JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations flight engineer has surpassed multiple career milestones, having spent more than 23,000 hours on a P-3 aircraft, 48 years as a flight engineer working with P-3s, and 50 years of federal service.
Paul J. Waeghe, Jr., ventured from his hometown of Wyandotte, Michigan, and began his federal service in 1973. He entered the U.S. Navy where he served in a P-3 training patrol squadron. Over the course of the next 26 years, Waeghe rose in rank and responsibility, continuously serving in units that operated the P-3 platform.
During his military career, he deployed nine times to areas in Asia and Europe. Waeghe also served as a flight engineer instructor and evaluator throughout his career, ultimately serving as flight engineer for a Navy executive transport detachment that flew multiple admirals around on official Navy missions.
“Even as a child, watching aircraft takeoff and land at Detroit Metro airport with my father, a World War II Army and Air Force Veteran, I always dreamed of flying,” Waeghe said. “The U.S. Navy offered me that opportunity.”
Waeghe joined CBP Air and Marine Operations in 2000 where he has continued to serve for 23 years. He now works as an instructor and senior flight engineer at National Air Security Operations Center-Jacksonville, Fla.
“Shortly after my wedding in 1980, my wife and I discussed leaving the U.S. Navy,” Waeghe said. “We decided that continuing the career that I loved was the road to take. At the end of my naval career in 1999, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Air and Marine Operations doing the same job that I had loved doing.”
Waeghe marked his 48th year as a flight engineer and surpassed 23,300 flight hours on a P-3 aircraft in August 2023. He earlier reached his 50th year of federal service in June.
“Paul is a true professional and his knowledge of the P-3 is unsurpassed,” said Kraig A. Kamp, Director of National Air Security Operations Center-Jacksonville. “He has led an unparalleled career in aviation. Air and Marine Operations will miss his expertise as a flight engineer and instructor, but we are thrilled that he will be enjoying his hard-earned retirement after giving 50 years of service to our nation.”
Waeghe credits his love of flying, the people he works with, and the mission among the reasons that he chose to remain in Air and Marine Operations for 23 years. Of his many lifetime accomplishments and experiences, he recalls that it is the people he has met in his career, those that he mentored, and who mentored him, that made his Flight Engineer journey enjoyable.
Waeghe’s advice for those beginning their careers reflects his own experience. “Find something you love doing and strive to achieve the highest that goal can offer,” Waeghe said. “I can truly say that since the age of 19, I have never really worked a day in my life. I used to joke that I would do what I did in the U.S. Navy and Air and Marine Operations for free.”
Waeghe will officially retire from federal service in June 2024. His final flight will take place in Jacksonville.
Air and Marine Operations operates the P-3 Airborne Early Warning and P-3 Long Range Tracker aircraft to perform a wide variety of operational missions, especially those that require long station time overhead, hemispheric range, and inclement weather and environmental conditions.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations safeguards our nation by anticipating and confronting security threats through our aviation and maritime law enforcement expertise, innovative capabilities, and partnerships at the border and beyond. Air and Marine Operations interdicts unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders, investigates criminal networks, provides domain awareness in the air and maritime environments, and responds to contingencies and national taskings.