Welcome to our series, #WHYoming.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to talk with Rick Breininger, local amateur radio enthusiast and Santa Claus. Rick works in the floor and measuring department Home Depot. However, when he isn’t at work, he is also the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Section Manager for Wyoming. Ham radio is Rick’s number one hobby, and he has been doing it for many years.
A Navy veteran, Rick has been all around the world and has decided Wyoming is the best place to be. When he moved to Green River about 12 years ago, he never looked back. He appreciates Wyoming’s morals and values, and he loves the small town communities.
Throughout the month of December, Rick also plays Santa Claus in several community events. This year the events were cancelled, but that didn’t stop Rick from wearing his Santa hat all month as he chatted with the community’s kids and handed out candy canes. I had a great time getting to know Rick, and I think you all will too!
Rick, what do you do for a living?
I work for Home Depot, I’m in the floor and measuring department. When people need new flooring, I go out to their home and I make a rough drawing of the room, take measurements, take pictures, and upload all of that. It’s a great job, I love working for Home Depot. And I cover Southwest Wyoming, all the way from Evanston to Rawlins, and even up to Riverton and Jackson. I average about 20,000 miles on my pickup truck covering all of that. I meet all kinds of people and it’s so much fun.
You’re also involved with Ham radio. How did you get involved with that?
When I was living in Goodland, Kansas, the National Weather Service is right there and they were looking for weather spotters to help out when weather was coming in. They were teaching a class in amateur radio, so I signed up and got my license. There are three levels of classes: Technician, General, and Amateur Extra, and because of my experience in the Navy I went straight to General. In the morning they would put out this net and let you know if they needed spotters or not. So I keep an eye in the sky basically.
I’m the section manager for our state, I was elected two years ago and I’ve been selected to continue in this position for the next two years. I act as the interface between the national association of the AARL (American Radio Relay League) and the state for all the members of the ARRL in Wyoming. I get to travel and meet with other clubs.
If you were to explain to someone else what amateur, or ham, radio is, what would you say?
It’s a fantastic hobby and a public service.
Can you tell me a bit about your time in the U.S. Navy?
My dad was a helicopter pilot in the Navy so that was part of my interest. Probably what got me into it was the GI Bill offer. I only wanted to go in long enough to get the GI Bill to be a veterinarian because that’s what I was interested in at the time. Then once I got in I stayed in. I served for 24 years, and I traveled the world; the East Coast, the West Coast, overseas in both directions, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Tawaiin, Korea, Japan, that was one direction. In the other direction, the North Atlantic, Caribbean, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea. I learned to scuba dive in Guam. It was quite the experience.
My kids were raised being Navy brats, they went all over with us. They grew up on island paradises in Guam, and in Germany and learned the German language while we were there. So they’ve got world experiences that most people never get the chance to experience.
I was an electronics technician, I retired as a senior chief, which is E8. I was in charge of groups of people, and at one point I had almost 80 people underneath me. So I was in charge of training them and grooming them to do things. At the very end of my career, submarine repair was one of the things I was doing. At other times I was just onboard ship managing groups of people. In the Persian Gulf, we were escorting ships through the Straits of Hormuz over there to protect them.
You also play Santa during the holiday season. Can you tell me about that?
I do! This year was not so cool, everything was cancelled. I really enjoy doing that. Even this year, I wear the Santa hat the whole month of December. When I get a chance, I’ll walk up to kids and talk to them and the wide-eyed looks on their face is really cool. It’s very fun. I also carry candy canes with me and even when I’m out doing floor measurements, I hand out candy canes to all my customers and their kids.
I work with the Second Chance to Dance Dachshund Rescue in Eden and they asked if I would help out with doing Santa. They needed someone to cover the weekends, so that’s how I got involved in all that. Then they asked if I could help out with the other Santa events around the community. So I’ve done the Mayor’s Tree Lighting in Green River, events for the Senior Center, and a couple other little gigs.
How did you end up in Green River?
I initially retired from the Navy in Colorado and stayed there for a while, and then I got offered a job teaching at a technical college in Kansas. When I left that college, I opened my own computer store, Game Room, in Kansas, but I wasn’t really making any money. We were paying the bills and surviving but we weren’t really getting anywhere, and my brother lives in Evanston. He told me I really needed to move to Wyoming because it’s a great place to live. So I moved to Evanston and lived with him for a while and worked for Uinta County at the youth camp over there. Eventually, I got a job with the oil field and ended up moving over here. Then I had a few other jobs before getting hired on with Home Depot, and I’ve been doing that for about four years now.
It was probably about 12 to 15 years ago that I moved to Wyoming and I’ve been in Green River for about 10 or 12 years. We really love Wyoming, it’s a great place.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
I like that it’s very small and that we work together. I know the Mayor personally, his office is right across the street from us. I fell once and the ambulance came to get me and he asked me later how I was doing. That’s how small the community is, and you don’t get that in larger communities.
What are some of your hobbies?
Amateur radio is one of the big ones. I also like target shooting, and my pets. We have three dogs officially and one that we’re fostering. We work with the dachshund rescue up in Eden a lot, and almost all of our dogs have come from there. We take the ones that nobody else wants. We have one that’s blind, one’s diabetic, and one’s deaf. My wife and I also raise chickens, I’m also a volunteer with Judy Roderick as a CERT Instructor, and I’m a member of the American Legion Post 28 in Green River.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Know your neighbor. That’s important. You need to know your neighbor and know your community so that we can help each other.
Where are some of your favorite places to hang out in Sweetwater County?
The Hitching Post. We have a small group of friends who go there every Saturday morning for breakfast.
How would your friends describe you?
Probably as friendly and honest. I’m an Eagle Scout, and my parents raised me that way, so those values have always stuck with me.
What’s something unique about you?
I wouldn’t call me unique but I am very active with the Convention of States. It’s a nonpartisan group that is trying to help take our country back. I’m a district captain locally. I would say I’m a Constitutional Republican.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
My proudest accomplishment was becoming Officer of the Deck underway in the Navy. Most people don’t get to do that and that was a lot of hard work to become qualified to do that. And when the captain conferred that upon me when we were on one of our deployments it was like, “oh wow.” Really cool.
Why do you choose to continue living in Wyoming?
I love the values and the morals of our state.