Born to Serve

Co-ops working to empower veterans

Kim Leftwich is on a mission. He is a tall, silver haired man who has a no-nonsense but friendly demeanor. His leadership character is evident, and it is not surprising when you learn he spent 25 years in the military and retired an Air Force Lt. Colonel. He also worked for Illinois Power and is now one of the state’s newest electric cooperative CEOs, working for Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative in Mattoon, Ill.

Kim Leftwich
Kim Leftwich, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and President/CEO of Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative, speaking to other co-op leaders, said hiring veterans can also help fill co-op middle and upper management job openings. “Veterans have leadership and management skills that are immediately applicable.”

His new mission is to encourage and help electric cooperatives hire veterans, and to help veterans find rewarding jobs at electric cooperatives. Leftwich believes it is a way to build a next-generation workforce that meets the technical and leadership demands of 21st Century electric cooperatives. He is one of seven electric co-op CEOs from across the U.S. who have joined with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to launch a new initiative called Serve our Co-ops; Serve our Country. The program is designed to increase employment of veterans and military spouses in rural co-op territories, and help solve workforce challenges at co-ops.

You can hear his passion for this new mission when he says, “I have great respect for my fellow veterans, especially the young people that come back today. Many of them have been on multiple deployments, some of them doing four, five, six, seven, eight even nine deployments.”

The military drawdowns are increasing with around 200,000 service members transitioning out of the military each year and looking for meaningful employment. Leftwich says many of those veterans are from, and want to return to, rural areas.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the nation’s 21.2 million veterans, nearly 40 percent are from rural America. “We believe the principles and culture of electric cooperatives serving rural America match the service character of those who have served our country,” says Leftwich.

There are about seven million service age eligible individuals from rural areas. “That is two percent of the population of the United States, but they provide 40 percent of the defense of the nation,” adds Leftwich. “We damn well owe them something. Not only gratitude, but an opportunity to come home to a good job with benefits and be able to serve in our community.”

Leftwich says this program to hire veterans won’t just benefit them, it will benefit co-ops. An estimated 14,400 electric co-op jobs will open up over the next five years. This new initiative will help fill those vacancies.

Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative, Auburn, Ill., already has a tradition of hiring veterans when possible. Electrician Jeff Lancaster and Purchasing, Design and Construction Technician Martin Hinton are both Air Force veterans. The Auburn co-op also has a practice of giving young people work experience through a part-time work program.

Two part-time employees are both in the military. Joe Henricks is in the Army Reserves and Natalie Pier is in the Illinois Air National Guard. Pier’s part time job at the co-op perfectly fits her military training as an Engineering Journeyman.

RECC President/CEO David Stuva says, “Natalie started a part-time internship with us in January after she returned from a seven-month deployment in Kuwait. She is also working on a civil engineering degree at SIU Edwardsville. So she will be working in the Operations and Maintenance Department every Monday and Friday. Natalie will be helping Chris Bridges, our GIS/Mapping Technician, on mapping and GPS accuracy improvements. She will also be conducting infrared tests on our underground distribution feeder cabinets.”

Michelle Rostom, NRECA’s Veteran Initiative Program Director, says, “We want to expand our co-op pipeline with great talent to fill the many jobs that will be opening up. NRECA and its co-op partners will follow nationally-recognized best practices and guidelines for hiring and retaining skilled veterans.

“In addition to the diverse technical talents and trainability our veterans bring to co-ops, there are many parallels between military culture and electric cooperative culture, including mission, teamwork, and commitment to community,” she explains.

Leftwich says the cultural match is based on common principles. “If you simply look at the seven cooperative principles, there is service and community involved in virtually everything we talk about as cooperatives. When I’m listening to these young veterans, they are talking about service and community. They are intent on protecting that community and are willing to participate in our community. They are disciplined and have the work ethic – the right kind of values. We are talking about rural folks with the real values here in the heartland. Cooperatives embrace those same values and they fit into the family really well.”

Veterans are crisis tested, Leftwich adds. They understand the importance of safety and training, and often have to anticipate and improvise to carry out a mission. “These are thoughtful thinkers and innovators that, once given direction, are capable of handling it. Veterans are intent on carrying out their responsibilities with great resolve, planning and execution, even during a crisis. That is second nature to them,” he adds.

Joe_Priestley IT Manager
Joe Priestley served seven years in the Army where he started to hone his cyber security skills, a critical issue in today’s smart grid utility environment.

In many cases the training and experience gained in the military matches up perfectly with the job descriptions at co-ops. For example, cyber security expertise is in great demand at all utilities with the increasing threat to the grid from computer hackers and advances in smart grid technology that’s often tied to the Internet. Joe Priestley, the new IT Manager for Corn Belt Energy, Bloomington, Ill. is a great example of that matchup.

Priestley served seven years in the Army. His official Army job title would take a sentence to explain, but essentially he worked with UNIX computers and cryptology in intelligence. He also became fluent in Arabic and learned how to jump out of airplanes, but he credits the Army for teaching leadership skills, which he says prepared him for working with people.

Like many veterans, after his military service, Priestley increased his expertise by getting a computer science degree using the GI Bill, the Army College Fund and a veteran’s grant from Illinois. That led to cyber security and IT work for several hospitals before going to work for Corn Belt Energy.

He says the co-op culture has been a good match. “I feel more like I’m among my old military people here than I have anywhere else. It is just a tight group. Having worked in large corporations before there is a real impersonal feel, but here at the cooperative it feels like everybody is here sincerely for the mission of the cooperative.”

Even before this new program, Chris Bennett, President/CEO of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Dongola, Ill., recognized the value of hiring veterans when they were equally qualified compared to other applicants. He has seen the difference in the veterans the co-op has already hired.

“We’ve talked about it in staff meetings,” says Bennett. “We’ve recognized that our veterans are more organized, they want to do the job right, appreciate the job, and they’re just more respectful of others.”

They often come with the right stuff for the job too. For example, Bennett says Cody Poole, the co-op’s mechanic, had eight years in the Navy working on vehicles. “His ability and knowledge is just amazing. He doesn’t let anything bother him or stop him. He just tears into it.”

Poole says as part of the Navy’s Fighting Seabees he received experience repairing all types of equipment. But even with those skills, he found it challenging to find a job at first. “It was difficult to find meaningful work, very difficult. I attended resume-writing classes and went to job fairs in several different states. I worked with the Illinois Department of Unemployment and attended interviews that were prearranged. I also searched for Federal jobs online.” He was interviewed by the co-op two different times before being offered the job.

Poole found there are a lot of similarities between co-op and military careers and culture. Both are team-oriented and like a family he says. “I feel appreciated and well respected as a co-op employee. Co-ops value experience and diversity and are an excellent career choice for a veteran. Co-ops are a great place for them to continue to serve the community. Veterans enjoy meaningful work, want to be respected for their talents and thrive in family-oriented organizations.”

Mike Smith, President/CEO for McDonough Power Cooperative, Macomb, Ill., served eight years in the Navy as an Electronic Tech working on air traffic control equipment on the USS Ranger aircraft carrier.

Like just about every other veteran we interviewed, Smith says he knew he wasn’t ready and couldn’t afford college after high school. But the military is all about training and he ended up taking courses while at sea on the carrier, and later graduating from the University of Arkansas with an engineering degree.

“The military is all about preparation and training,” remarks Smith. “During major events you benefit from all of the time spent. Your actions become instinctive since you have done something so many times. A very similar thing happens with cooperatives. A storm hits and all of the training and preparation kick in, and an incredible amount of damage can be restored in a short period of time.”

Smith says his military experience gave him a lot of skills, but the most important was people skills. “In the military, from the first minute you are in boot camp to the day you walk away a civilian, you are learning to deal with people. Veterans have learned to be part of a team and deal with people from all walks of life. They know how to be trained. They know that nothing is just given to you; it needs to be earned.”

When it comes to training, no one has trained more co-op employees than Chuck West, a retired lineman with 42 years of experience at Corn Belt Energy. West spent six years in the Army where he also trained others how to climb poles. Even after retirement, he has continued training young linemen for the co-ops. In fact, the cooperatives recently named their training facility in Springfield in his honor.

West says there are many similarities between military work and electric cooperative work. The basic building block is a team that depends on each other, either a squad or a line crew. Both require skill training that emphasizes safety.

West says, “I tell our kids in line school, if you have good work habits you are going to make something of yourself. Regarding safety, when you go to a job, there is no shortcut. If you take shortcuts sooner or later you are going to get killed, or get someone else killed.”

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) in Manassas, Va., has hired many former military employees over the years. The co-op is located 30 miles from the Pentagon. Communications Specialist Blair Cirulli joined NOVEC this year after completing her enlistment with the Army as a sergeant, and earning a degree at the University of Maryland. She’s become an early spokesperson and advocate for the new veterans’ jobs program.

Cirulli was an Army Public Affairs Specialist for five years, telling the stories of a 3,500-soldier unit through words, photographs and video. She was deployed in Afghanistan for one year.

“Doing what is asked of me is not difficult,” she explains. “It’s been fun. I find myself looking at power lines. If a tree is next to a power line, I wonder why it hasn’t been cleared.”

Cirulli came across the NOVEC opening through a job website. She says, “The job description was exactly what I was looking for, but what in the world is an electric cooperative? I did a web search and ironically came across this definition from M.J.M. Electric Cooperative, in Carlinville, Ill. Simply put, a cooperative is a not-for-profit business, voluntarily-owned and controlled by the people who use its services. The words ‘by and for the people’ hit me and I knew this was the type of organization I needed to be a part of. Co-ops should sell their culture. People from the military do look for a culture they can fit into.”

Featured photo: Blair Cirulli, 25, did a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a sergeant in the Army. She served five years as an Army public affairs specialist and is now a communications specialist for an electric cooperative.

For more information on jobs for veterans

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Serve Our Co-Ops; Serve Our Country
Information on electric cooperatives and job openings
Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs

The Illinois Energy Workforce Consortium
A collaboration of industry employers, cooperatives, educators, and government from across the state who have partnered to develop a pipeline of qualified candidates for energy industry jobs in Illinois.

Why Join a Co-op?

Cooperatives values and principles align perfectly with military values. Their community dedication and their cooperative business model is what sets them apart from other employers. Tapping into a co-op opportunity comes with great advantages:

  • Getting access to a nationwide network of hundreds of co-ops. Their geographic outreach in 47 states provides flexibility for job opportunities in different parts of the country.
  • Co-ops are community-dedicated employers; they consider concern of community as one of their 7 cooperative principles.
  • Co-ops provide rewarding job opportunities for veterans in rural and suburban America and help sustain rural communities’ development.
  • Co-ops provide great benefit packages and most provide competitive retirement plans.
  • Co-ops recognize the value of women veterans and welcome diversity in their workforce.
  • Co-ops treat their employees as family and they make each veteran feel proud and welcome in their co-op family.

Interviews: Illinois Electric Cooperative Employee Veterans

Carla M. Bradbury, Air Force veteran and Service Representative for Coles-Moultrie Electric Co-op

1. Why did you join the military?

To further my education and training.  I also knew some folks who already joined the unit.

2. What did you do in the military?

Personnel Systems/Personnel Admin and Personnel Training both as Enlisted and Officer.  How long did you serve? 10 years

3. What is it about being in the military that prepared you for working at a cooperative?

Organizational skills, attention to detail, preparedness/follow thru, and learning to work with others to name a few.

4. Can you point to an event or a job at the co-op where your military experience kicked in… an outage or a tough assignment or crisis?

Not any one specific event.  However, the experiences you gain cannot be gained in an on-line class, book or googled.

5. How hard was it to get a job when you got out of the military?

I was in the Illinois Air National Guard both as a full time technician and as a traditional guardsman, so I had decided to stay home with my daughters, (my youngest had Leukemia) and did not look for employment right away. What did you do to try and find a job?  The old fashion way….sent out resume/letters, and asked friends/neighbors. It is much easier now.

6. How did you end up getting the job at the co-op?

A friend told me the coop was hiring and I applied.  Note:  I had not even considered a coop, so this might be something to make folks aware of cooperatives, etc. if perhaps they have never been serviced by one or not from a rural community.

7. How is the co-op culture like the military?

Coops share information, are service oriented, and work together/network similar to military units.  Both Coops and units are mission driven and care for our communities, livelihood, and future. How is it different? Military mission more serious (life/death) and coop members are also customers.

8. What would you tell other veterans about working for an electric cooperative?

Good environment, good job, and good folks/comradery.

9. Why should co-ops consider hiring veterans a priority?

Solid candidates with strong work ethic, dedicated.

10. For co-op members who read this who want to help veterans, what would you tell them?

Get the word out!  Consider this industry….there are many co-ops not just locally, but nationally.


Donald Sabol, Navy veteran and Transmission System Operator (previously Boiler Operator for Prairie Power, Inc.)

Don Sabol
Don Sabol

1. Why did you join the military?

After finishing high school I decided it was time I started making better choices for my future. What better choice than to serve my country?

2. What did you do in the military? How long did you serve?

Operated US Navy shipboard main propulsion and power generation equipment. After 9/11, I re-enlisted in the reserves and was immediately recalled to active duty and assigned guard duty at a Naval Air Base in Japan. 15 years active duty, 6 years Naval Reserve.

3. What is it about being in the military that prepared you for working at a cooperative?

Military training and hands-on experience provided much of the knowledge and skills I utilize every day on the job.

4. Can you point to an event or a job at the co-op where your military experience kicked in… an outage or a tough assignment or crisis?

Operating an engine room, in the bottom of the ship as it navigates through a minefield gives you a different perspective on stressful situations, easier to remain calm and focused on the task at hand during outages.

5. How hard was it to get a job when you got out of the military? What did you do to try and find a job?

I left the military and relocated to a rural community when I met my future wife. Job opportunities in my area of expertise were few. Lots of resumes, the understanding I would have a long commute to work, and temporary jobs got me by until a job opened at the nearby cooperative power plant.

6. How did you end up getting the job at the co-op?

A friend that worked for the cooperative notified me when a position opened up.

7. How is the co-op culture like the military? How is it different?

The co-op culture of safety is very similar to the military. Safety is top priority.

8. What would you tell other veterans about working for an electric cooperative?

A terrific opportunity to work in a field that utilizes many of the qualities gained while serving in the military.

9. Why should co-ops consider hiring veterans a priority?

Military values, skills, and character traits include:  honesty, integrity, pride in excellence and mission accomplishment, teamwork, communication, and maturity. These are just some of the many positive aspects that veterans bring to an organization on day one.

10. For co-op members who read this who want to help veterans, what would you tell them?

Hiring a veteran is a smart business decision and an opportunity for someone who has given so much for all of us, to prove so.


Jackie Weede, Navy Veteran and Accounting Clerk for Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc.

Jackie Weede

1. Why did you join the military?

I am the oldest of 4 and paying for college was going to be a struggle and I felt I had a better chance to afford college with joining the Military so that coupled with my love for adventure made the Navy a perfect choice for me.

2. What did you do in the military? How long did you serve?

I served 5 years as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician-Electrical (ASE2), performing scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on AC/DC mobile electric power units and ground support equipment.  I was honorably discharged as an E-5 Second Class Petty Officer.

3. What is it about being in the military that prepared you for working at a cooperative?

You learn to work with people of varied personalities.  In certain situations you must lead and in others you take direction.  Being organized and attention to detail, which is important in my current job.

4. Can you point to an event or a job at the co-op where your military experience kicked in… an outage or a tough assignment or crisis?

5. How hard was it to get a job when you got out of the military? What did you do to try and find a job?

Not easy finding work, I took a Civil Service exam, before I was discharged, in hopes of finding a job quickly, when civilians were hired for civil service jobs, on several occasions, and I couldn’t get an interview, I contacted JTPA (Job Training Partnership Act) in our area and they helped with job leads.

6. How did you end up getting the job at the co-op?

I was working as a legal secretary and was asked to assist the Executive Assistant at our co-op with projects, as one of the attorneys at the firm represented the co-op.  When the attorney I worked directly for became a Judge, the firm downsized and I was asked to apply for an Administrative Assistant position at our co-op.

7. How is the co-op culture like the military? How is it different?

Like the military, you are part of your local co-op which in part is part of a larger cooperative family, all with a common goal to provide the best and most reliable service to its members.   A difference, with the military you are expended to relocate every 3-4 years and most cooperative employees retire from their cooperative after working there 30+ years of service.

8. What would you tell other veterans about working for an electric cooperative?

You feel like you are part of a team and family.  Each co-op within the larger cooperative family is there to help and assist each other daily and in crisis situations.

9. Why should co-ops consider hiring veterans a priority?

Veterans are reliable, honest, dedicated to their jobs and take pride in a job well done.

10. For co-op members who read this, who want to help veterans, what would you tell them?

Just give them a chance, you won’t be disappointed.


Kevin Simon, Navy Veteran and Generation Supervisor for Prairie Power, Inc.

I worked on gas turbines for the Navy and got out in 1993. The training in the Navy prepared me for my job at the Pearl Plant. The guy that hired me found out I was getting out and I started working in upstate New York at a gas turbine plant.

In the Navy I was on two cruisers. We had three generators for power generation and four main engines propulsion and they were all gas turbines. I was six years in the Navy with an E6 rank and worked as a gas turbine mechanic 1st class.

I used my GI Bill and going to school at night and they had a gas turbine at Pearl plus the steam plant and I started out as assistant janitor and then into operations, then they built this gas turbine plant. I started at Pearl in 1996 and they built this gas turbine plant in Alsey in 1999 and I came over and helped to construct it.

The gas turbine in Alsey is it for peaking power generation. We have five peaking units and we are building a sixth. Now the gas turbines are not just used for peaking power but also for voltage support because coal plants have been shut down. It used to be you could go 20 miles and there would be a coal plant.

So now maintenance is more important. We’ve always maintained them well, we are proud of them, but with a 10 minute startup to backup renewable energy sources makes it even more important.
What would you tell other veterans about the cooperative culture, are there similarities?

The co-op culture has always been very veteran friendly. I’m generation supervisor now and sit in on interviews and being a veteran helps because you are a known quantity. With a veteran you have the DD214 and evaluation – you always know what type of person you are going to get right off the bat. If you are a veteran you know what to look for too. If they did what was right it will show.

Joining the Navy was the best decision I ever made and I was 18 years old. (Why do you say that?) Because college wasn’t for me at that time in my life. The Navy taught me a good trade. I talked to some other veterans and the possibilities…how many places can you go and get tremendous schooling and they train you on everything and then turn an 18 year old kid loose in a $40 million plant. It’s a lot of responsibility. I was considered an old man at 24.

I served on Desert Shield and been around the world. You don’t appreciate how good a country we have until you go see other countries. We are worried about what I consider frivolous stuff compared to someone begging for food. It is a real eye opener for someone in their late teens. We complain about a parking ticket and these people are just looking for something to eat.

There is a lot of job turnover coming. An obvious choice for new employees is veterans. They’ve lived a life of discipline and you don’t get that privileged entitled attitude. You get that guy or gal that can say, “Hey I’ve had it a lot worse than this.” If you’ve had a guy screaming at you at 4:30 in the morning while you are brushing your teeth you know what I mean. If you are complaining because you got to be at work by 7:00, well it could be worse.

It teaches discipline but also how to handle a crisis situation without panic. When you’ve been to the edge and looked down you get to that point where your life is on the line and everything else seems kind of trivial after that. You faced that fear and overcome it. After that, panic is really not an option because the worse thing you can have is somebody panic that you counted on being there.


Phil Clemens, Air National Guard and Network Engineer for Prairie Power, Inc.

Phil Clemens
Phil Clemens

1. Why did you join the military?

I had always been interested in the military, but because Vietnam was still relatively recent, my parents were not keen on me joining the Army straight out of high school.  However, I spent nearly every weekend watching the F-4 Phantom’s being flown at the Springfield Air Guard unit, so I decided to join the 183d Fighter Wing in December of 1984.

2. What did you do in the military? How long did you serve?

I joined as an Electronic Warfare Systems Specialist, and then transitioned into the communications and cyber fields as they developed in the early 2000’s.  I’ve been a member of the 183rd Fighter Wing for over 30 years, and plan to continue to serve as long as possible.

3. What is it about being in the military that prepared you for working at a cooperative?

The military’s focus on operations is very similar to the utility industry.  It provides the foundation for understanding that the reason we exist in the support fields is to provide the best products for our engineering and operations personnel.

4. Can you point to an event or a job at the co-op where your military experience kicked in… an outage or a tough assignment or crisis?

Any time I get the opportunity to do work in adverse conditions I’m reminded of how much I enjoy those situations.  The military exists to take care of critical situations, whether it is a foreign policy issue or a domestic natural disaster, and the skills developed in those situations benefit you in crisis situations in all aspects of life.  I’ve had many experiences in my civilian life where the training and focus kicked in to handle a situation when others were unsure how to move forward.

5. How hard was it to get a job when you got out of the military? What did you do to try and find a job?

Since I’m in the Air National Guard, I never experienced the transition from active duty to the civilian world.  However, my military training and experience provided a competitive advantage in the early stages of my career.

6. How did you end up getting the job at the co-op?

Very normally. I answered an online job posting, interviewed, and got the job.

7. How is the co-op culture like the military? How is it different?

The co-op culture is similar to the military in that it provides a good balance of being people and family focused, while maintaining a parallel focus on professional engineering and operations.  Another important similarity between the co-op world and the National Guard is the long-term relationships developed through years of working together and relying on each other.

8. What would you tell other veterans about working for an electric cooperative?

Working for a co-op provides a sense of service and purpose, which is typically the biggest loss when people transition from the military to the civilian world.  Whether you’re a lineman, an engineer, a controller, or a support staff member (POG – Person Other Than Grunt), your role has a military parallel.

9. Why should co-ops consider hiring veterans a priority?

All veterans have the potential to bring a new perspective to the work environment.  While the ability to work in adverse conditions and under pressure is the typical assumed quality of veterans, there is also the aspect that the military instills and rewards a basic level of discipline.  That can go a long way when any company needs people who can listen to instructions and function as a team in order to simply get things done.

10. For co-op members who read this who want to help veterans what would you tell them?

Be comfortable with veterans.  Realize that veterans have plenty of respect for non-veterans, and the barrier between the two worlds is more of a dashed line than a wall.


Robb Hanner, Navy Veteran and Area Serviceman for Menard Electric Cooperative

I joined the Navy honestly because my high school grades weren’t the greatest, but the Navy saw that I had a mechanical talent that could be and was useful to them. I enlisted in Sept. 1988 and after boot camp went to service as a torpedo man on the USS Chicago, a fast attack submarine.

I gained a working knowledge of every part of the complex array of systems on a submarine from the high-pressure air systems (up to 4500 psi) to a nuclear reactor. The qualifications required to become a full-fledged submariner were extremely difficult, but that is not unlike learning how to switch out a substation or work on high voltage electrical lines.

The job in the Navy was a lot like line work in that the hours were sometimes long and at times it was tough to stay focused, but in both jobs there are lives on the line and one mistake can cost lives.
I remember the time our sub was in Guam after an extended deployment in the Western Pacific. We had just arrived into port when the weapons department was called back into the sub to load new torpedoes.  We then immediately got back underway and headed to the Red Sea for Operation Desert Storm.

The comparison is that as linemen we sometimes get done with a storm in our territory and get called to help out another co-op.  We as linemen load up and get going. We all know there are people that need help so we jump at the chance to help out.

The military definitely helped me in obtaining employment, especially when the interviewer was prior military as well.  There seems to be a common respect from military vets and active duty.

I got the job at the co-op by just applying. While some may say it’s the timing or the luck of the draw, I think my military experience definitely helped.

The co-op culture is a lot like the military because there is a brotherhood. The linemen I work with every day care for each other, watch each other’s back and we worry about each other very much like we did in the military.

I would tell other veterans that if you are looking for a very similar career that the military has to offer in the civilian life, a co-op is great place to start. The co-op has a family value that you learn to have in the military.

The Navy has a lot of people, but it’s broken down into a lot of small groups similar to Touchstone Energy and the numerous small co-ops. I think co-ops should look into hiring veterans as a good source for real world experienced and well-rounded problem solvers that enjoy the small brotherhood that comes from working at a co-op.


Will Platt, Army Veteran and Engineering GIS Technician for Prairie Power

1. Why did you join the military?

I originally joined the Army to pay for my college education.  Illinois has a great Veteran’s Grant that paid for all tuition for my four-year college education. ( I re-enlisted in the Army because I enjoyed the military lifestyle, this was before 9/11, and I wanted to learn a trade that I could fall back on later in life.

2. What did you do in the military? How long did you serve?

For my first enlistment I was 19K (armor crewman, see  I worked at that job for about three years.  I then re-enlisted to become a 68G now called 15G (aircraft structure repairer, see I worked at this position for an additional four years before leaving service and going to college.

3. What is it about being in the military that prepared you for working at a cooperative?

In the army you are trained to wear many hats.  I have found that this is the same in the cooperatives.  I am currently working as a GIS technician, office maintenance manager, easement acquisition specialist, draftsman and I continue to pick up other odd jobs around the cooperative when needed.

4. Can you point to an event or a job at the co-op where your military experience kicked in… an outage or a tough assignment or crisis?

In the army you are a soldier 24/7.  When problems appear you fix them no matter the time of day.  I do not work as a linesman so I do not have to go out and fix electrical equipment in the thunderstorm or 100 degree heat.  That is a very difficult job.  I do, however, understand that sometimes an issue at work is a priority to other things.  This is a minor sacrifice to make for the cooperative.

5. How hard was it to get a job when you got out of the military? What did you do to try and find a job?

Directly after the leaving the Army I enrolled into college.  After finishing my bachelors degree in Cartography/GIS it took me a couple of months to land a job in my career field.

6. How did you end up getting the job at the co-op?

I am originally from Quincy, Ill., but was living in Pennsylvania.  My wife and I had been looking for jobs near Quincy for about a year without much success.  My mother had been diagnosed with cancer and we wanted to come back to Illinois so that my kids could spend as much time as possible with her.  My wife then found a job posting for Prairie Power in Jacksonville, Ill., which is about an hour from Quincy.  I applied for the job and was hired a few months later.

7. How is the co-op culture like the military? How is it different?

Co-op culture is like a family.  This is very much like the Army.  Everyone looks after everyone else and cares for them.  The only difference I can think of now is that in the Army everyone knows how much your salary is.  It is public knowledge. In the cooperative salaries are more private information that is not generally shared amongst employees.  Though, this is the norm in private companies.

8. What would you tell other veterans about working for an electric cooperative?

I would tell them that they would love the culture and benefits that the cooperatives have.

9. Why should co-ops consider hiring veterans a priority?

The cooperative and Army cultures are similar.  I believe a veterans would feel very comfortable working for a cooperative.  Veterans also bring dependability, great work ethics, and attention to details to their work.

10. For co-op members who read this who want to help veterans, what would you tell them?

Give veterans a chance.  We are hardworking and dependable.  But there are also many veterans that come home that need help.  If you would like to give to veteran specific charity check out this link:

There are many men and women out there who served our country and we should do our utmost to recognize them.