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Tony Alvarado left ConocoPhillips for NAMS in 2016.
Tony Alvarado left ConocoPhillips for NAMS in 2016.

Tony Alvarado: ‘I’m constantly measuring our actions in the airport, in the office, on the ground, and in the air against our goals and objectives to detect and deter danger and to prevent harm.’

By Hilary Reeves

Tony Alvarado is – in a word – “restless.” He’s chased fireflies in south Texas and surfed in Santa Cruz. He’s worked as a chemist for a California dot.com and managed a law firm on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After a permanent move to Alaska, he became a social worker and then worked for ConocoPhillips. Alvarado now works as a Ground Services Trainer and Security Coordinator for Northern Air Maintenance Services (NAMS) – and he’s not done yet.

“My father was in the military, so we moved around when I was a child,” said Alvarado. “I can remember going to four schools during my first-grade year alone.”

The travel, the moves made Alvarado’s family closer, he said, and his five siblings, who are all about a year apart in age, became his best friends. He spent a majority of his youth in south Texas in 100 degree-plus heat, running the fields of hay and barley barefoot, riding horses, tipping cows, and chasing fireflies at night.

“I wanted to be professional surfer and movie stuntman until I saw that the percentages were against me and that living in a house with 10 other surfers, a case of beer and a bag of week-old bologna was not a bright future.”

-Tony Alvarado

“We finally landed in Santa Cruz, California, and I found my calling on a surfboard,” he said. “I spent many waking hours paddling the waves at Steamer Lane and Manresa Beach with my two brothers and three sisters. I wanted to be professional surfer and movie stuntman until I saw that the percentages were against me and that living in a house with 10 other surfers, a case of beer and a bag of week-old bologna was not a bright future.”

The first move to Alaska

Alvarado joined the Army after high school but was medically discharged after a motorcycle accident tore up his knee. He first moved to Alaska in 1988, attended the University of Alaska in Anchorage, and then in 1991 got a job as an analytical chemist with a dot.com company in Redwood City, California working on blood chemistry analyzers and genetic applications for medication. He eventually landed a job back in Santa Cruz working for the District Attorney’s office, and he was again surfing every day.

“But my legs were restless,” he said, “and my future pulled me towards New York City. Beginning in 2002, I spent four years managing a law firm in the city. I lived with my wife and three children on the Lower East Side, and it was amazing: museums, operas, theater, and five-course meals at three o’clock in the morning were the norm. I taught my kids how to do the “New York” walk, how to hail a taxi, and the importance of a gratuity and being gracious.”

ConocoPhillips to NAMS

But Alvarado again moved – this time as a single father to his three middle-school aged children – back to Anchorage. He worked as a social worker for handicapped and developmentally impaired youth until he landed a job with ConocoPhillips.

“Social work was awesome and rewarding, but I had three kids headed to college and social work does not pay – oil companies do,” he said. “I worked at the ConocoPhillips/British Petroleum Shared Services ticket counter as a ticket and baggage agent and did the training for the new programs. I migrated to working safety and security under ConocoPhillips Aviation Security Manager Brendan McCormack. I developed security training for the flight crew and ground crew, and had a blast developing and providing training.”

In 2016, after three years with ConocoPhillips, Alvarado joined NAMS, where he continues to do security training for ConocoPhillips Aviation personnel, pilots, flight attendants, and security personnel at Kuparuk, Deadhorse, and Fairbanks, as well as ground services training for NAMS.

“I was happy for the move,” he said. “I always liked NAMS, as it has a sterling reputation for hard work and getting the job done safely and on time.”

A ‘crack team’ of security personnel

Alvarado can train a flight crew on how to handle an explosive device found on the aircraft at 39,000 feet in Anchorage one day, and the next day he can be in Deadhorse performing on-the-job training on how to drive a belt loader or operate an air start.

“I can testify that NAMS has done an excellent job of hiring, as the personnel that I train are always enthusiastic, hard-working, engaging, and safety orientated,” he said, adding that he counts himself lucky to have the support of his supervisor, Mike Parker, on providing training outside the company so he can stay abreast of the latest security issues and have the best tools to provide the most up-to-date classes to his students.

“I’m headed to Seattle in November 2018 to get training from the Federal Air Marshalls on crewmember self-defense, and next year, in 2019, I’m headed to the FBI headquarters in Virginia to go over the latest intelligence in IEDs and explosives. As my students will attest, I’m very passionate about safety and security and especially the security of our customer, ConocoPhillips Aviation, and each other. I’m constantly measuring our actions in the airport, in the office, on the ground, and in the air against our goals and objectives to detect and deter danger and to prevent harm.  I am proud to say that NAMS has acquired a crack team of security personnel to keep those goals alive.”

A safe and secure environment

Last September, Alvarado was awarded the ConocoPhillips HSE Ambassador Award, an award given annually by ConocoPhillips Global to a contract company employee that best exemplifies the ConocoPhillips HSE mission. It’s a great honor, he said, but it’s his children who make him the proudest. And on weekends, when the lights go dim at NAMS, he can he found standing tall on a field of green in a striped shirt, with a whistle in his mouth and a flag in his belt.

“I’m a senior football official for Alaska schools, the Boys and Girls Club, and Pop Warner. I’ve been officiating football for more than 15 years. I’m not exaggerating when I testify that I run 26 miles every weekend officiating football, and I have the Fitbit watch data to prove it,” he laughed.

“When the snow falls and the fields get icy and the helmets are put away, I change shirts, keep the whistle, and go inside to officiate high school and middle school folk-style wrestling. Both those sports keep me running, and I usually far exceed my weekly cardio requirements in a day. Alas, when the snow melts in the spring and the grass turns greener, I put on my pads and mask and stand behind the plate and officiate baseball. No whistle, no flags, no stripe shirt, just hand signals, and a crisp voice and very little running. I enjoy giving back to my community and helping to provide a safe and secure environment for children to enjoy their sport of choice. Fairness and equity are not always found in life, but they are on my fields.”

The sacrament of giving back

The altruism he’s found at NAMS is perhaps his favorite thing about working there, he concluded.

“Saltchuk and NAMS believe in the sacrament of giving back,” he said. “It strengthens the person and the community and makes both that much better. NAMS has great leadership and vision, and I see the company only getting stronger. The commitment to excellence, security, safety, and customer service are the pillars to a stronger, better future. We provide a great service to our customer, and in five years I see us expanding our current roles to include areas in Anchorage, the North Slope, and perhaps elsewhere. We could do ground services and security on the first colony on Mars.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.