February 18, 2014 -- Dick Govoni officially retired from Marine Corps Systems Command more than a month ago. Most days, he plays games on the iPad he got for Christmas or spends time with his wife of 56 years, Marguerite. While this sounds like a typical day for a retiree; for Govoni, it's taking some getting used to.
Govoni is 84 years old, and nearly every morning for the last 63 years, he left home to go to work for the Marine Corps.
"I never felt I was finished,” Govoni said. “I like to learn. I always felt like there was something else to do or some other way to do it, or something else to fix. That’s what kept me coming back.”
Govoni's Marine Corps story began in 1941 when he was a seventh-grader in Kingston, Mass. He decided he would become a Marine Corps aviator after learning of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At the time, all the aviators were in the Navy, but that did not stop Govoni from enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1948, and holding fast to his ultimate goal, he said.
“Whether the war is what made me do it, or watching John Wayne movies, or the flying sergeants, I set my aims on what I wanted to do, and the Marine Corps was what I wanted to do,” he said.
Govoni served as an enlisted avionics electrician until he was accepted into naval aviation training in 1952, finally realizing his dream of becoming a pilot. Throughout his 23-year career, he flew numerous fixed-wing propeller and jet, as well as rotary aircraft before retiring as a major in 1972.
After retiring, he worked as a government contractor for two years supporting the Marine Corps. In 1974, he was hired as a federal employee with the Marine Corps Directorate of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, where he formed a new office to manage government property and direct the unit’s logistics functions. It was that expertise that brought Govoni to Marine Corps Systems Command, then known as Marine Corps Research and Development Command, in 1991.
“When I came to [MCSC], it was to dig in and find out how the government property system worked from here,” he said. “We didn’t have the structure we have today, so much of growing the program [involved] working with the people at Logistics Command, understanding how they worked with contractors and used the supply system, digging into existing regulations and instructions, and learning on the fly.”
Govoni built MCSC’s government-furnished property office from the ground up, and helped it evolve into the operation that exists within MCSC’s Acquisition, Logistics and Product Support, or ALPS, today.
“Dick has an overwhelming amount of knowledge of government-furnished property and all that goes with it,” said Rod Montgomery, team lead for Product Support and Logistics Integration in ALPS.
“He wanted to have a finger in every pot,” Montgomery continued. “If it was property oriented, Dick wanted to be in the meeting. People sought him out for his knowledge base. It’s something we can’t easily replace, and certainly not with one person.”
As the subject matter expert for government property in ALPS, Govoni helped develop policies and solutions for the Marine Corps to account for everything from computers to weapon systems, from their acquisition to their disposal.
“He knows a little bit about every process, so he was always looking to help improve or add to the subject matter expert work being done in the logistics area,” said Montgomery, who has known Govoni since 1991. “He would move around making contact with people all day in person or on the phone, and then stay late to do his paperwork after everyone left. He never felt like he had done enough work for the day.”
Govoni’s efforts are paying dividends for the Marine Corps, as one of the programs he worked on during his last few years at MCSC will reach a milestone Feb. 18. The millionth Item Unique Identification, or IUID, mark will be placed on a Marine Corps explosive ordnance disposal robot the same day as Govoni’s retirement ceremony. The IUID mark is a unique identification label that aids in tracking maintenance and increasing visibility of government equipment using automated systems.
Govoni said IUID was one of the projects he wanted to see through before he retired.
“IUID has made a lot difference and will, in the long run, make an immense difference in tracking property throughout the Marine Corps,” Govoni said. “If I’m involved in something, I’m going to finish it. Or at least try to. And IUID is doing pretty well now. I also enjoyed the work, even when I stayed late.”
Govoni’s work ethic is a source of wonder and admiration for those who know him personally and professionally. He said it was instilled in him by his father at a young age, and it is one of the things he hoped to instill in others throughout his career.
“Be passionate about the work, and do what needs to be done,” Govoni said. “I always tell people if you think something is incorrect, dig into it and find out the why they’re doing it that way. Ask questions. Sometimes you have to get into the weeds. If you don’t, you can’t fix anything.”
So, what will Govoni dig into now that he’s retired?
Marguerite hopes he’ll start with the 20-plus years’ worth of papers and work mementos he has stored in their basement.
“I paint, and I’m hoping he’ll set up shop in the basement and find something that he’d like to do too,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get him to play Bingo, or go to dinner theater. I’ve been married to the Marine Corps for 56 years. God, the Marine Corps, Marguerite—that was the chain of command. Now, we can do whatever we want. As long as we spend time together, that’s all that matters.”