.
“We’re not baking bread here at Schriever, we’re not making pottery, we’re guiding satellites and we’re doing something big,” he continued. “Never lose sight of that.”
Holzwarth plans to move to Arizona during the winter and reside in Colorado during the summer.
“When I retired from the Air Force, I still had a little gas in the tank,” he said. “Now I’m very satisfied, but I’ll miss interacting with all the people, whether it’s in the office or in the building. I looked forward to seeing all these people — there’s a lot of familiarity there.”
Holzwarth offered advice to anyone thinking about joining Team Schriever.
“Keep an open mind, and don’t let your first impression or what you envisioned this base to be be your guide,” he said. “Just wait and see, it’s not anywhere near what you think it’s going to be. I’m going to miss a lot more than I thought.”