In Vets We Trust: U.S. Military Veterans on the Front Lines of the Power Sector
It wasn’t long into my time documenting the American power sector that I noticed a trend- veterans rule, and rule the power industry. Everywhere I went I met people serving the energy industry who had served the country in the military- field technicians, plant operators, planners. And it wasn’t in just in one job, or at one type of plant. I met veterans at incinerators and solar farms alike.
When I commented on the number of people with military backgrounds to one of tour guides at a local incinerator, she spoke of the trend as if it was standard operating procedure, something that simply made sense. Anecdotally she pointed to how they handle pressure and have the skills to move quickly to maintain operations and power production.
More times than not the veterans I met had served in the Navy. Whether or not they had served on a nuclear submarine or their role was directly tied to the nuclear reactor, living on a submarine yields a level of self-sufficiency, and urgency that aligns with the demand and circumstances of power plants. The industries are catching on, and bringing in veterans.
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute about one quarter of all nuclear plant workers are veterans.
As I began to research this trend, I came across groups and initiatives that actively support it.
Veterans in Energy is a professional society “by veterans for veterans,” dedicated to supporting veterans that choose a career in energy, with resources for recruiting, incorporating and retaining veterans in the field. Within the energy industry, trade groups have committed to increasing the impact of vets in various sectors. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced in 2015 a goal of for the industry to employ 50,000 veterans and family members by 2020. This was an effort to the support “Joining Forces,” initiative created by Michelle Obama to stimulate veteran employment. The Veterans Energy Pipeline is a project by the American Petroleum Institute to strengthen veteran careers in oil and gas.
Back at the Duke Energy Renewables office in Tarboro, I met four people that staff and manage the nearby solar arrays, all with military backgrounds
Veterans bring their skills to the energy industry, and the industry enables veterans to continue to serve the country in critical ways with meaningful and substantive careers in civil society.
Click on the photos below to learn about veterans in the energy industry.
Thank you vets.