“No matter what, we were all brothers.”
“I grew up in the front seat of a police car out there in the backwoods of Virginia. I knew I wanted to go into law enforcement ever since I was a kid riding shotgun in my father’s patrol car.” As a child, Denny Insley, Jefferson Lab’s Hall B Work Coordinator, always saw himself as part of the action. As he moved toward adulthood, it didn’t take long until he sought his father’s advice about what steps to take next. Thinking of the future, his father who was also a veteran, advised Insley to join the U.S. Air Force so that he could reap the benefits of the G.I. Bill.
Insley agreed that this was the right choice for him but when he stepped off that plane in Texas and looked around, his initial thought was that this place had an awful lot of dirt and sky. His second thought was that it was manageable because he would be out of there soon and off to see the world during his first deployment.
As he made his way through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and got to know his fellow airmen, he felt this overwhelming sense of community, as if everyone was a big family.
“No matter what, we were all brothers. That was the biggest thing for me. Well, that and the regimented part,” he said, holding up two fingers to indicate the space required between hangers in a closet. “To this day, the organization in my closet is the same as it was during my time in the military.”
As a member of the law enforcement branch in the U.S. Air Force, Insley served as a security specialist who was cross-trained in medical administration, where he was often called on to be a leader.
“The military really teaches you how to lead well and let me tell you, there’s a big difference between someone who commands and someone who’s a boss. A leader brings people together and makes the team a family.”
When he thinks about his leadership style at the lab, he says that he doesn’t want to just be someone who tells others what to do. Instead, he seeks his team members’ input during daily morning “toolbox” meetings. During these meetings, he tries to involve everyone in the discussion to ensure he is using everyone’s expertise to the best of his ability.
“Everyone brings something to the table,” he mused.
For those who have recently come out of the military, he stresses that the civilian world is a completely different landscape but no one at the lab has to navigate it alone. There is a veteran lab mentorship program in place and if someone needs help adjusting, they just need to ask because there are “more than enough people who are willing to help.”
Looking back, Insley never did make it to that deployment due to an air strike on Libya, but he says he regrets nothing. “I never left the U.S.! Can you believe that? But I wouldn’t have it any other way because everything that you experience makes you who you are. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And here I am, loving what I do now.”
Thank you for your service, Denny Insley!
By Rebecca Anderson
Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.
DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.