After 30 years with MSC, First Assistant Engineer Dominique Guilherme has met a lot of people, all around the world. So many, in fact, that it led a colleague to remark, “Is there anywhere in this world that you don’t have friends or family?”
Guilherme’s life story does include adventures at all corners of the globe. He was born in Dakar, Senegal, spent five years as a youngster in France and today calls Chesapeake, VA home. Which explains why one of his favorite aspects of his job with MSC is the opportunity to travel. But no matter how far he roams, Guilherme’s heart still stays close to home. He is married, and has two children: 20 year-old Amy and 18 year-old Fabrice. “The moral support of my wife and children is very important,” he said.
Despite the sacrifices he’s made, spending so much time away from home, Guilherme is extremely proud of his work. He recognized it’s not for everyone, but he also knows firsthand that the rewards and promotion opportunities are there. “And as a bonus,” Guilherme added, “you get to see the world!”
For evidence of just how proud Guilherme is to work for MSC, you need look no further than the fact he’s referred four family members to the command. His brother-in-law Joe Debarros, third engineer on USNS Bighorn, along with his nephew Sidy Niang a first engineer were both referred to MSC by Guilherme. As were his two nephews Theo Niang and Bobby Niang both of whom serve as boatswain mates, Theo aboard USNS Saturn. “I am proud to have all of these members of my family working for MSC and I’m proud to have brought them to work here,” Guilherme said.
The pride works both ways. “I was bored out of my mind after college,” Sidy Niang, Guilherme’s nephew said. “My uncle suggested I try MSC for 6 months…20 years later, I’m still here. This job has exposed me to many great things, professionally, personally and financially. I’m thankful for the experience.”
Guilherme’s own path to MSC started in the Navy where he served from 1972 to 1975. Later, he spent two years on the commercial side of the business working for the Massachusetts Steamship Authority as a wiper and fireman watertender. Yearning for more, Guilherme asked his chief engineer how to advance. And the reply, of course, was to work for MSC. Later that year, he was employed by MSC and on board USNS Kingsport as a fireman watertender.
Thirty years and 21 tours later – not counting repeat assignments – Guilherme is serving as a temporary chief engineer on USNS SIOUX. He starts each day making a complete round of engine spaces, making sure things are running smoothly. After that, there’s a bit of paperwork and, of course, tending to any emergencies that are bound to arise. “The best part of my job is the satisfaction and pride I get when I can solve problems,” Guilherme said. When he’s not pouring over paperwork or tinkering with the mechanics of the ship, Guilherme enjoys reading, listening to music “from the old country” and watching movies.
He said although there’s nothing quite like home, the ships are very comfortable. “Some of our ships are referred to as USNS Floating Hiltons,” he joked. “Most of our ships are built to commercial standards.” Surprisingly, the living and working conditions aren’t the most comfortable part of the experience. “I’ve formed so many lifelong friendships onboard,” Guilherme said. “That’s so rewarding.”
Rewarding, too, has been Guilherme’s ability to fulfill childhood dreams of travel, in particular to Rome and Pompeii. “I also enjoyed going to Genoa, where I was able to travel to Pisa to see the leaning tower. And finally, Cartagena where I was able to see some old neighbors from the time I spent in France.” Guilherme’s list of favorite experiences doesn’t stop there. True to form, this one involves his family. “I was on USNS Mount Baker, and we stopped in Dubai. My wife came to visit me, and we had an amazing time enjoying the local atmosphere with friends from the area,” he said.
With tentative plans in place to retire in 5 years, after 35 years with MSC, Guilherme looks back on his experience fondly. “I am now a better individual having been exposed to various cultures and ways of life. I am very grateful for my job and position,” he said.
UPDATE: Dominique Guilherme was promoted to Chief Engineer in March of 2009.