WSMR Meteorologist Ralph Butler was recently recognized for over 71 years of government service. WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin recognized Butler for his long service during the Nov. 13 Town Hall meeting.
“Ralph is our longest serving employee in terms of time in federal service. I just thought it was important to stop and take a moment to recognize Ralph,” Coffin said. “I wanted to take some time today to commend him for his services and what he has done for us.”
Butler joined the Army in 1943 and retired from active duty in 1973. Since then, Butler has served the installation as a meteorologist. He recently submitted his retirement papers.
During a special ceremony to recognize his 60 years of government service over 10 years ago, Butler said he remembered using colored pencils and a map to forecast the weather.
Butler, a meteorologist with the Meteorology Branch, said the biggest change he saw was everything going from paper to computers.
In 2003 Butler received the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service for the period March 1964 through February 2003.
“Sixty years seems like a very short time. I know you can’t believe that but to me it passed very rapidly,” Butler said during that ceremony.
Butler, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Lt. Col., started working at WSMR on March 15, 1964 as a meteorologist in the research branch and later moved on to the forecasting section.
“I came here right out of the service,” he said.
Butler, originally from Iowa, spent his first 20 years of government service in the U.S. Army Air Corp. and the U.S. Air Force.
Butler, who lives in El Paso, said he was a flying cadet when he first went into meteorology.
“I was 22 years old with a college degree in a group of high school graduates, so they picked me and sent me to MIT to take a meteorology course and I took off from there,” he said.
Then Chief of Meteorology Branch Terry Huck said he met Butler in 1984.
“The thing that Mr. B contributes is a tremendous background in meteorology. He is aware of all the weather systems. Mr. B has gone from having no computers in the meteorology branch to a total computer automated system and new weather models. Throughout the years he has had the willingness to make those changes and has been there and supported all the missions,” Huck said.
“He makes sure that we are covered on the weekends by putting out weather warnings and any kind of commander statements. The bottom line is his service has just been pretty remarkable. It’s really nice to see someone that is always dedicated to getting the job done. That’s the way Mr. B is, he takes a lot of pride in what he does with the weather and he’s very careful with his analysis,” Huck said.
Then Supervisor of the Forecast Section Ed Ellison said it’s amazing to work with someone who was there when modern meteorology had its start.
“Modern meteorology started during World War II and Mr. B was there – he lived through all that history. It’s a very humbling experience to work with someone who has been through so much and has all this experience,” Ellison said.
He said Butler does keep up with the technology.
“Technology is based on the science of meteorology and that’s what Mr. B knows – the basic science. Any new innovations with the computer are just kind of a refining of that science,” he said.