CHARLESTON, S.C. – Ifford Taylor has gone almost full circle in his career. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1986 after high school, partly to get away from Anderson, S.C. and see the world. He now works in Charleston, just a four-hour car ride away from his hometown.
Taylor began his U.S. Army Corps of Engineers career in the Savannah District in 2003 working in a construction field office. In 2015, he joined the Charleston District as a project manager.
“My job is a lot of administrative work,” he said. “There are a lot of contract actions we're putting together for preventive maintenance. We've got contracts throughout the entire southeast. We have 10 different regions we work in assisting the Army Reserve’s 81st Readiness Division.”
As the 102nd anniversary of Veterans Day approaches, Taylor reflected on his time in service and how it led to his current job.
“I graduated high school in 1985,” he said. “I wasn’t doing anything, just working a minimum wage job. I had a friend of mine; he had joined the Navy and he came back, and we hung out and he was telling me some of his responsibilities. I thought that sounds like something I could do, so the following week I went and saw the recruiter and the week after that, I went back and signed up.”
Taylor went to boot camp in April 1986 as an E-1.
“Going into the Navy I learned how to be a diesel engine mechanic,” said Taylor. “I picked up everything really fast and I was promoted quickly.”
Taylor’s first few years in the Navy were relatively quiet and then the Gulf War started.
“I did deploy to the Persian Gulf at the start of Desert Shield and Desert Storm,” he said. “That was a crazy time. There was no time for planning. I had a baby on the way. I had just reported to a new ship. My wife was left in a new apartment trying to figure everything out on her own.”
Taylor and his young family did make it through Desert Shield/Storm and he served several more years.
“I was medically discharged,” said Taylor. “I got injured. I have knee problems that were very complicated and almost led to a right knee amputation, but the good Lord stepped in and blessed me. I didn’t want to be discharged. The Lord had other plans for my life.”
Taylor credits the Department of Veteran Affairs for helping him transition through this tough period in his life to his current job with the Corps of Engineers.
“When I was discharged, the VA helped me get a mechanical engineering degree through vocational rehab and that ultimately led me to the job with USACE,” said Taylor.
According to the Army, veterans make up 50% of Department of the Army civilians.
Now 18 years into his “second career,” Taylor has watched his son become the fourth generation of his family to serve in the military. His grandfather was drafted into the Army during WWI and his father joined the Marine Corps during Vietnam.
“Now my son is a lieutenant in the Navy,” he said. “He is currently an Engineering Duty Officer currently attending Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, CA. He’s a good, smart kid. I think me being in the Navy had a small influence on my son going into the Navy.”
Taylor’s son-in-law is also a chief in the Navy.
According to the Army, fewer than 1% of Americans currently serve in the military
Taylor added that his time in service allowed him to grow as a person.
“When you enter the military, you're really a kid,” he said. “You're growing up in the military. It brings out the best of you at the time. You kind of establish who you are and your priorities.”
Veterans are diverse professionals who have unique skills and experiences, making them invaluable contributors to any organization or community.
“This whole job has been a blessing,” said Taylor. “I’ve been with the government for almost 30 years. Nothing has been boring and it’s been a good ride.”