A presidential surprise in August puts a Scranton man in eyes of the world
Jan 21, 2013 (The Times-Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Though he applied, Senior Chief Petty Officer Joseph Pehanick did not seriously think he would be the one who physically sets the stage for today's inauguration of the president of the United States.
One day in August, he received a phone call from the FBI telling him he had been selected as the non-commissioned officer-in-charge to the engineering planner for what is arguably the most important ceremonial event in the country. Today, the eyes of the world will be trained on his planning and preparation.
"I really didn't believe it at first; it was a nationwide search and I put my name in, but I didn't feel like I would get selected," Chief Pehanick, a Scranton native, said during a phone call while in Washington, D.C. "It's the culmination of my career."
It is a career that stretches back over decades -- from a newly minted West Scranton High School graduate with a passion for construction to a seasoned veteran, responsible for leading infrastructure improvement missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Countless hours have been spent planning the parade, organizing security and personnel and following through on contracts to erect tents, platforms, command post trailers, venders, medical tents and more to welcome President Barack Obama into the White House for a second term.
As a young man, he spent most of the 1970s working with local construction firms, even starting his own with his father Joseph Pehanick Sr. In 1979, he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and join the Navy Reserve, receiving engineering training in Gulfport, Miss., and serving in the Operations Department until 1990.
After Sept. 11, 2001, he decided to come out of retirement and enlisted again in the Navy Reserve. Soon after, he was mobilized four times, totaling four years spent away from his family in Scranton.
His mother, Frances Pehanick, 81, said he was just another normal child growing up in West Scranton. He spent time out with his brother, he played baseball for the Lackawanna County Little League and West Scranton High School. She said she and her husband have been extremely proud of him, even shedding tears of joy on more than one occasion.
Chief Pehanick remembers hanging out with friends at Catalano's for hoagies after baseball and football games. He remembers dancing on the weekend in the high school gymnasium.
"Could not have imagined in my wildest dreams I would be involved in one of the most prestigious events in the world," Chief Pehanick said.
But longtime friend and mentor, retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Earl Taylor, 67, could.
Chief Taylor said he has known Chief Pehanick since he began his career, adding that he has always accomplished a project, regardless of what obstacles he faced.
"He is a go-to guy," Chief Taylor, a Moscow resident, said. "An excellent engineer and planner. He could look at a job in its raw state (and) come up with numbers and requirements for completion of the project."
With the world watching, Chief Pehanick said his nerves are calm. Despite all the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, other projects, especially those overseas, have had higher stakes.
In Afghanistan, "the pressures and consequences are more real," Chief Pehanick said. "If you screw up there, someone dies."
As for screw-ups here, he feels confident that the whole affair today will "go off without a hitch."
"We have a complete team here. The whole military working with it, it's a joint team effort," Chief Pehanick said. "Believe me it is the A-team."
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