Energy Secretary Rick Perry told former military men and women now working in energy that as U.S. energy innovation takes off, their days of service to their country are not over.
“Federal agencies hiring veterans is a wise thing to do. You’ve got experience. You’ve already been trained up,” Perry told the 2017 Veterans in Energy (VIE) Forum, hosted by NRECA at its Arlington, Virginia, headquarters.
“I believe we owe veterans that opportunity as well, to be able to further our country’s energy security with veterans who have so faithfully served our country already,” added Perry, a captain in the U.S. Air Force before his political career.
In his Oct. 6 remarks at NRECA’s conference center, Perry lauded the energy industry’s effort to get more veterans into its workforce.
“This Veterans in Energy program makes ultimate good sense from my perspective,” said Perry. “I’m excited about this program. I’m excited about the work you are going to do relative to making VIE a very important part of us moving forward.”
Launched last year, VIE is a national leadership organization formed to provide transition, retention and professional development support to the growing population of military veterans choosing careers in energy. NRECA is among the founding sponsors.
Jeffrey Connor, NRECA’s chief operating officer, said electric co-ops, which have always had former military members in their workforce, have hired 30 veterans through the Serve Our Co-ops, Serve Our Country initiative in the last 18 months.
“We are at the tip of the iceberg with what our members are excited to do,” Connor told the forum.
He recalled the story of U.S. Army veteran Nate Humphrey, who served seven combat deployments inside 48 months. Humphrey found his “second calling” as a lineman at Southside Electric Cooperative in Crewe, Virginia, saying how he “used to defend the country, and now I light it up.”
“That speaks to the heart, the compassion and the service that is within the electric cooperative workforce and other utilities,” said Connor.
“That spirit was on display” when co-ops and other utilities across the country came to the aid of people in states ravaged by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Connor added. And he praised Perry for his service and attention to rural electric cooperatives during that time, noting the secretary was on the phone every day with co-op leaders talking about how to overcome the disasters and the strategy for the next day.
Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.