Hi my name is Dozier Mills, and I have joined the Stromquist & Company team as a DDC and HVAC sales and support person. One of the main reasons I came on board with Stromquist & Company is their commitment to excellence, integrity, and quality. As a customer of Stromquist & Company, I got to experience these qualities first hand. Stromquist & Company is my next and hopefully final stop on a thirty one year journey and adventure in an industry that I love dearly: HVACR and Controls. The purpose of this post is to introduce myself and tell you my story.
In 1977, while on vacation in the Florida Keys with my family, the A/C was not working. As you can imagine, being in South Florida, our rental apartment was a scorcher. On my return from a lobster run, there was a technician working on the air conditioning unit. A curious young man, I wanted to know all about him and what he was doing. I asked him all sorts of questions, including what his hourly wage was, which he told me was $25.00 per hour. I began thinking, hmm…I live in Florida, there will always be a/c systems that need to be repaired, maybe I’ll become an a/c tech.
In 1981, I rolled went to a United States Air force recruiter. I took a test and the Sergeant said “son you scored high, we could use you in cryogenics” (Air/Conditioning). I left on a bus and was on my way to starting my new career with the USAF on Friday the 13th, good thing I am not superstitious.
One of the big perks of being an honor student at USAF tech school, was that you got to walk to school instead of having to march in formation with the others. Not to say that I march to the beat of a different drummer but I did graduated Cryogenics tech school an honor student with a 97.4.
After graduation, the next big event for any USAF tech school student is the day you find out where you will be stationed. You stand at attention, in formation with your peers, as the names of techs and their new home bases are shouted out. When I heard “Mills.. Elmendorf AB”, I ran to the map of all the home bases. Being young and a Florida native, I thought for sure that they would send me to a warm climate. I was looking all over the bottom part of the map for Elmendorf AB, when my roommate pokes me and starts laughing. He points up to the far upper left hand corner of the map to Elmendorf AB Alaska!
Several days later, I was picked up at the Anchorage Airport and driven into Elmendorf AB at 1:15 a.m. It seemed like the sun never went down; there are 22 hours of functional daylight summer and only five hours, 28 minutes of daylight during the winter. I was not in Florida anymore, and now had a functional understanding of what the word COLD meant. Temperature control in Alaska according to my first Sergeant: open the window when hot and close it cold.
In 1982, I finished my 5th and 7th level USAF A/C courses. I learned a lot in these courses including how cold storage plants, computer room environments, and chow hall refrigeration equipment work.
I received a valuable lesson about dealing with high voltage and high pressures. I learned about phosgene gas, with another tech, while welding on a refrigerant pipe. The flame was green, and as I discovered, phosgene is an insidious poison; the odor may not be noticed and symptoms may be slow to appear. I saw the Tech fall in-front of me, my head started to get light. I quickly grabbed the tech and dragged him out of the mechanical room. It took us both a while to feel normal, we were lucky and I learned that safety must always be a priority.
I transferred to Eielson AB in Fairbanks Alaska, and learned how to find steam leaks the old fashioned way. The Sergeant handed me a wooden stick and told me to hold it out in front of me when walking slowly down a utility shaft. Suddenly, half the stick blows apart and disappears. I jumped back in shock, hearing,”Hey,good job, you just found a steam leak!” Lesson learned, steam is invisible and can do serious damage, be careful around unfamiliar steam pipes.
With the cold weather in Alaska going outside was not something you did voluntarily. We spent lot’s of time inside and those of us who could played music, this is where I learned to play guitar. A rock and roll band was started, since I know how and loved to play drums, I was the drummer. We played some live concerts for everyone that was trapped inside trying to stay warm. Music is still a big part of my life.
In 1984, I moved to US AB Wright Patterson in Dayton, Ohio. Here I got another important lesson in safety. One warm day, I got the tech call, “The administration building is not getting any air, Doz go and fix it”. I went to the mechanical room to check out the 75 ton compressor that was not working. Using the knowledge I learned in tech school, I turned off what I thought was the power disconnect for the Unit. Like a good tech, I began to ohm out the windings, when there was a bright flash a bang, and pain. I was blinded for hours and had lost my eyebrows, I was not a pretty sight. An electrician, not knowing I was there, had wired the compressor directly to the breaker and reset the breaker. Note to self, and others …always triple check power and wear a face shield. Remember, safety first.
At the Dayton base, there was an abundance of pneumatic controls systems. Working with pneumatic controls was my first step to learning about building automation control systems. My job was to keep the pneumatic system clean and dry, find air leaks, and keep the controls calibrated. This experience fueled my curiosity about controls and control systems. Think about it, with all the talk today about “open ddc control systems”, pneumatic controls are and always have been the purest form of open controls.You can mix any brand of pneumatics with any other brand. You can use a Honeywell pneumatic thermostat, with a Johnson Controls receiver controller, and throw in a Siemens transmitter for good measure. I love that about pneumatic controls. I love that at Stromquist & Company we stock and sell every brand of pneumatic control.
In 1985, after completing my four years of service, I moved back home to Melbourne, Florida and some sensible weather. I started a job at the new Hilton Hotel and office tower. My job included taking care of the 400 ton centrifugal plant, all of the refrigeration, rooftop, and pneumatic controls. The reality was I did anything and everything required to maintain a hotel. My experience at The Hilton allowed me to refine my skills as an HVAC tech and add to my education of mechanical systems. The Hilton will always be a special place to me:it is where I met my wonderful wife of twenty five years.
In 1993, I began working for Brevard County Schools. On my first day of work I noticed a room with a PC running Windows 3.1. I was intrigued, here was this computer controlling three schools with a Siemens DDC system. Fascinated, each day I would stick my head in the door to check out the PC and what it was doing. When the EMS supervisor found out that I knew about controls, he asked if I would be interested in transferring to his shop? Of course my answer was yes, and that was the start of my love affair with DDC controls.
Brevard County Schools has ninety plus schools on DDC. Their systems include Siemens, Johnson N2, Johnson BACnet and Alerton. They also have a Ethernet Stat on 186 portables and four servers dedicated to HVAC EMS programs. There are twenty ice plants that cool the schools when the chillers shut off. They have voltage recording devices in many of the schools to help track power problems. The best part about all of this, is that for almost 19 years, I got to play with and learn about all these systems. I am very grateful to Brevard County Schools for the opportunities they gave me to round out my education and learn about one of the most exciting parts of the HVACR business: open systems and system integration.
I love controls, I am passionate about them and love solving control problems and helping other people. So when Stromquist & Company reached out to me, it was a natural evolution in my journey to join them. My mission is to offer my knowledge and experience and help Stromquist & Company in their quest to providing the best products, support, and service in the controls industry. I will be blogging on Controltrends, so please feel free to send me your questions. For Stromquist & Company customers I am a phone call away at 800.241.9471. My name is Dozier Mills and I look forward to serving you.