When Steve Langhart, Southwest Cargo Customer Service Manager, describes Houston Hobby (HOU) Ramp Agent Tan Nguyen, the first word he uses is Warrior. The description is well deserved, in both his personal and professional life.
Tan was born in Vietnam and was drafted into the South Vietnamese Air Force as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. After seven years of service, Tan was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War.
“They used many methods of torture against me and my fellow prisoners,” Tan said. “I escaped many times and was recaptured many times. Braving hunger, thirst, and even death, I was one of the lucky boat people who managed to escape to freedom in Thailand.”
After moving from Thailand to Indonesia to Singapore, Tan was granted admission into the United States in September 1982. With his flying background, Tan was interested in pursuing a career in aviation and came across Southwest in the phone book.
“Every week, I sent letters to Herb’s office regarding my interest in applying for a position as a Pilot until I got an answer telling me that I still needed a commercial flight license and a 737-type rating before I could be considered for the job,” Tan said. “I didn’t have enough money to acquire the training needed. I sent Herb another letter telling him that I desperately wanted and needed a job, and that I would take any job available. At the time, I had been mugged of all my money and needed what little income I could get. Finally, in March of 1983, I received a letter from Herb’s office for a chance at a job interview.”
Tan traveled to Dallas for an interview. There, he met with a Chief Pilot, who also flew in the Vietnam War, along with a People Department Representative. Although he learned that he still couldn’t afford a commercial license, Tan was interested in other opportunities within the Company.
“The interviewer invited me to have lunch with him,” Tan said. “I was wary, for I had no money to pay for my share. He told me that it was on him, and I accepted his offer. Afterwards, he had my ID made.”
Tan was hired on April 1, 1983, as a HOU Provisioning Agent. He worked in Provisioning for five years before transferring to HOU Ramp. Currently, he works in the freight warehouse.
“Tan ensures our Customers are greeted with a big smile and given expedited service,” Steve said. “As the primary warehouse person, his organization skills have set a very high standard for all to follow. Tan can be found routinely keeping the entire facility clean and assisting Customers with loading and unloading shipments. He can also be counted on to translate Vietnamese with this very important Customer base.”
Tan has been honored numerous times throughout his career for his work ethic and integrity. Even when he was still relatively new to the Company, Tan was named Provisioner of the Year. With his $100 cash reward, he treated his Department to homemade Vietnamese eggrolls. One of his favorite memories, though, was when he helped return a valuable piece of luggage to an anxious Customer.
“I was passing by the breezeway in Concourse B at about eight or nine at night when I noticed a Customer’s dropped luggage,” Tan said. “I saw that the suitcase had opened and that large sums of money in the case had fallen out. I immediately notified the Ramp Supervisor of the situation. He and I gathered all of the money into the suitcase and brought it into his office, where he made an emergency report. A few weeks later, I received memos from my Supervisor, Hobby’s Station Manager, Jim Wimberly, Herb, and Colleen, all commending me for my honesty and prompt action.”
When Tan isn’t busy supporting his Southwest Family and Customers, he enjoys gardening, fishing for flounder in the Gulf of Mexico, and sharing stories about his wife and two children, who are both successful doctors. No doubt they learned about dedication and passion from their proud father.
“Warrior Sprit runs so very deep with Tan,” Steve said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have him our Team.”