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NetCentrics Staff Stories

Kerry Kachejian

The Real Forrest Gump

Kerry Kachejian, a Senior Account Executive for NetCentrics, has found himself in a number of amazing, ironic, and serendipitous circumstances, with many of the events in Kerry’s life taking place because he was in the right place at the right time.

It all started when Kerry got his first job at the age of 13 – a paperboy delivering all the news, stories, and other happenings in his small hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania – making only $12.00 every two weeks. Although it wasn’t much at the time, Kerry took the job to help his family cover the hospital bills for his brother, Kevin, who was tragically paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 11 from a bicycle accident. The news of Kevin’s accident hit the community hard, and it was the headline of the local newspaper that Kerry delivered to his neighbors.

A Single Ticket

After months of struggling to pay the hospital bills, Kerry’s family was left with no choice but to sell their house. Kerry’s parents (Rocky and Helen) placed the ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard. On March 6, 1975, one year to the day after Kevin’s accident, Rocky stopped at a local convenience store and purchased a single lottery ticket – on a whim, in desperation, as one last reach for hope.

That ticket turned out to be one of the best purchases of his life. When Kerry delivered the local newspaper the following day, his father found out that he had a winning ticket – enough to take the house off the market and pay off some of the hospital bills. When Kevin was preparing to graduate from high school, his friends asked him what he planned to do. Kevin stated that he wanted to get out of his wheelchair, walk up, and get his diploma. Someone leaked the plan. TV news crews were alerted and helicopters flew into Henderson High School. Sure enough, with the help of two friends, Kevin stood from his chair and slowly walked up to receive his diploma. It was an emotional and powerful event for the thousands in attendance, and another headline in the local newspaper.

An Unlikely Lineup

A few years later, when Kerry was a teenager, a policeman stopped into the high school football locker room and asked the players if they could stand in a murder line up. While all of his friends balked at the opportunity, Kerry volunteered and walked away with a $10.00 cash reward. Turns out, the criminal in the lineup was convicted, and Kerry was still able to get a security clearance later in life.

From West Chester to West Point

Kerry went on to graduate from high school in 1978, and after receiving a postcard in the mail, applied to The United States Military Academy at West Point. After a one year application process, Kerry was accepted, making him the first person in his family to receive an undergraduate degree (Aerospace Engineering), and launching him in a completely new trajectory with the military. While at the Academy, Kerry played Division I lacrosse, and was called on as a cadet to escort the American hostages who returned from Iran. Since then, Kerry’s life was continuously filled with fortuitous and ironic circumstances.

Kerry graduated West Point in 1982, and became Airborne and Ranger qualified. He served as a combat engineer in Germany when the country was divided. He remembers the cold war days, facing off against the communist Soviet and East German forces. Kerry and his unit were trained in explosives, demolitions, landmines, and even small nuclear weapons. He fondly remembers the great German beers and autobahns with no speed limits.

Kerry joined the Army Reserve in 1988, and began a career in industry. He worked for GE Aerospace, SPC, (PEO IEWS and DARPA), E-Systems, Raytheon, and Harris. For a few years, he ran his own company called Bold Solutions. At the same time, he became a Registered Professional Engineer (Civil) and served in the military with the Army Corps of Engineers. He was involved in the national response for dozens of earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters, including Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans.

Along the way, Kerry enrolled in the engineering program at Virginia Tech and earned his MS in Systems Engineering, and later, another MS in National Resource Strategy at the National Defense University. While at NDU, his seminar had eyes on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 when it was attacked by terrorists in American Airlines Flight 77. Four of Kerry’s colleagues from Raytheon were on the aircraft.

A Presidential Encounter

In 2002, Kerry and a few colleagues were having breakfast in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Shanghai, China as part of his international travel with the National Defense University. Across from them, Kerry noticed several well-dressed men with short hair and ear pieces. Naturally, he struck up a conversation, and they turned out to be US Secret Service. Later that day, Kerry and his colleagues were invited to a private meeting with President George Bush Sr. (41). Ironically, after flying halfway around the world, they met the President of the United States.

Rebuilding Iraq

Later in his military career (2004), Kerry deployed to Iraq, with the daunting task of helping rebuild its infrastructure. Rebuilding was hard enough. Rebuilding the entire country under constant enemy attack was nearly impossible. On his first day in Iraq, he was hit by a 1000 lb. truck bomb. Initially, Kerry had 200 SUVs for his mission, but only a handful had bullet proof armor. He was ordered to transfer those to Navy SEAL, Lt. Michael Murphy, for another operation – to protect the Iraqi Prime Minister. Murphy was killed the following year in Afghanistan and his story was told in the movie “Lone Survivor”. Being left with mostly unarmored SUVs, Kerry and his team went to extreme measures to protect the reconstruction teams so they could move personnel from site to site. They drove at speeds of 90-110 mph in their SUVs, changing lanes every few seconds to dodge roadside bombs, and put a tailgunner in the back to shoot any insurgents chasing them. They lost many teammates – military, contractor and civilians during the mission. Kerry exemplifies NetCentrics’ core value of leaping courageously and his experiences ultimately led him to publish his first book: SUVs SUCK in Combat, which received the literacy hero award in 2011.

The Final Piece

Kerry retired from the Army and from Raytheon in 2012. He immediately went to work on his bucket list. It started with a bucket of chicken and a bucket of shrimp, he followed it up with a bucket of golf balls and a bucket of beer. Having survived that, he decided to go back to work and have some more fun.

In May of 2013, Kerry was invited to New York to speak at the National Security Roundtable with the Heritage Foundation. His business trip just happened to coincide with the final construction of the new World Trade Center (aka WTC1 or Freedom Tower). While there, Kerry’s old Army buddy, Mike Donovan, who was now the Program Manager for the entire WTC1 project, escorted Kerry to the very top of the tower while the final piece of steel was set in place. Matt Lauer was onsite and TV news crews were orbiting in helicopters. There were no walls at the top, so the view was spectacular. While at the top, one of the escorts gave Kerry a Sharpie and asked him to sign the steel. So, he wrote a personal message to his wife, Alice, and children Kent, Kara, and Katie on the steel column that faced West Point. It is now permanently encased at the top of Freedom Tower.

Getting it all on paper

Beyond his hectic schedule in business development for NetCentrics, Kerry is working on his second book, soon to be published. It is titled, The Paperboy: The Best Entry level Job in America. It is a gift to his children, and it includes hundreds of stories of his family, friends and colleagues, some of which we’ve captured here.

Kerry’s life has been filled with fortuitous and ironic circumstances, as well as many opportunities to do the right things and apply thoughtful leadership to improve the quality of life, exemplifying some of NetCentrics’ guiding principles and core values. We’re glad to have him as part of our team.

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