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Shaping the Future of Aerospace: How Gary C. Mitchell Rose Up in the Soldering World

Posted on 7st August, 2023 by EPTAC Staff


In this exciting new interview of "The Soldering Spotlight: Inspiring Stories of Craftsmanship," we share the journey of Gary C. Mitchell, NASA Level B & IPC Trainer, Sr. Inspector at Danbury Mission Technologies, an ARKA Group LP company. Starting as a simple assembler, he worked his way up to being a high-level NASA instructor. With a boost from the comprehensive EPTAC program and IPC certification courses, among other valuable experiences, Gary has become a skilled soldering expert. His hard work and dedication are truly inspiring.

Gary didn't just stumble into the world of soldering and quality inspection. He followed in his family's footsteps, who worked at Pratt & Whitney. His military service, which included a tour in Iraq, further shaped his career. After dedicating 35 impressive years to working on defense and space products, Gary's story is one of constant hard work and learning.

In this interview, Gary talks about the importance of proper training, the excitement of putting what he's learned into practice, and how his career has changed the way he sees the world. Whether it's managing challenging tasks under pressure or contributing to important aerospace projects, we're diving deep into the life of a real soldering expert.

So, get comfortable and prepare to learn about Gary C. Mitchell's journey.


Can you share your journey of becoming a skilled assembler/quality inspector and what sparked your interest in this field?

At the age of 18, I started working in a stockroom for a large military electronics manufacturing company in Long Island, New York after my sister, who worked in Procurement, suggested it. Kitting parts was boring, but I was curious what these parts did and how they came together to form something functional.

Upon relocating to Florida, a rare opportunity presented itself. I was able to attend the local community college for free at night to learn electronics assembly and soldering to MIL-STD-2000, with the potential for a new job at the end if I performed well. It turned out to be a great match for me, and I spent about 13 years at that company, learning various aspects of manufacturing, first as the Lead of the Solder and Rework Area and then as a Technical Trainer.

This period coincided with the release of IPC standards. I was excited that these “new” standards were much more concise in defining requirements and included more pictures and definitions than the previous military standards. Also, I was thrilled that the industry recognized the need to standardize training. Gone was the idea of each trainer training their version of MIL-STD-2000 and 2000A.

Around that time, electronics were undergoing significant changes with the advent of surface mount technology becoming more common. I decided it was time for a change and relocated to South Florida, where an opportunity to learn fiber optic assembly, and potentially a new job, presented itself. It was a good fit, but after a short time with the company, the skillset they needed most was my ability to do rework on CCAs, and eventually, the promise of IPC training and certification. Things looked promising until 9/11 happened. The company I worked for chose to close their facility, prompting the need for another relocation.

This time, I chose a location where there was plenty of electronics manufacturing happening and relocation would not be necessary. Space Coast of Florida- here I come! I was fortunate to work for a small Class 3 Contract Manufacturing company for about 20 years, where I was hired as a Technical Trainer. Anyone who has worked for a small company knows you never do one job. Working for a small company requires flexibility, the ability to wear multiple hats, and it provides a lot of learning opportunities.

Can you share your journey of becoming a skilled assembler/quality inspector and what sparked your interest in this field?

My father worked at Pratt & Whitney and retired from there; my brother still works there. So, I have a history of working on and seeing some cool things. I have 11 years in the military with a tour in Iraq and 35 years working on defense/space products, with 18 of these years as an instructor.


If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring soldering enthusiasts, what would it be?

Stay at home; it’s a jungle out here! Watch, listen, ask questions with a 'senior' person, and learn everything that you can. An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.


An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. 


Are there any memorable or interesting interactions you've had with clients or colleagues while working on soldering projects?

When I had to train employees who worked in my company and were from another state - and once, from another country. I can’t say much about it, but I gave them some good tips that I learned in my EPTAC training.


Can you describe a moment when you felt the most accomplished or proud of your soldering/assembly work?

While in Iraq, seeing the systems I had inspected on planes and helicopters, and knowing that I was making a difference.


How do you handle the pressure or stress that can arise during intricate or time-sensitive soldering tasks?

I don't let day-to-day things stress me, except for the traffic on my way home from work! My time in Iraq taught me some valuable lessons about handling stress. 'Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.' (Bible verse).


My time in Iraq taught me some valuable lessons about handling stress. 'Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.'


Could you share your experience with the EPTAC training program and how it has impacted your soldering/assembly skills?

It helped me grow in my career.


Would you recommend EPTAC’s training or IPC certification courses to other aspiring solderers? What specific benefits or advantages did you gain from these courses?

Yes. Whenever I have a question, I like the fast and accurate response that I get from EPTAC.


How do you think EPTAC’s training or IPC certification courses have helped you stay up-to-date with industry standards and best practices in soldering?

Simple: the knowledge of the MIT’s (Master IPC Trainer).


Did the EPTAC’s training or IPC certification courses provide you with practical hands-on training that was directly applicable to real-world soldering/assembly projects? If yes, can you provide an example of how this training benefited you in your work?



Have you noticed any significant improvements in your soldering abilities and confidence after completing the EPTAC training or IPC certification courses? How have these certifications impacted your career opportunities or professional growth?

I was able to work my way up from an assembler on the floor to a CIT (Certified IPC Trainer), and from there, I advanced my career to a Level B NASA instructor. Also, I have been going out to suppliers as a source inspector; as a trainer, I have been going out to different areas of the country to train at our facilities.


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