Story by Keith Hayes on 09/13/2019Forty-two years ago, the singing group Eagles charted their most iconic hit "Hotel California," the classic movie "Rocky" hit the big screen, Elvis Presley died at Graceland, and Ricardo J. Vallejo got married and also began working at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command aboard the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California.
Vallejo was recently named Civilian Marine of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2019 by MDMC from among the artisans working at both MCLB Barstow and MCLB Albany, Georgia, highlighting his more than four decades of service to the base.
Born and raised in Barstow, Vallejo spent his first 15 years at MCLB as a carpenter on the Nebo side and then as a General Equipment Mechanic at PPB for 27 years, among other jobs.
"I'm pretty versatile and I am able to perform in several different trades," Vallejo said. That is also the definition of a GEM, possessing the ability to work fluently in at least three different kinds of repair fields, he said.
One of the more notable changes at MCLB Barstow from when he began working in 1977 is workplace safety has taken front and center in the way things are done, Vallejo said.
"They emphasize safe practices, the wearing of the proper protective equipment for the job you're doing and they're constantly upgrading the equipment to make it safer," he said.
As a member of the Maintenance Shop, Vallejo said he has a lot of knowledge about the largest free-standing structure in the Marine Corps, building 573, and that knowledge is tapped frequently by the artisans at PPB.
"It's funny because now we're removing some of the projects I built in the Plant 20 years ago because they need the workspace," he said.
Dennis Blackford, Production Equipment Maintenance Supervisor, echoed Vallejo's sentiments about the work he has done at the base and Plant during his tenure.
"A lot of the stuff in building 573 was built by Rick," Blackford said. "Now we're tearing a lot of it out and we can see Rick's name written on the inside of the walls from decades ago."
Vallejo and the rest of the crew are constantly busy repairing the machinery and systems needed by others at the Plant to get their jobs done "The steam racks and the blast cabinets that we work on are used very hard every day and the upkeep on those is a lot of work," he noted.
However, the maintenance he performs on heating and cooling systems is the biggest source of pride he gets from doing his job.
"It makes me feel good when someone says Thank you, we really appreciate what you're doing for us,' and that could be just from fixing the cooler for them during the summer, or fixing the heater when they're outside in the winter because it's really cold," Vallejo explained.
Vallejo has some advice for those just coming to work at the Plant. "The key to doing a good job is to always try to do the right thing, be professional about your job and do it in a timely matter, because people are depending on you."
The artisans with whom he has worked are also on his list of "good people" making his life at the Plant better. "I've had a good working partner for many years, Mickey Flores, who is as good a General Equipment Mechanic as there is. We make a good team and I really respect him," Vallejo said. "Dennis Blackford is also a good man whom I've really enjoyed working with."
He loves that the nature of his job means doing different things every day, but that's not the most challenging aspect of working at the Plant.
"It's getting up in the morning at 4 o'clock to get to the plant about 6 o'clock," Vallejo said. "I've been doing this for years and I still have trouble with the early hours."
Blackford, Vallejo's supervisor, said he nominated Rick for the Civilian Marine of the Quarter recognition because of his work ethic.
"Rick is old school; he keeps on going until the job is done," Blackford said. "I'll be sorry to see him go in January."