I was raised in the South Side of Pittsburgh and I joined the army in my early twenties. I started out as a radio operator, maintaining trucks that were equipped with radio equipment. After a couple months, I was invited to interview for the White House Communications Agency. It was a highly competitive process and demanded a 100% pass rate. With my wife’s help, I memorized all the facts and joined the Reagan White House in 1984.
Our mandate was to ensure the most advanced telecommunications equipment for the president, both at home and abroad. We traveled worldwide and set up the radio and phone systems for the president in advance of each visit. Every piece of equipment was loaded on to military aircraft and we would set up an alternate cabling system in the president’s hotel or residence. It had to function as safely and efficiently as if he were sitting at his desk in the Oval Office. I accompanied the president on his 1985 state visits to Bergen Belsen, Germany and to Madrid, Spain. Some of my travels were classified. I was once on duty when I was called away on an assignment. My wife had no idea of my whereabouts for two weeks until I was back on the grid!
We worked closely with AT&T for our technology, pushing the limits of telecommunication innovation. We experimented with technology that wasn’t yet available for the general public. Laptops were not yet in circulation, but the White House used them. They were designed with measures to prevent espionage attacks and felt like they weighed 25 lbs.
One assignment I’m most proud of was during President Reagan’s reelection campaign in 1984. He did a whistle-stop tour of Western Ohio in the legendary Ferdinand Magellan Pullman Railcar. We outfitted an empty railcar with a fully functioning communication system that was operational during locomotion, something unheard of at the time. At one point during the trip, I needed to troubleshoot the president’s phoneline. I entered the carriage and did my work a mere 3 feet away from the president– but protocol dictated not to talk with him.
Eventually, the time commitment of the job was too disruptive for my young family. I exited the White House in 1987 with a rank of sergeant and a Presidential Service Badge. I am incredibly proud of my service.
I’ve been at Dagostino Electronic Services for 16 years, with a tally of 37 continuous years in the telecommunications industry. I started off my career using the original 300 baud Hayes modem and I am constantly amazed at how much data can be crammed into a single communication signal. It’s literally exponential!
I am a systems engineer, helping our clients when they encounter voice communication problems. It’s really rewarding to be on the front end of the client experience, working hand-in-hand with them until we get to the bottom of their issue and reach a solid resolution. Dagostino runs like a family – we honestly care about each other and about our clients’ success. I’m truly grateful for my career and my family.