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Hear from our veterans on their transition from military life to working at RTD.
Supervisor, LRV Maintenance
Retired U.S. Army
Robert Prycel works through the night, supervising a team of maintenance workers who keep RTD light rail trains in tip-top shape. Electric door sensors need an adjustment. A computer program needs an update. Or the light rail tires (that’s what they call the steel wheels) might get “wavy” and need a trim.
To Prycel, it’s a dream job. “I like digging into problems that really make your brain go in circles until you figure it out,” he said.
Prycel’s sense of duty and obligation developed during his military service.
The sense of dedication is with him every night.
“If I don’t feel like enough things are repaired,” Prycel said, “I feel like I didn’t help out the next shift. Or RTD.”
Prycel is the son of parents who emigrated from Poland. Hard work and sacrifice were understood. But three and a half years in the U.S. Army galvanized Prycel’s belief in three key approaches to his life. And career.
One, be on time. Early is on time.
Two, be disciplined.
Three, respect the rank (not the person).
If there’s a fourth key approach, it’s this: Take charge of your life. Plan ahead. Set your sights on how you would like to advance, and then ask what it will take to assume more responsibility.
Prycel was born in Rockford, northwest of Chicago. His parents moved to Breckenridge and then to Aurora, Colorado. After attending Eaglecrest High School, Prycel married his wife and the couple had their first daughter. Prycel worked for a Ford dealership, first as a valet and then as a mechanic. Later, he obtained a General Educational Development diploma.
In search of better benefits and more security, Prycel enlisted in the U.S. Army. Deployments included a year at Camp Casey, north of Seoul, South Korea, and 15 months on a “recovery team” in Iraq. Prycel fixed tanks and Humvees. If a vehicle broke down in the field, he would join a team to go out and fix it in place or drag it back to base. Occasionally, Prycel transported detainees as a driver or gunner on a Humvee.
Prycel headed into the Army with a “firm foundation” in honesty, integrity and doing the right thing. “A lot of that was already instilled in me,” he said. But in the Army, he also learned to become “a little more vocal” and “to listen better.”
Back in civilian life, Prycel wanted to keep working as a mechanic. He used his GI Bill benefits to enroll in Denver Automotive & Diesel College (now Lincoln Tech). He was hired by one of RTD’s private contractors but didn’t like the uncertainty and instability, since his job depended on a contract renewal that was out of his control. “I didn’t like that mindset,” Prycel said. “I wanted to look toward the future.”
So Prycel applied for a job working directly with RTD in bus maintenance. His self-starter streak led to a discussion with his manager, who steered Prycel toward taking RTD-sponsored classes to learn and study more – something Prycel relishes. A move to the light rail side of the RTD operation brought more learning. Prycel enjoyed the challenge. And his military mindset gave him the confidence to tackle the new assignment. He has invested a total of 10 years with the agency.
“There is so much to RTD – it’ll get your head spinning,” Prycel said. “There's so many different directions RTD's always going in. And it's endless possibilities. If you want to move in a different direction, if you think you want to change something in your life and move to a different department or something, that’s encouraged.”
If you have military training, Prycel said, RTD is a good match. “Don’t doubt yourself,” he said. “Don’t even think twice. Come and see what RTD has to offer and see what you can be.”