Pruitt family roots run deep in China Lake

Pruitt family roots run deep in China LakeThree generations of China Lake machinists, clockwise from top right, George Pruitt Jr., George Pruitt Sr. and Ron Pruitt, gather in front of a high-speed milling machine on the corner of “Hollywood and Vine” in the Michelson Laboratory machine shop. — Courtesy photo



NAWCWD Public Affairs

As Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division gears up to celebrate China Lake’s 75th anniversary, the Pruitt family is recognized as one of many multigenerational families that have helped develop and shape what China Lake is today.

From first-generation family member David Pruitt, who worked in the Michelson Laboratory machine shop in the 1950s, to fourth-generation member Tyler Pruitt, who will be returning to NAWCWD this year to work as a summer hire for the third time, the Pruitt family has nearly 100 years of combined service at China Lake.

“I remember being a kid in elementary school coming on base during the open-house events and my dad showing me around the machine shop,” said Tyler who is studying mechanical engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. “I feel prideful knowing that I get to carry on a long tradition of working at China Lake. I like Ridgecrest, it’s my home. It’d be really nice to continue working on base.”

Tyler’s great-great-uncle and World War II Army veteran, David, worked at the Long Beach Shipyard before becoming an apprentice machinist at Naval Ordnance Test Station, Pasadena. When the Pasadena Annex started to transfer personnel to China Lake, David came to work in the machine shop before transitioning to work at the NOTS Morris Dam facility. His brother, George Pruitt Sr., made a very similar journey to China Lake, working at the Long Beach Shipyard, then NOTS Pasadena.

While in Pasadena, George was involved in producing hardware for Supersonic Naval Ordnance Research Track operations at China Lake. When NOTS Pasadena closed, George Sr. transferred to China Lake.

“I had just started seventh grade when my parents moved to China Lake,” said George’s son, George Jr. “I lived on base, and I went to junior and high school there. After I graduated from the apprentice program, my wife and I could live on base and our kids were raised there. There’s no better place in the world to work.”

George Jr. worked as a machinist in the machine shop in addition to taking a position as a technician with the liquid propellant group and working on various programs within the China Lake Propulsion Labs. He left China Lake in 1984 to start his own business teaching geometric dimensioning and tolerancing before returning to the machine shop where he spearheaded the restructuring of the apprentice program.

“The apprentice program is important to me because that’s how I got my training,” George Jr. said, “that opened doors for me.”

Two of George Jr’s children, Mike and Ron Pruitt, are still actively working at China Lake. Older brother Mike started working in the machine shop as a junior in high school through the Community Education Program until he was able to work as a summer hire. Mike worked at the machine shop full time until 2000 and now works as a flight test engineer. Prior to working at China Lake, Ron worked for Arrowsmith as a machinist. He graduated from the base’s pre-journeyman program in 1992 and has worked in the machine shop ever since. He now serves as head of the Model Shop Branch, the same position his grandfather held when he retired.

“Some significant and interesting projects I’ve been involved in over the years include supporting automated machining processes, the introduction of high speed machining and automated assembly processes in the division,” Ron said. “Another thing that I am proud to be part of is the past and continued efforts of the apprentice program.”

Ron’s father, George Jr., said that China Lake is a wonderful place to work and that the sound of flying jets is music to his ears.

“I’m extremely proud of that shop,” George Jr. said. “I’m extremely proud of China Lake. The most important person in my family’s life is my employer; we have nothing without that. My whole family had a great life, and that’s because of China Lake.”

Story First Published: 2018-04-13