What skills did you learn in the military that have benefitted you in your job at MISO? That was one of the questions posed to MISO employee-veterans at the MISO Salutes its Veterans panel discussion on Veterans Day, 2020, as part of the employee All Hands forum.
Seven MISO veterans representing four out of the five U.S. military branches shared stories about their military training, education and experiences and how these led to their careers at MISO. The seven veterans are:
- Sean Bracy, System Operations, (U.S. Navy)
- Chad Connell, Security and Operations Center, (U.S. Air Force)
- Jay Hermacinski, System Operations, (U.S. Army)
- Michelle Lake, Human Resources, (U.S. Army)
- Bill Puller, System Operations, (U.S. Marine Corps)
- Jarred Miland, System Planning, (Air Force)
- Daryl Brown, External Affairs (U.S. Army Reserves)
Their unique but similar experiences and training in the military, whether state-side or overseas, was the centerpiece of the veterans’ panel during the All Hands forum.
In John Bear’s opening comments, he shared that more than 50 MISO employees are military veterans and all of them volunteered to serve. Combined, they have served 427 years in the military. They work in various departments throughout MISO. “The military service of a few of our veterans began in the 1970s and one as late as 2020,” John said. “Many of their skills taught in the military are also MISO Core Values: adaptability, integrity and communication.”
To kick off the veterans’ panel discussion, Jay highlighted how he is proud of MISO’s inclusion of veterans as they bring a different perspective to the job. When the veterans were asked: “Why did you go into the military?” Michelle replied that, “After high school, I did not want to go to college, and I did not want to stay at home, so I chose the Army and made the best of it.” Daryl Brown replied that entering the military was a financial decision for him.
“When I was a senior in college, watching the Twin Towers in New York City fall on 9/11 had a profound impact on me and I later joined the Air Force because it aligned more closely with my college degree,” said Chad Connell. Reminded of the Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, Bill Puller originally had entered the Navy recruiting office, but the Navy recruiter was gone. Soon, the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting officer spotted Bill waiting and invited him into that office. Shortly later, Bill joined the Marines. So, it is Uncle Sam who gets what he wants.
“There is a long history of military service in my family, including my dad, brothers and uncles, so there was no question that military service was in my future,” said Jarred Miland. While Sean Bracy initially wanted to join the Air Force, he “didn’t make the cut,” but he was able to work in aviation while serving in the U.S. Navy.
When asked: “What was your biggest challenge in the military?” there were many humorous stories told. Michelle joined the U.S. Army National Guard for the challenge and experience and was trained as a Motor Transport Operator. “I can jack-knife a semi with the best of them,” she said. “I had a blast driving a two-and-a-half-ton truck backwards out of mud that was up to the headlights,” she added. Michelle also shared that when she was in the military it was a male-dominated arena and women were often told they cannot do something. “I developed my voice and learned to be respectful to meet these challenges,” she added.
While Chad was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, he was responsible for supporting communications for Air Force One and Air Force Two. He shared the story of how former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice was quite furious when she thought they had lost satellite coverage aboard the aircraft for a NFL game. As it turned out, the reason for the lack of coverage was because their membership for the NFL channel had expired. Nevertheless, Chad got a good chewing out. “You take it and you own it,” he said.
Jarred enlisted in the Air Force during the nuclear Cold War. “When you are 19 years old and you are nose-to-nose with 10 B52 bombers that are completely loaded with nuclear weapons, you truly get a sense of the Cold War nuclear challenges,” said Jarred Miland. Some interesting hazing activities, including “the equator”, took place while Sean Bracy was in the U.S. Navy. “It was humiliating, crawling around with food in your ears, but it was a rite of passage and a team-building experience,” he said.
“Leadership” is the skill and talent that Daryl Brown learned during his military experience, which has served him well in his leadership roles. “When you are 21 years old and you lead a group of much older soldiers from all walks of life you learn to adapt and provide creative ways to get the job done, especially when you don’t have all the tools you need. It’s all about teamwork and accomplishing goals together,” Daryl said. Bill Puller believes that “Veterans provide value to MISO as they are able to work well under pressure, can adapt and have a ‘can-do attitude’ that supports teamwork.”
It is evident that the MISO employee-veterans bring a wealth of important skills and assets to their jobs at MISO and are an important part of the MISO family.