At Home in the Middle of the Pacific

Since the United States took possession of Wake Island in 1899, the island has had a long and rich history with the U.S. military — from being a prominent World War II battlefield to a mid-ocean refueling station and, most recently, a missile defense testing site. Sitting in the middle of the Pacific next to the International Date Line, the motto of the island is ‘Where America’s Day Really Begins.’ For nearly 25 years, Chugach has been one of the first to rise with each day and support the military’s mission on Wake. Most recently, additional support to that team is delivered by Chugach Shareholder Deserae Stellwag.

Like the history that Wake Island has enjoyed with the United States, Deserae has had a long history with Chugach Alaska Corporation. Deserae grew up in Tatitlek. Her parents are Loretta Stellwag and Kevin Gregorieff and she is the granddaughter to Jack and Irene Kompkoff. As with many of the individuals from the Chugach region, Deserae spent a number of her childhood summers at Nuuciq Spirit Camp. “That was before there were many cabins, and participants slept in large tents,” Deserae recalled. “My favorite part of Nuuciq was meeting the different kids from the region and learning traditional arts and crafts together.”

This enthusiasm to meet people and learn would be the first steps toward a career. Beginning in 2002, Deserae joined Chugach as a member of Shareholder Services. “That was my first office job,” Deserae said. “It was fun working with everyone at the office and learning what Chugach did.” Deserae remembers this time as working at the “new building,” the headquarters that Chugach occupied on Anchorage’s 36th Avenue prior to the eventual move to JL Towers.

While going to college, Deserae returned to work for Chugach Industries, Inc. (CII). From 2005 until 2008, she served as CII’s first Administrative Intern, working for Tim ‘Hoops’ Hopper, who was then CII’s President; Bill Martz, who at the time was CII’s Construction Division Manager; and CII’s Project Manager Randy Randolph.

In her role at CII, her duties went beyond Administrative Assistant to learning about Federal Acquisition Regulations and, at Hoops’ insistence, how Chugach’s procurement system operated. This learning process brought her to Fairbanks and Las Vegas to train with the individuals piloting Chugach’s Corporate Procurement.

The next leg of Deserae’s Chugach journey was a transition to Chugach McKinley where she worked with Matt Hayes and Chris Viramontes. Shortly thereafter, Deserae served on the Board of Directors for Falcon International, a Chugach subsidiary that pursued commercial construction opportunities, the most notable of these pursuits was work to build up infrastructure for the World Cup in Qatar.

In 2017, Deserae took part in Chugach’s Training Without Walls (TWOW), a two-year set of classes offered to Chugach shareholders and descendants designed to build up social and professional skills. Halfway through TWOW, Deserae joined Chugach Federal Solutions, Inc. (CFSI) to serve as Wake Island’s Administrative Assistant.

Deserae instantly became enamored with the island and felt like she had discovered a new home and as with her previous roles with Chugach, Deserae’s duties have grown well beyond her administrative position. “One of the best things about being on a site like Wake Island is having the ability to support other departments and wear many hats,” Deserae said. “I’ve been able to support tanker operations, biosecurity for supply barges, fill in for the production control lead, and slowly transition into the environmental side of the house and train toward a tech position.”

Beyond the many opportunities offered on Wake, transitioning to life in the nautical environment on the island was a natural fit for Deserae. “If you replace all the snow and cold weather with sunshine and sand, living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is very similar to living in Tatitlek. It’s remote and surrounded by water, but you feel connected through the friendships you make with coworkers and the other island residents.”

Reflecting back on a career that has spanned nearly two decades, Deserae stated, “Chugach has always been the best company to work for and has always taken care of me. Chugach cares about building their workforce and I’ve always appreciated that.”

One of Chugach’s Core Behaviors is ‘We Empower People.’ At the heart of this behavior is the question ‘where do you want to go and how can we help you get there?’ Deserae Stellwag and her career path through Chugach’s many subsidiaries is a shining example of empowerment and how this question is answered.

“Deserae has always been willing to take on the next challenge and take on more than she’s asked to,” Hoops said. “Chugach’s success is due to this kind of commitment and dedication, and I would like to thank thank Dez for all the outstanding work she’s performed over the years and her dedication to Chugach’s Core Behaviors.”

Like Deserae, Hoops has served in many capacities during his time with Chugach. He currently serves as President of Chugach Government Solutions (CGS). CFSI is a CGS subsidiary. With more than 5,700 employees worldwide, CGS is always looking for new team members. Click here to see the latest opportunities.

“I would highly recommend exploring the jobs that Chugach has to offer, especially in the contracts we have throughout the Pacific,” Deserae encouraged. “If you grew up in or enjoy living in a small, outlying community, you’re an ideal candidate to join the Chugach teams working in remote locations.”