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Vandenberg civilian retires after 30 years of faithful service

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Col. Todd Gossett, the 30th Operations Group commander, presents the Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award to David Rentschler, the former 30th OG technical director, during a retirement ceremony here Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. Mr. Rentschler served 30 years filling many critical roles at Vandenberg. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lael Huss)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Col. Todd Gossett, the 30th Operations Group commander, presents the Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award to David Rentschler, the former 30th OG technical director, during a retirement ceremony here Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. Mr. Rentschler served 30 years filling many critical roles at Vandenberg. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lael Huss)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Enjoying the moment with his wife Susan, David Rentschler, the former 30th Operations Group technical director, retired after 30 years here Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. Mr. Rentschler filled many critical roles at Vandenberg helping the 30th Space Wing’s efforts in reengineering the Western Range. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lael Huss)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Enjoying the moment with his wife Susan, David Rentschler, the former 30th Operations Group technical director, retired after 30 years here Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. Mr. Rentschler filled many critical roles at Vandenberg helping the 30th Space Wing’s efforts in reengineering the Western Range. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lael Huss)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- While some people actively pursue their passions in life, others enjoy life's journey by taking chances and exploring new opportunities.

David Rentschler finished up a ride of a lifetime at Vandenberg Feb. 26 as he served his final day as a civil servant.

As a youth growing up in the Midwest, Mr. Rentschler, the former 30th Operations Group technical director, was interested in science - especially rocket science.

During his adolescent years, Mr. Rentschler spent much of his time building and launching model rockets. He became very interested in the technical aspects of his homemade launch vehicles.

However, as high school graduation neared in the early 1970s, Mr. Rentschler was uncertain about what he wanted to do professionally. He did know one thing: he wanted a radical change in his life.

Coming from a financially well-off family, he and his siblings had the opportunity to go to college directly after high school. Although it was tempting, Mr. Rentschler decided to travel down a different path than his college-bound siblings.

In July 1972, Mr. Rentschler decided to seek employment in the military with the United States Marine Corps. Doors began to open for the young private after receiving high scores on a military entry exam. Soon thereafter, he was trained as an electrical technician at Lowry Air Force Base, Colo.

Once his technical training was completed, he received orders to work out of Quantico, Va., where the military afforded him a unique experience. In Virginia, Mr. Rentschler served as an electrical technician for the Marine Helicopter Squadron One at the Marine Corps Air Facility Quantico, Va., which is responsible for the helicopter transportation of the president of the United States, vice president and Cabinet members.

On numerous occasions, Mr. Rentschler had social encounters with former Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford while completing maintenance duties on the HMX-1 as a young enlistee.

As a result, the young Marine's maintenance efforts were not overlooked. Before the end of his first military term, July 1976, he was meritoriously promoted to sergeant, E-5.

Following a four-year stint in the military, the Minnesota native reunited with some of his childhood friends who later persuaded him to take a trip to the West Coast.

The trip landed Mr. Rentschler in Santa Cruz, Calif., in an area surrounded by beautiful scenery. It was not hard for him to want to stay in California; he was sold, he said.

He then started pursuing college courses through Cabrillo College in Aptos before he decided to transfer to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. At California Polytechnic, Mr. Rentschler graduated cum laude in electronic engineering.

As a new college graduate, through word-of-mouth, Mr. Rentschler heard about a career fair taking place on the campus where he spent many of his days. After an inward debate, he decided to attend the fair. Making his way around and speaking with representatives from multiple organizations, he met one from Vandenberg, which was a place he knew little about.

The fact he knew little about Vandenberg sparked his interest even more, and he made arrangements to visit the base.

At that time he did not have an automobile, so he borrowed a friend's motorcycle. After approximately an hour of heading south along the Central Coast, he made it to Vandenberg, but was not let through the main gates because he was not wearing a helmet, he said with a smile.

Upon gaining base access through his sponsor at Vandenberg, Mr. Rentschler was given a tour of the installation. After learning the general ideologies encompassing the base, he was ecstatic about the opportunity to be a part of Star Wars-like, innovative programs at the gateway to space, said Mr. Rentschler.

In August 1981, after gaining employment as a government civilian on base, Mr. Rentschler filled many critical roles at Vandenberg. He started out working as a range engineer where he led the 30th Space Wing's efforts in reengineering the Western Range. He has served the role of a flight safety analyst and other lead roles such as radar operations lead, chief of the Range Instrumentation Division, chief of the 30th Range Management Squadron and his final role as the technical director of the 30th OG.

During his more than 29 years at Vandenberg, Mr. Rentschler has made a significant and lasting impact on the base. A few of his notable contributions include developing and implementing a plan to rebuild 70 percent of the Western Range by 2012; he led the efforts to streamline the Western Range, which led to a very reliable, cost-efficient range infrastructure; and was a key participant in Air Force Space Command commander, Gen. Robert Kehler's Launch Enterprise Team initiative, which has mapped the future of the Air Force's space launch enterprise.

A few of the missile and rocket test programs and launches Mr. Rentschler was a part of at Vandenberg include the Titan, Atlas, Minuteman, Scout, Pegasus, Taurus, Minotaur and Delta series.

Now, after nearly 30 years, the married, father of two, has decided to retire. Recollecting his past memories at Vandenberg, it is easy to remember moments like the Titan-34D rocket explosion of 1986, Mr. Rentschler said.

"However, there is one memory that will forever be in the back of my mind when I think about Vandenberg," said Mr. Rentschler. "The memory took place at night, early in my career, during one of our Atlas launches here. It was a clear night, no clouds to hinder my view. As the rocket launched, I remember attentively following its trajectory as it soared through the air and ever so gently faded away into Orion's Belt. I then knew I was a part of something much bigger than myself and I felt truly satisfied. That memory will always be a positive memory of mine."

Vandenberg is not only losing Mr. Rentschler's knowledge with his decision to retire, but the base is also losing a man who has dedicated his life to serving his country and has helped Vandenberg facilitate, construct and move Air Force space programs forward in the world for the past, present and future generations of space power.