The interesting road to becoming a Professional Engineer

On National Professional Engineers Day, we celebrate the journeys, including Chris Tutor’s odyssey that took him from the Mississippi Delta to Djibouti, Africa, and back

Each engineer has a unique and/or interesting story about the route they traveled to become a licensed Professional Engineer.

For Chris Tutor, that journey began 20 years ago and stretched half-way around the globe and back, from the Mississippi Delta to Djibouti, Africa, with numerous stops in between.

Chris joined Neel-Schaffer in 2016, and in June 2021 he learned he had passed the Principles and Practice of Engineering Civil Exam and will soon receive his PE license.

As we celebrate Professional Engineers Day on Wednesday (August 4, 2021) – a day for raising awareness about what it means to be a PE – we salute all engineers, including those like Chris who have taken a somewhat unconventional route to get there.

In 2001, struggling in school, Chris dropped out of Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, and made a late-night, spur-of-the-moment decision to join the Navy. “I needed to set my life straight, make a hard change,” he said.

After boot camp in Chicago and aviation school in Pensacola, where he trained to be an air traffic controller, Chris began an 11-year odyssey that included three years on the Special Reaction Team in Puerto Rico, three years in Rota, Spain, three months for radar training in Pensacola, 3 ½ years as an Airport Manager in Brunswick, ME, and then a year in Djibouti, Africa, where he served as Tower Chief for the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport at Camp Lemonnier, the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa.

“I was in charge of flight logs and did a lot of paperwork,” he said. “The locals did the controlling. I was an observer, making sure they didn’t hinder our military aircraft. I enjoyed it. It was a great learning experience.”

After one year in Djibouti, he was assigned to the USS Boxer, an amphibious aircraft carrier, docked in San Diego, where he served as a Lead Petty Officer until being discharged in 2011. In August of 2012, he enrolled in the University of Mississippi to study civil engineering. He graduated from Ole Miss in 2016, was hired by Neel-Schaffer as an Aviation Engineer, and will soon, some 20 years after leaving school to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, be a licensed PE.

“It was awesome,” Chris said of his Navy service. “I wouldn’t go back and change one thing. What a fun ride. What I liked about the military is that every three or four years I would pack up and leave and do something different. That’s what I like about engineering. I don’t do the same thing over and over. With each new project there is something new, new clients, new personnel, and none of our jobs are exactly the same.”