According to the United States Energy & Employment Report 2021, compiled by the Department of Energy, veterans make up approximately 9% of the jobs in the generation portion of the electric sector and approximately 7% of the jobs in the transmission, distribution, and storage portion of the electric sector, while they make up approximately 6% of the U.S. workforce overall. For those of us working in the electric sector, this is not surprising. And, while greater minds than mine have undoubtedly analyzed the reasons for this strong connection between veterans and our sector, I’ll posit several of my own:
- Both involve service. Members of the military defend our country, whether on the front lines or in supporting roles, while those in the electric sector provide a critical service that undergirds modern life.
- Both can involve risk. Members of the military on the front lines, or training to be on the front lines, risk bodily harm or even their lives, and electric lineworkers do the same given the dangers of working with live electricity.
- Both emphasize training. Because of the inherent risks as well as the potential complexity of the jobs that both military members and electric workers are asked to do, training is paramount, as is ongoing education.
- Both emphasize safety. While there is an inherent risk in certain jobs in both the military and electric sectors, both seek to minimize the risk through ongoing safety training as well as constant safety reminders throughout the chains of command. For example, most electric sector meetings, whether for office staff or field staff, involve a “safety moment” at the beginning of the meeting to emphasize the locations of emergency exits or other safety protocols.
- Both involve a 24/7/365 mentality. Members of the military must protect our country and our freedoms at every moment of every day while electric lineworkers, control room operators, and power generation facility workers must keep the power flowing all the time (or restore it quickly if the infrastructure is damaged). This takes grit and discipline.
- Both can involve creativity. “Necessity is the mother of invention” applies often in the military — and in the electric sector — where solving problems and getting the job done in real time are hallmarks of both arenas.
As we celebrate the U.S. Marine Corps’ 246th birthday on November 10, and honor all veterans on November 11, I want to send a special thank you to those veterans who have continued their service to their communities and country as part of the electric sector, and especially those who live and work in communities served by not-for-profit public power utilities. On a personal note, I want to thank my brother, Lt. Colonel Kyle Ditto, USMC (Ret.) for his service and bravery, my father, Colonel John Ditto, USMC (Dec.), for his bravery and for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and my stepfather, Captain Gerald Coffee, US Navy (Ret.), for his humility, his bravery, for the pictures he took of the Russian ballistic missile silos on Cuba during the missile crisis, and for the seven years of his life he sacrificed in a prison cell in Hanoi. My appreciation for you and others like you is deep and profound.