ECC has published several blogs about veterans now in the energy industry in the Carolinas. In this blog we take a deeper dive into the military history and work of one person who helps keep the power on for us.
Honor, courage, and commitment. These are the core values of the U.S. Navy, and they are integral components of Brett Varner’s moral compass. The SCE&G power delivery engineering manager has lived by those words his entire life—before, during, and after his time in the Navy.
Brett always felt the need to serve, to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, and to answer the call to be a part of something bigger than himself. After graduating from Clemson University in 2002 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, the Chattanooga native moved to Columbia, South Carolina, to work at SCE&G. He soon started the lengthy process to become a commissioned officer in the Navy Reserves through the Direct Commission Officer Program.
“I remember taking the Oath of Office and then everybody was calling me ‘sir,’ and I didn’t even have a uniform,” Brett said.
Leading the Charlotte and Columbia detachments was his first assignment. “I had 91 Seabees that I was responsible for,” he said. “Naval Construction Battalions were created during World War II and are nicknamed the Seabees. We were responsible for constructing various projects.”
After several other assignments, which included becoming a Battalion Training Officer and an Officer in Charge of a team supporting Naval Special Warfare (SEAL Teams), Brett moved to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2007 where he was Company Commander of four detachments. Two months later, he received mobilization orders for Fallujah, Iraq.
“When I got there, my job was to be an Area Construction Officer and work with Regimental Combat Team Five and the 3rd Marine Air Wing,” Brett said. “My area of operations (AO) was AO West, about the size of North Carolina. It was all of the deserts in the Al Anbar Province.”
Brett ’s biggest project in Iraq was engineering and constructing a Mabey Johnson Float Bridge across the Euphrates River. The longest of its kind built in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the bridge allowed Marines to quickly transport supplies and equipment, decreasing travel time by 11 hours.
Brett has applied his eight years of military experience over the course of his career at SCE&G. “My deployment was kind of my first real taste of project management,” he said. “My military experience has helped me in all aspects of my life, especially working for a utility. We implement similar projects. The military has high expectations and you do a lot of training. You end up being a business expert, engineering expert, and war fighter.”
Would he do it all again? “Absolutely!” he said. “I learned that your word is your bond, you are never out of the fight, you must conduct yourself honorably, you’ve got to be committed to your team, and you’ve got to complete the mission.”
Thanks, Brett Varner! ECC concludes its salute to veterans in the energy workforce with our next blog with a look at several more of these dedicated folks. Our first veteran salute is here, our second is here, and our third is here.
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