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Today is May 9, 2021

Veterans power us

By Steven Ward

Veterans power us

There’s a lot of alignment between the seven cooperative principles and military values, which fosters a transition between veterans and co-ops, said Desiree Dunham, NRECA’s manager of talent programs. Veterans bring valuable skill sets and are mission-focused as a result of their military service.

Tony Wallis spent 23 years in the U.S. Air Force working in ground transportation and logistics. Although he was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi for 18 of those 23 years, Wallis spent part of his enlistment time overseas in the Middle East fighting the war on terror. Wallis, 47, traveled to Iraq and Kuwait to drive trucks for the U.S. Army and run equipment to multiple bases in those areas.

Wallis’ military background was a perfect fit when he went to work for Coast Electric Power Association six years ago. Wallis, of Gulfport, is a warehouse manager and one of 21 veterans employed by Coast Electric.

“There are some similarities between the military and working at a co-op. Although it’s a smaller fleet, we are close at Coast. It’s like a family. And it’s like that in the military,” Wallis said.

Wallis said, “it’s a blessing” to be working for an electric cooperative.

November 11 is Veterans Day, a day to salute the men of women of the U.S, who have made sacrifices to serve their country.

Electric cooperatives have actively sought out and hired veterans for years because of their transferable skills and proven success in real-world situations.

Veterans add value to the cooperative workforce because they have extensive technical, leadership and safety skills; have the ability to learn new concepts and skills; are mission-driven; have received crisis and risk management training; have strong problem-solving skills and work efficiently in high pressure and fast-paced environments, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Aaron Waldron is a field engineer and warehouse worker for Coahoma Electric Power Association.

One of five veterans working for Coahoma’s co-op, Waldron, of Walls, spent five years in the U.S. Air Force working in communications where he was tasked with maintenance of cable, antennas and radio transmission systems.

Besides providing critical installation and maintenance for 13 air combat command bases, two air education and training bases and three air reserve and air guard bases, Waldron deployed a year and a half working in combat communications in Afghanistan — six months during the summer of 2010 and a year from fall of 2011 to fall 2012.

Following his time in the Air Force, Waldron enlisted in the Tennessee Air Guard and worked as an electrician and lineman. Today, he works in transportation as a truck driver for the Tennessee Army Guard while keeping his full-time job with Coahoma Electric.

“I enjoy working for the co-op. It’s a great place to be,” Waldron said.

NRECA’s hiring initiative — Vets Power Us — helps co-ops address the challenges of attracting and retaining a new workforce as the industry faces waves of retirements and increasingly complex technology. The initiative also seeks to raise awareness of utility careers among veterans, 40% of whom come from rural communities.

“Veterans bring an already matured sense of camaraderie and teamwork to a cooperative that has an exponential impact. In a lineman role, specifically, the honed problem-solving disposition is invaluable,” said Gerald Gordon, vice president of safety and loss control of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.

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