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Behind the Wings: Finding pride in others’ success

DCA Ramp Unit Manager Frank Staley was born into a military family and knew at an early age that was the career path he wanted to take. “My father served in the military and I have many other family members that served,” says Frank. “I wanted to keep the tradition going.” After retiring from 12 years of service, he pursued his passion for aviation which led him to join Piedmont. Frank enjoys sharing his past military experience with other team members and learning about others’ experiences as a member of the Veterans/Military Employee Resource Group (ERG).

Originally from Orangeburg, South Carolina, Frank grew up in a military family, the son of college professors. His father was an Army reservist and Korean War veteran and the family traveled to different Army bases during the summer months. Frank was active in his high school’s Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program and after graduation, participated in the Army ROTC program at Morehouse College. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Biology from Morehouse, Frank joined the Army the same day he graduated.

Frank attended Officer Basic Training and Ranger School at Fort Benning in Georgia. After training, he served at Fort Campbell in Kentucky as an Infantry Officer and completed flight school at Fort Rucker in Alabama where he was trained to fly attack helicopters. He served a one-year overseas tour in Korea where he enjoyed learning about the local culture. “I wanted to connect with the local people and learn from them, not go by what is said in books,” Frank shares. “It was a unique experience. While other servicemembers were partying during their time off, I visited parks and monuments.”

After his tour, he returned to Fort Rucker where he taught flight school and was the department head of the Publications department. Frank served as the airfield commander at Cairns Army Field in Alabama and spent his last two years working in research and development at Fort Rucker.

During his time of service, he was awarded two Army achievement medals, earned his airborne wings, air assault wings, aviator wings, and Ranger tab. After 12 years, Frank retired from the military. “My fondest memories are leading the soldiers and helping them advance in their careers,” Frank shares. “It was great to see a soldier join as a Private and work their way up to First Sergeant. It felt good and I hope I had some part in that.”

Continuing in his passion to help others succeed, Frank ran a non-profit high school youth program in Miami, Florida where he counseled at-risk youth and helped them obtain employment. He is proud to say that out of the 350 kids that came through the program, approximately 200 started college. He also assisted ex-offenders with obtaining employment.

“It was a true transformation adjusting to the nine-to-five work lifestyle,” says Frank. “In the military, you worked long hours, sometimes with no breaks but we did it without complaint or reservation. The work pace of civilian life is much slower and my co-workers tell me I work too fast!”

Feeling the calling to return to aviation, Frank accepted a position at the Miami Dade International Airport where he worked as an office manager in their construction and renovation office. He then took a job at San Francisco International Airport as an airfield operations officer and he was later promoted to supervisor. After five years, he accepted a position at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C., as the airfield operations officer where he worked for 18 years. He was responsible for the day to day safety and security of the airfield and terminal.

After retiring, he joined Piedmont two months later as a ramp unit manager. “After working in DCA in operations, I developed a good relationship with Piedmont and their employees and decided I wanted to work for them,” Frank shares. He manages approximately 20 agents on his shift. Frank says that having leadership and management skills from serving in the military helps him in his role. “I want to teach agents to have a sense of purpose and responsibility and work safe,” says Frank. “When they succeed, I succeed.”

Frank enjoys his job and co-workers and makes every effort to ensure our customers get where they need to go safely. He joined the Veterans/Military ERG to share his experiences with other military team members and to learn about theirs. He says that no matter the branch of military, it seems the same kind of war stories are told.

When he isn’t working, Frank plays golf, rides his motorcycle and is an active lifetime member of his local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion. He is also known as the ‘grandparent on his street’ because of his positive relationship with his neighbors and their children. “It takes a village. It gives me a sense of purpose and makes me happy to help others.”

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Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. Piedmont is proud to recognize our Veteran team members and their contributions to the success of the airline and making a difference in their communities.