BNSF is proud to hire military men and women after they have returned home from serving our nation. In fact, BNSF and its predecessor lines have a long history of hiring our country’s veterans. People who have served in the military often have skills and characteristics well suited for the world of railroading.
This story is part of a series on current and past BNSF employees who have served in the U.S. military.
Serving in the Vietnam War
Richard Keeney was born and raised in Hickman Mills, Mo., a small town south of Kansas City, Mo. As a child, Keeney was interested in mechanics and the military.
He tried several times to join different service branches, but was not accepted due to medical problems he had experienced since childhood. In 1961, the Marine Corps gave Keeney a chance. Keeney trained to serve as a crew chief and aircraft mechanic on Marine helicopters, and then he volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War.
Keeney’s squadron, HMM-364, deployed to Vietnam in January of 1964. The initial assignment was to fly combat missions out of Da Nang. After losing several aircraft in combat and giving the rest to the Vietnamese Air Force, the squadron transferred to Okinawa, Japan to receive newer UH-34D helicopters. The squadron was then assigned carrier duty on the USS Valley Forge. They spent 90 days on the carrier just off the North Vietnamese coast, flying missions.
Becoming an active reservist and railroader
Keeney left the Marines in July 1965. He thought his military days were over, but after a couple of years serving as a police officer in Missouri, Keeney signed up to serve as an air reserve technician. This full-time reservist position was with the 442nd Tactical Airlift Wing at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Belton, Mo.
After five years as a reservist, Keeney began to look for another job. His uncle, Ralph Bomm worked in Topeka at the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) and encouraged him to apply for a mechanics position at the company. Keeney started working for the Santa Fe in the Argentine Shop in Kansas City, Kan. as a journeyman machinist. He remained in the Reserves until retiring in 1985.
Keeney worked for ATSF and then BNSF for 30 years. Looking back, Keeney says, “Although I was assigned dirty tasks in the machine shops, I liked it and I knew that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.” Keeney retired in 2005 as the lead machinist assigned to planning at the Kansas City Diesel Shop.
Keeney says there are a lot of similarities between serving in the military and working for a railroad. “Both jobs require the same amount of dedication and commitment to excellence. You are in charge of making sure your machine runs – it is basically the same, except locomotives don’t have wings. The military and railroad are both a lifestyle. Once you learn it, you can transfer it easily.”
In his retirement, Keeney is an active member of his local church, the American Legion, working with Hospice and being a grandfather.
BNSF is hiring!
BNSF has committed to hiring a minimum of 5,000 military veterans by 2018, and is currently hiring large numbers of employees in multiple locations around its rail network. If you’re a veteran or preparing to transition out of the military and you’re looking for a rewarding career, please visit our careers website at http://www.bnsf.com/careers to learn more. You’re also welcome to join our Linked In group, “BNSF Military Recruiting,” where you can ask questions directly of our military recruiters.