Have you met JD Lawrence ’01? We were South Morlan roommates during our sophomore year at Chapman University. We spent most of our time blasting slow jams with our dormitory door and window wide open. JD studied communications with an emphasis in speech and he is now chief warrant officer 3 in the United States Army and pilot in command when flying the AH-64D Longbow Apache.
Kevin Staniec ’01: Tell us about your career. What does a day on the job entail?
JD Lawrence ’01: I’m a maintenance test pilot (MTP), so I can usually be found with my mechanics figuring out what is wrong with an aircraft, the best way to fix the problem, and which of the multitude of issues takes priority based on everything that’s going on at any given time. When I’m not managing the issues, I’m testing whatever has just been fixed whether that entails verifying functionality on the ground or flying an aircraft to ensure that it is safe and functional for all the other pilots to take out on missions.
KS: Why did this type of work originally interest you and how did you get started?
JDL: When at Chapman, I never would have expected to fly helicopters, nor be in the military. My freshman year suite-mate told me about this program where we could go fly helicopters for a living and I initially had no interest in it. Needless to say after some research and thinking, it started to sound pretty amazing. Much more thought went into my decision to work in maintenance rather than instruct. Some of the reasons I chose this path were that it sounded amazing to diagnose problems in one of the most complex vehicles in the world. I also get to manage the maintenance of the company, scheduling the aircraft to fly each day, setting priorities and supervising the work that is accomplished. My fellow MTPs and I are also the subject matter experts on how the aircraft works and what needs to be done to fix it.
KS: What parts of your job do you find most satisfying and the most challenging?
JDL: The most satisfying part of my job is working with both the people and the aircraft. (The people include) the crew chiefs who I work with when repairing and verifying any issues with our birds, as well as the other pilots who I get to teach about the aircraft and who teach me everyday about something new. The Apache is an amazing aircraft that has some complex systems that lead to complex problems. It is painstaking to figure out some of the solutions, but seeing the fully functional aircraft take off each day and night and safely return is the greatest reward I could hope for.
KS: What are your highest aspirations professionally and personally?
JDL: Well, first, I’ve already had the honor of meeting a phenomenal woman and the love of my life who I have two beautiful and amazing daughters with. I, above all else, want to help make my wife and children happy, and make them proud of me. Second, after having the experience of living in Germany for a few years, traveling around Europe and the Middle East, and living in Georgia and Colorado, I realize my heart still lies in good old Southern California. Professionally, I’m hoping to be selected to CW4 this year and being able to retire from the military a few years down the road. After that I want to go back to school with aspirations of becoming a physicians assistant. A lofty goal, so I hope I’m up to the task.
KS: What are you most passionate about outside of work?
JDL: Outside of work I usually spend time with my family. One of the things I love doing for them is cooking. My wife has Celiac disease, so we are gluten-free and enjoy finding and trying all sorts of amazing recipes.
KS: Who or what has inspired you most?
JDL: There are so many people who have inspired me in many ways. If I have to pick one, I would say Melanie, my wife. For the past decade, she has been inspiring me to learn more about everything that comes up in life. Encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone and do some traveling, to learn about different types of cooking (gluten-free), and with her battles with cancer and auto-immune diseases, she has inspired me to help people in a completely different way.
KS: How has your Chapman degree helped you?
JDL: My Chapman experiences that have helped me the most were mainly in the realm of interpersonal relations as well as management. Sure the degree gave some weight to my credentials, but working with all sorts of people from all over the country and world required the ability to read people and learn how to better work with them to get the best productivity from the group.
KS: What’s the best advice you ever received and what words of encouragement do you have for future Chapman alumni?
JDL: If you have a chance to do something you never thought of doing, don’t pass it up. Live in Germany, serve your country, look into opportunities that don’t necessarily appeal to you. Chapman was really big when I was there (and still is) about becoming a “global citizen.” I don’t know if I’ve achieved Chapman standards of this idea, but I’ve tried to live life for myself and more importantly for others, wherever I have the opportunity to go.
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