By Frank Reichert, Navy veteran and director of operations and maintenance, GlidePath
My career in clean energy was made possible by the skills and training I gained in the U.S. military and it gives me a way to continue contributing to the future of our country. Today, the industry is working to open doorways for more veterans to launch careers in solar, wind and energy storage.
I proudly enlisted in the United States Navy on August 19, 1993, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Northeast Pennsylvania coal country had minimal job prospects and I felt like military service was the only option for me. My fourteen years of service took me to Great Lakes Naval Station, Norfolk, Norway, Bahrain, Dubai, Iran, Japan and countless countries in between. I received world-class training that gave me the skills and confidence to manage a 20-person operations department encompassing two LM2500 GE Gas Turbine Engines, two Allison 501-K13 gas turbine engines, liquid propane air compressors, dehydrators, hydraulics and purifiers.
But despite this experience, when I transitioned from the Navy in 2008 to care for my young family, there were few career opportunities and professional networks available to me. This challenge was compounded by the housing crisis and recession sweeping the U.S. For four years after separating from the Navy, I fixed entry gates at parking decks across the Norfolk area. While this work provided me with stability at home and put food on the table, it did not fully value my experiences and desire to make an impact on our country.
Thankfully, in 2012, I was given an opportunity to enter the clean energy workforce as an electrical systems operator with Acciona Energy, a global leader in renewable energy and infrastructure. Acciona not only opened a new career in the wind energy industry, it also set me on a path to serve on the frontlines of the 21st century clean energy economy.
After Acciona, I joined the team at Invenergy, another global clean energy leader, where I served as a solar and battery storage field service engineer, maintaining 14 projects across seven states. While at Invenergy, I was proud to help stand up the Invenergy Veterans Energy Network, which is the title sponsor for the Atlantic Council’s Veterans Advanced Energy Project founded by Dan Misch, Invenergy’s director of asset management. Additionally, I was honored to participate in the inaugural launch of the Solar Ready Vets program, created in partnership with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Initiative and the Department of Energy. Solar Ready Vets was established to recruit and train veterans into the clean energy sector at all levels, from field service technician to CEO.
Programs like these provide the opportunities and networks that I was looking for when I left the Navy, and have helped more than 25,000 veterans join the clean energy workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind and solar energy technicians are two of the fastest growing career fields in the United States, providing good paying jobs in local communities across the country.
My experiences in wind and solar energy qualified me to work on next-generation technologies like battery storage. In my current role at GlidePath, I manage all operations and maintenance for an operating portfolio of battery storage and solar projects that extend from Guam to Pennsylvania, where my journey began almost 20 years ago.
If my story sounds unique, it is not. Each step along the way has pushed me to the limit and forced me to make hard personal and professional decisions. I don’t expect that to change at any point in my career. When I transitioned from the service in 2008, I never thought I would find a career path where my skills would be valued and that I’d be surrounded with other mission-driven veterans like myself. To all the veterans and military spouses navigating the complex transition process, I know that you too would be welcomed with open arms to our ranks.