Industry Spotlight: Wind Energy

Wind turbine farm in West Lafayette, Ind., June 25, 2010.
Wind turbine farm in West Lafayette, Ind., June 25, 2010. (Michael Miller/U.S. Navy photo)

"Regardless of the position they held in the military, veterans have several things in common -- an accelerated learning curve, the ability to 'do more with less,' and a proven track record of sound decision-making under the most difficult of situations," said Mike Starich, a former U.S. Marine Corps captain and the president of Orion International, a national military recruiting firm.

Related: Search for energy jobs.

Scott Corley, a former naval chief petty officer with 24 years of service, provides perspective on how his position as a field service technician for Siemens Wind Power was a logical and fulfilling next step in his career. "My career path as an aviation electrician, flight engineer and maintenance manager translated very well to the wind industry," Corley said. "I would highly recommend veterans take a look at entering this field, as the opportunities to build a civilian career are plentiful."

Skills That Fit

The wind industry is well-suited to enlisted technicians, officers and noncommissioned officers. Former officers typically fit positions such as site managers, project managers and project engineers; technicians bring strong electronics, electrical and mechanical skills to technical positions; and NCOs have a well-honed blend of technical and leadership skills.

"Our clients appreciate the combination of technical skills, industry know-how and focus on safety they get when utilizing our teams of prior military technicians," said James Haley, a former naval engineering officer and director of operations at Gemini Energy Services, an operations and maintenance service provider to the wind industry.

Among the many veterans who power this industry is Mark Goldstone, a retired wing life support superintendent in the Air Force. Goldstone retired as a senior master sergeant after a 24-year career and began a new career in the wind industry as a project manager for an electrical contracting company, responsible for wiring a wind farm in southern Minnesota. He now works as a project manager at Acciona Wind Power, where he manages wind farm construction. Goldstone takes his own experience as a veteran into account when he cites skills that fit the wind industry and are inherent in veterans.

"Military people are trained to troubleshoot, fix and maintain complex pieces of technology, following guidelines spelled out in technical orders and manuals. The wind industry is quite similar and follows much the same methodology," Goldstone said. "Another skill set is the ability to receive a set of instructions, then work autonomously, in remote locations, a day or several days at a time."

Goldstone also notes that a veteran's knowledge of logistics can be vital in the erection and commissioning phase of wind farm construction, as well as during the operations and maintenance phase.

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

Growth Industry

When choosing a career path after the military, veterans often look for growth industries that are also a good match with their skill set. Randall Tyson, a nuclear-trained machinist's mate who served 12 years in the Navy, found the wind industry to be attractive for both of these reasons, as well as the variety of duties with which he could be tasked on any given day.

"I grew up on a farm, was a diesel mechanic before the Navy, and my nuclear/mechanical training in the military all contributed to my ability to perform in my position," said Tyson, a wind engineer with Terra-Gen Power. For veterans interested in the industry, Tyson suggests that they do their homework on what technologies are being used in the industry, and broaden their knowledge and experience as much as possible in those areas. 

"I believe that within another 10 years, wind will represent a large part of America's electricity-generating capacity, requiring a huge number of individuals to build and maintain that infrastructure," Goldstone said. "Hopefully, many of these individuals are military veterans."

For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Job Search section.

Orion International, the nation's largest military placement firm, was founded in 1991 by five former military officers. Orion finds civilian careers for junior military officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted technicians leaving the military, as well as veterans who have already transitioned from service but are seeking a career change.

Orion provides career transition advice, resume assistance and interview preparation, and it arranges interviews for positions that are a match with the veteran's background, qualifications and desires. 

The Next Step: Find the Right Job

Whether you want to polish up your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area, or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, can help. Sign up for a free membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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