From branch to branch: Mark Patterson retires after 42 years of service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Miyah Gray
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Mark Patterson, 97th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, will be retiring after forty-two years of combined service in the Army, Coast Guard, and civil service.

Patterson began his military journey with the Army in 1978 with the desire to learn a trade and gain stability. He says his father, a former World War II Marine, made the transition into the military seem natural.

“It was fairly easy to make the decision to join,” he said. “We weren’t at war at the time and at home, my father was like a drill sergeant anyway.”

Patterson started his Army career as a cook in Korea. He then spent a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky, before reenlisting for nuclear weapon maintenance, a role that took him to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and later, upstate New York. His Army career concluded at Fort Sill, where he worked in artillery until finishing his service commitment.

After 5 1/2  of active duty and two years in the Army Reserve, Patterson joined the Coast Guard in 1986, serving more than 15 years.

His prior service allowed him to complete a condensed boot camp in Training Center Cape May, New Jersey, which focused on Coast Guard customs and courtesies, as well as uniform wear.

“I went to a short training course because of my prior service, which was only three weeks,” he said. “Once I finished, I went back to Oklahoma, picked up my family, and moved to New Hampshire where I was on a 205-foot boat. We’d go out on patrol for four weeks and get to spend four weeks at home.”

His Coast Guard duties ranged from standing watch to working in the engine room. He later went to specialty training as a storekeeper, a position that deals with finance, supply, procurement, and logistics.

“My first summer in the Coast Guard, my boat was in a yard period getting repaired,” he said. “I had to wear a hard hat, earplugs, and do a lot of repairs on the boat that summer. As a Seaman, you either worked in the engine room or on the decks standing watch. The Coast Guard doesn’t send you to advanced training right away, so I was an E-3 for a year and a half until I went to school for eleven weeks to become a storekeeper.”

After retiring from active duty with a total of almost 21 years, Patterson transitioned to civilian roles, including positions with the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Coast Guard National Center for Health Statistics in Maryland.

His career eventually led him to Altus, Oklahoma, driven by a desire to be closer to his daughters. Here, he worked at the Job Corps, mentoring young adults and helping them gain high school diplomas and learn new trades.

Patterson is now settled into a role as a budget analyst, a position he has held for nine years. He finds satisfaction in his work and enjoys the close-knit community of Altus.

“There’s a lot to do here in Altus. We have the cattle drive, you can take a plane ride to another Airforce base as a day trip.  There is golfing, swimming, outdoor recreation trips to Quarts Mountain, and so much more,” he said. “I also really enjoyed decorating our office toward the end of each year with themes such as Tim Burton or Legos, which we’d also dress up for. Overall it has been very rewarding working here.”