From Scott Carlberg

Veterans and electric utilities have long partnership. Each workplace – energy and military – share traits required for success. They are a good match. Energy Consumers of the Carolinas salutes the veterans who work in the energy industry in the Carolinas. This is the first of a five-part blog series.

Our nation has more than 18 million veterans now, with Gulf War vets surpassing Vietnam Era vets in 2016. (sourceVeterans make up about 11% of employee population in investor-owned electric companies and make up 22% of the nuclear workforce. Experience in the nuclear NAVY has been a big support in education and training for our civilian nuclear workforce. These vets have kept a lot of power on-line for us.

“America’s electric cooperatives need to hire veterans because of their very diverse skillset,” said Curtis Wynn, president and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative, Aulander, NC. Roanoke Electric Cooperative provides service to 14,500 members in NC in Bertie, Hertford, Halifax, Northampton, Gates, Perquimans and Chowan counties. Wynn, who also serves as vice president to the trade association representing the nation’s 900 electric cooperatives,  National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, said veterans are particularly needed now throughout the electric cooperative network, as the energy sector is in a major transformation. (source)

Veterans’ traits fit well with the changing energy industry: A bias for action, flexibility, work ethic, teamwork, and a belief that that learning is life-long. They also inherently understand the importance of putting safety first when working in fast-moving and pressing conditions.

Some utilities have special efforts to attract veterans. Boots to Buckets is a veteran program of South River Electric Membership Corporation, Dunn, NC, serving 44,000 members in Harnett, Cumberland, Sampson, Johnston and Bladen counties. Note that “buckets” is for the bucket trucks line workers use. The program supports a scholarship to one military veteran a year to attend the Electric Lineman’s Academy at Nash Community College. The first recipient was named last January.

There’s another good reason to engage veterans. “Electric cooperatives are facing a shortage of linemen as baby boomers continue to retire from the workforce. The values of cooperatives align closely with those who serve in the military,” said Chris Spears, CEO, South River EMC. (source-Carolina Country magazine) It is a particular challenge since line workers have significant intellectual and physical requirements for the work.

ECC can cite all kinds of numbers, but meeting some of the people in the Carolinas who are in the energy industry, and are veterans, best shows the character of these folks.

Damon – then

Damon – now

Damon Crowther is manager of EHS (environment, health and safety) for the Siemens Charlotte Energy Hub. He was 20 years US Air Force, an A-10 crew chief and C-141/C-5 flight engineer. Damon flew for 16 years in support of many humanitarian and military actions between 1985 and 1996. He retired out of detachment 2 to Headquarters Military Airlift Command in the Midwest. Damon spent five years with Texas Utilities as a power plant operator, boiler chemist and environmental technician. He has now been with Siemens for 13 years in EHS, Quality and Training. He spent a year at the company’s Houston Service Center; all the rest in Charlotte. Damon also represents Gas and Power Products from an EHS perspective in the U.S. and sits on Siemens’ U.S. EHS leadership team. He will finish E4 Carolinas (an energy trade group) executive leadership course this  month.

Steve Rhyne – now

Steve Rhyne – then

Steve Rhyne, founder and CEO, NuGen LLC. NuGen is a nuclear energy R&D company focused on the development and commercialization of the NuGen Engine™, an innovative advanced nuclear reactor concept. “NuGen holds the pending patent application on the concept, as well as two US patents on my earlier concept of using nuclear-fueled jet engines to generate electricity,” said Steve.

He is also a climate change analyst. Since 2009, he has been an author and speaker on climate change who is committed to continuing to collaborate in finding meaningful technical and policy solutions to the increasing risks of climate change. He authored two chapters in The Encyclopedia of Sustainability (Berkshire Publishing) about climate change disclosure.

Steve’s military background: Captain, U.S. Army from 1969 to 1974. He graduated in 1969 from West Point, where he studied nuclear engineering. He is a graduate of the Airborne and Ranger Schools. Steve was a combat engineer platoon leader, company commander and battalion operations officer with tours in Vietnam and Germany. Steve left the Army to begin law school, graduating from The George Washington Law School in 1977 with high honors and was editor-in-chief of The George Washington Law Review.

At Duke Energy, Chris Rimel is a principal for emergency communications. “I help assure we can respond to emergencies, ranging from storms to business continuity to cyber attacks,” he says. Rimel was in the Army, then Army Reserves from 1991 to 2003. He “deployed” for Duke Energy as people were needed to respond to Hurricane Irma in Florida in 2017. He is seen here with his children before he left for Hurricane Irma duty. As ECC has noted in other columns, utility workers are called to leave their families during times of emergency so the public has the safest and most reliable power possible.

There are four more blogs we will publish in the next few days to introduce you to other veterans in energy in the Carolinas.


Take a look at Energy Consumers of the Carolinas’ blog about important energy leadership decisions in South Carolina