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Sarkis Tatigian honored for 75 years of Navy service

By NAVSEA Office of Corporate Communication | Sept. 27, 2017

WASHINGTON - Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) honored Mr. Sarkis Tatigian for his 75 years of dedicated service to the Navy during a ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, Sept. 26.


NAVSEA Commander, Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, speaking about recognizing Tatigian for his Navy service said, "It is not often you get to do something this special. It is really an honor."  Moore noted that when he entered the Navy as an ensign, Tatigian already had 39 years of service.


According to the Department of Defense, Tatigian, who began his Navy career in 1942 during World War II, is the longest serving civil servant in the history of the Department.


"This is truly a remarkable achievement and one that is unlikely to be accomplished by anyone else," said retired Rear Adm. Sean Crean, director, Office of Government Contracting at the Small Business Administration. "Mr. Tatigian's 75 years of public service echoes President Kennedy's reflection that public service should be a proud and lively career. Sarkis Tatigian has certainly done that."


Crean previously served as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy (Acquisition and Logistics Management) and has worked with Tatigian for many years.


In an interview, Tatigian explained why he has remained on the job for all these years.


"I was retirement eligible in October 1973," said Tatigian. "But when you don't have something to wake up for, that's when you start to decline. And, if you love what you do and derive a sense of personal worthiness, it's not really work."


Tatigian has only taken one vacation day so far this year. In the past, he has donated his excess annual leave to fellow Navy Department colleagues undergoing cancer treatment.


Tatigian began his civilian career with the Navy in July 1942 as a junior radio inspector at the naval aircraft factory in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and the Navy Office of Inspector of Naval Aircraft in Linden, New Jersey. He left his position as an inspector in March 1943 and entered the uniformed Navy as an active-duty Sailor in April of that year.  In June 1944, he started working as an Aviation Electronics Technician's Mate in the development of the Navy's first guided anti-ship munition, the ASM-N-2 "BAT" glide bomb, which later became an operational weapon used by the fleet in January 1945.


In 1946, Tatigian left active duty and again returned to Navy Department civil service with the Bureau of Ordnance in Washington, D.C., working on the Navy's first generation of guided-missile systems. From there, he moved to the position of small business analyst for the bureau. While in the position, Tatigian developed a small business mobile exhibit that traveled coast-to-coast, visiting all state capitals and cities with populations exceeding 400,000. For his organizational efforts on the exhibit, Tatigian received Congressional recognition.


Later, in June 1979, Tatigian was appointed NAVSEA's Associate Director of the Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office. He continues to work in the same position, where his title is now associate director in the renamed Small Business Program Office.


"I started the small business outreach as a grade seven in the civil service," said Tatigian.  "For 66 years of my Navy Department career, I have been involved in helping small businesses. We have expanded the industrial base for the Navy and have created a foundation of support from small business, which is essential to our economy."


The Navy Office of Small Business Programs estimates during Tatigian's tenure as a small business advocate, that more than $100 billion in contracts have been awarded to small businesses


Tatigian tells a story about a woman-owned small business with two employees that he helped 15 years ago. "I kept encouraging them not to quit and helped them fill out the proper paperwork. Now they have 650 employees and $95 million in annual revenues," Tatigian said.


On Sept. 27, 2012, then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced during a ceremony honoring Tatigian's 70 years of service that the Office of Business Opportunities Director's Award would be renamed the Sarkis Tatigian Small Business Award. The award recognizes outstanding performance by a field activity in creating an organizational climate resulting in the advancement of small business opportunity through exceptionally-managed small business programs and challenging initiatives, and who has made significant contributions to the command and the DON small business program.


At the ceremony honoring his 75 years of service, Tatigian received congratulations, honors and letters of appreciation from President of the United States Donald Trump, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.


When asked about how he feels about his 75 years of service to the Navy, Tatigian said, "It has been about a personal sense of accomplishment. It isn't about the money, but meeting the challenge and having a sense of worth about what you do."


Tatigian, at age 94, has no immediate plans for retirement.


                                                                                              - NAVSEA -