Employee Spotlight: Dale Amberger, Equipment Mechanic
From the North Pole to the Sunshine State, TPA Equipment Manager II Dale Amberger has been repairing equipment and solving problems all over the nation.
Growing up in a small town near the Kentucky/Illinois border, Dale went from high school straight to the military. His first duty station was in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he joined the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles,” the only air assault division in the United States. After his time in Kentucky, his career in the Army took him from Korea to Hawaii to Alaska.
For several years, Dale was stationed as a mechanic at Fort Greely, near North Pole, Alaska. Frequently, the military would send equipment to the station for endurance testing.
“After leaving new equipment out in the freezing conditions for days on end, we’d go out and try to see if it would start up,” Dale said. “If it could work there, it could work just about anywhere.”
During his two-year stint in The Last Frontier, he loved hunting and fishing – the best he’s seen anywhere.
Several years later, Dale was relocated to Tampa to train reserve units and prepare them for Operation Desert Storm. He wound up liking the Tampa Bay area and decided that when his enlistment ended, he would stay. He ended up working for a landscaping company which was, at the time, contracted to do the landscaping for TPA. His role for the contractor included operating and servicing the company’s equipment.
After the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority decided to create TPA’s own in-house landscaping team, Dale was approached in 2005 about joining the Fleet Team at the Airport to handle small equipment and function as a mechanic. And the rest – as they say – is history.
“For me, I enjoy fabrication work, like taking metal and making something out of it,” Dale said. “A lot of people think we just change tires and oil, but don’t realize the depth of repair work we get into. Just the other day, we built a trailer tailgate from scratch. We do everything from changing water pumps to tearing down part of a front vehicle’s suspension.”
What keeps him on his toes after nearly 20 years? No two days in his department are the same.
“No one in our department stays in their own zone,” Dale said. “You have to be flexible and work together as a team.”
One of the best feelings, he said, is when something comes into the shop broken and leaves better than how it arrived.
“We examine and figure out what’s wrong, and then we make it better. That puts a smile on my face.”
In his free time, Dale enjoys off-road motorcycle endurance racing. He is the proud owner of two bikes, a Honda Shadow Cruiser and a 1995 Jawa that he rebuilt himself. One of his bucket list dreams is to go with his family on a trail-to-trail journey across the U.S. on one of his motorcycles. Dale has four sons, two daughters and seven grandkids. Most of his family resides in Florida and he enjoys going out on a boat to fish with them.
When asked about his career at the HCAA, he remarked that he loves the camaraderie.
“I have friends in many departments and we have each other’s backs. It reminds me a lot of the military. We’ve all learned to be a team – a family – and I find a lot of that same spirit here.”