National Engineers Week - Profile of Phil Mook

  • Published
  • By Susan Wolbarst
Phil Mook is the Senior Air Force Representative for the Air Force Real Property Agency's Western Region Execution Center at McClellan, California. He is responsible for environmental remediation of contaminated sites, protecting and maintaining facilities and disposing of excess Air Force property at seven former Air Force bases in California and Arizona. Mook facilitates all aspects of accelerated cleanup, installation management, and disposal of all excess base property. He works closely with state and local redevelopment organizations to develop viable economic opportunities so communities can quickly put the excess property back into productive reuse.

Mook began his career at McClellan Air Force Base in 1986, soon after graduating summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He first worked as an industrial engineer in warehouse and manufacturing facilities.

In 1993, he started and led an Alternative Fuel Vehicle Program at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center (McClellan, CA) forming partnerships with local utilities SMUD and PG&E, the Air Force Vehicle Management Directorate, and alternative fuel vehicle and infrastructure manufacturers. So-called "campus vehicles," used at places like Air Force bases, schools or hospitals, were a good fit for developing and demonstrating zero emission vehicles. The program was in response to 1990 legislation requiring certain percentages of vehicles sold in California to produce no pollution.

"We established the U.S. Air Force 'Center for Excellence' for electric vehicles, and conducted research, acquisition, utilization and validation on alternative-fueled vehicle products and services," Mook says. Under his direction, the demonstration fleet grew to over 100 electric vehicles, including 22 passenger shuttle buses, logging over 100,000 emission-free miles a year at six DoD installations. In addition, more than 60 compressed natural gas vehicles operated at McClellan.

His willingness to embrace new technologies has helped him throughout his career, most especially in the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Program. "Getting involved in something new and not fully formed gives you opportunities to excel that working in a mature program just can't offer," he says. His program earned Mook numerous accolades, including Federal Environmental Engineer of the Year in 1998 and Federal Environmental Engineer of the Year Honor Award in 2000, both from the Conference of Federal Environmental Engineers; a 1999 White House Closing the Circle Award for Environmental Excellence in Government (DoD Individual); and a 1997 Renew America award for Environmental Sustainability in the Transportation Efficiency category.

Other career highlights are serving as Environmental Remedial Program Manager for McClellan, which has a large, complex cleanup program, when it was still operating as an Air Force base. In 1999, he joined the Air Force Real Property Agency as a BRAC (Base Realignment And Closure) Environmental Coordinator for four bases (McClellan as well as Norton, March and George.) Next, he became a Program Execution Team Chief for the Western Region before being promoted to his current job. Along the way, he found time to pass the exam necessary to become a California Registered Professional Engineer.

In 2007, Mook received the Alan K. Olsen Award, the top Air Force award for working on the BRAC mission of environmental restoration and disposal of excess property at closed bases.

Mook has held leadership roles almost from the start of his career. In his opinion, there are many dimensions to management. "To be a good leader, you have to be a good communicator, self-assured, knowledgeable, proficient in your organizational area, and fair. Always treat your staff as professionals."

He offers the following advice for an engineer just entering the work force: "I'd suggest looking at how you fit with your organization's mission, values and people in addition to the job description/salary of your entry level position. Over your career you will have many job descriptions, formal and informal. The better aligned you are with your organization, the more satisfied and successful your career will be."