Robinson Zapata initially signed a six-year commitment to the United States Army Reserves. His goal was to improve his language skills. He would have never imagined that the six-year commitment would turn into a 27-year-long military career.
Robinson, an Electronic Technician at the GE Aerospace facility in Long Island, NY, is originally from Columbia. He came to the United States in 1998. He was attending Suffolk Community College in New York when he saw a flyer advertising the numerous benefits of joining the United States Army Reserve.
Robinson had always had a fascination with the military and saw joining the Reserves as a unique opportunity to improve his English language skills. Robinson was so impressed with his experience in the Reserve that he has continued to re-enlist for more than two decades. Robinson said that during his time in the military, he learned leadership skills as a matter of necessity, and has found that those skills have carried over very effectively into his work at GE Aerospace.
Robinson previously worked in the commercial parts supply industry, but once he switched to aviation, he fell in love with it. As a 17-year GE Aerospace employee, he says what really motivates him are the people he works with.
“It’s like a family that supports each other,” he said.
Robinson says that one of his favorite things about working for GE Aerospace has been the opportunity to show off his flexibility through a variety of roles and projects. What excites him about the aviation industry as a whole is the precision that’s required. “Every part on the plane has to work perfectly, people are depending on you,” he adds.
His people leader, Blend Bardhi, notes how lucky the team is to have Robinson.
“His experience and his lessons learned in the reserves have helped our team significantly,” Bardhi says.
In 2022, Robinson spent nine months deployed in Somalia and Djibouti as part of an information operations team. As a member of the team, he sourced information from a variety of sources in order to get an accurate picture of what was happening within the area.
The highlight from his time there, he says, was traveling to see the C-130J. While there, he worked directly with the aircraft, testing and troubleshooting. Robinson said that having the opportunity to see the impact that his work has had in person was incredible.
“You got to see the significance of your job. The mission that I was involved with accomplished a lot, and it was highly satisfying to see all the components that you worked so hard on operate perfectly on the plane,” Robinson said.
GE Aerospace’s systems content on the C-130J includes avionics, electrical power generation and distribution units, environmental controls, and Dowty Propellers. The sources for these systems span across six sites, including Long Island, Cheltenham, Dayton, Gloucester, Grand Rapids, and Rockford.
If Robinson could give anyone advice who wants to pursue his line of work, he would tell them to get an education in something that excites them.
“Both observe as much as you can and get hands-on experience,” he says.
His last piece of advice? Come work for GE Aerospace.
“The energy we have and the work we do here are both incredible and are great to experience in your career,” he says.
Outside of work, Robinson enjoys cycling and tennis. He gets to participate in these interests at GE Aerospace too, thanks to the Long Island team having recreation groups.
Site leader John Baglione added: “Robinson is an excellent example of someone who truly demonstrates our Aerospace purpose; testing our C-130J products and then using them in the field to support his military peers and keeping our country safe. We are very proud to have him on our team.”