Patrick Romero, Director of Materiel Test, surrounded by his plants, stands in front of an original mural, next to what he calls his version of the Resolute desk.

Materiel Test Director retires after 38 years at WSMR

Patrick Romero, Director of Materiel Test, has come full circle in his career at White Sands Missile Range having started his first day working with the MLRS program and ending his last day watching a GMLRS test.

Romero started his career at WSMR on Feb. 6, 1989, as an assistant project engineer for MLRS and retired on Feb. 29, 2024.

He was the Director of MT for 7 years and worked at WSMR as a government employee for 35 years.  Before that he worked as a contractor for a year and a half and was a co-op working with the U.S. Navy at WSMR during college for a total of 38 years.

“My most rewarding part was hiring the next generation and mentoring them,” Romero said when asked what the most rewarding part of his job was.

When he was hired, Romero said he was probably one of the last people they hired before they stopped hiring, which is why it has always been his goal to build the bench.

As he started moving up in his career Romero said he wanted to make sure to bring in new talent because the older people who were retiring were taking all the knowledge and expertise with them.

“The one thing I didn’t’ want to happen was for the organization to fall apart when I left. Everywhere I’ve gone my job has always been to try to mentor and train my replacement.”

As for the future generation, Romero said he thinks they are ready to take the baton.

In MT there are 10 supervisors, and now that he is leaving, he is certain that there are people ready to step up. He said the group has good people taking the reins to include the younger generation.

When asked if WSMR is in line with the Army transformation Romero said it is.

“Our biggest customer is PEO Missiles and Space, under which you have air defense such as Patriot, MLRS and Army TACMS, those are big programs. Listening to the news and what is going on in the world today you can see that they are using a lot of our programs. MLRS has been here since the late 70s and so has Patriot and they are still going strong.”

As for the best part of working at WSMR, Romero said it was being a test officer.

“I loved being out in the field and planning the tests,” Romero said. “That’s why during today’s mission I wasn’t at Building 335, I wanted to be out in the field where you can hear and feel the boom and smell the smoke from the rockets being fired and feel the excitement. That is the best.”

“As a test officer you get to plan the test, do the budget for it, interact with the customer and the user and then you get to see it through and see the results. That was always great.”

Looking back on his 38-year career at WSMR Romero said one of the highlights for him was the HIMARS program. Romero said that when he was an assistant project engineer, he got a call from a customer asking if they could retrofit an old target, put it on the back of a truck and mount an MLRS on it.

“We started working with our welding shop and we created the original HIMARS.”

He said they took it out to a testing site and put it out at a safe distance and fired a practice round.

“We had all these people and VIPs coming in from Fort Sill, Fort Hood, and Redstone. There was a lot of anticipation and then it got windy. But we thought, you know it is a practice round so let’s go for it, and it fired.”

He said the launcher was able to hold. “We got a huge sense of accomplishment because we started the program that day. HIMARS has been a great program.”

Talking about challenges, Romero said one of the biggest challenges was getting people to come back after teleworking for almost a year.

“Getting people to come back to the office was a challenge,” Romero said. “You don’t have that comradery when people are not here, and it makes it difficult when you are bringing in new people and you need to get them mentored.”

“It (teleworking) is great when it is used smartly, but when everybody just wants to work from home it makes it difficult to communicate.”

He said things like meeting someone in the hallway and talking about things is difficult to do and you can’t replicate those spontaneous or opportune moments if you are not here.

Next up for Romero is spending some time with his family. He and his wife will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this year and then take a family trip.

However, Romero said he is not done with WSMR so he will be coming back to work as a contractor in a couple of weeks.

Despite being a director and working long hours Romero said work/life balance was always important to him.

He said one of his priorities while working at WSMR was maintaining that work/life balance, which has enabled him to maintain a good relationship with his family.

“I was not going to give up on any of my kids’ performances, presentations, or special occasions,” Romero said. “I always had someone to cover for me so that I could be there for my family, and I made sure all my employees could do the same.”

He said he wanted to make sure he had a family when he retired and continue being part of that family.

Which also applies to his MT group, because they were also a family.

“We always had our Christmas parties, and Thanksgiving dinners and celebrations throughout the year,” Romero said. He said they always had their open houses, and he would bring two big pots of posole, which he cooked himself, and everybody would come out.

“We always had a great time.”

One thing Romero will not be leaving behind is his collection of plants. Yes, Romero has a green thumb. He had 21 plants in his office at one time.

He said his love for plants came from his grandmother who lived in northern New Mexico.

“I would love to stay with my grandparents because when I went inside their house it was always full of plants. My mother is also a big fan of plants,” Romero said.

Most of the plants in his office are either hand me downs from people who would leave or retire. Romero said he is always giving people a piece of a plant so that they can start their own. He said his home is also surrounded with plants.

Between his plants, the beautiful mural behind his desk and his edition of a Resolute desk, which has some hidden compartments, Romero probably had the nicest office at WSMR. 

“This has been home; I’ve always been with MT.”

What will he miss the most about WSMR – the people.

“The people I work with are the ones that provide you input and guidance. You make a special kind of friendship with them.”

By Miriam Rodriguez

WSMR Public Affairs