For many of our veterans, returning from war leaves them feeling lost and unsure about their future. Many are unemployed. But hundreds of them have founds jobs in the controversial gas drilling industry across northern Pennsylvania. In part two of her series, When Soldiers Return, our Lara Greenberg tells us why our vets appear to be a great fit for work with hydrofracking crews.
BRADFORD COUNTY, PA. -- Lucas Welch is a US Army vet. He spent two years in Germany and two in Iraq. He admits that coming home to the States and readjusting to a non-military life was not easy.
Welch, a Chesapeake Energy Field Engineer said, “It takes some time. It’s kind of like you’re living on the edge and you’re used to going 24/7 and there’s quite a few differences.”
But he’s one of the lucky ones. Welch had a job to come home to once he left the military. He’s now a field engineer for Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest natural gas drilling company. For the past few months, he’s been working on this small gas well site in Standing Stone Township, Pennsylvania.
“It’s on a rotation like that until I get to the point where I’ve got enough knowledge to then go into a role where I’ll hopefully be in charge of this type of job,” said Welch.
He said Chesapeake is the kind of company that makes the transition smoother for veterans.
Welch said, “Chesapeake’s a company that values military experience and understands that.”
Veterans who come to work in the gas drilling industry say they enjoy the work because it’s very similar to the work they do overseas in the military.
“The culture and the work in the natural gas industry fits military people well because it’s what we’re used to in the military, being outside, some of the hard work and the type of people you work with and those kinds of things,” said Welch.
Chesapeake recruited Welch to join them as part of the company’s Junior Military Officer or JMO program. One that’s recruited hundreds of veterans in the past few years.
John Jukes, Chesapeake Energy Field Recruiter said, “We’ve always hired veterans. It’s something we’ve clearly looked for in the past. But I would say approximately three years ago, we really began to focus on it.”
Chesapeake Energy has more than 850 veterans working for them nationwide. More than 350 of them were hired in the last three years.
They use the JMO program and other programs like Troop Transition to reach out specifically to veterans. In fact, Chesapeake was recently named one of G-I Jobs Top 100 Employers for Veterans. Recruiter John Jukes said the veterans are better workers than they could ask for.
“The work ethic, the team, personal responsibility. All those things are such huge wins for us. And then on the enlisted side, these guys, they’re used to working long hours in any conditions and that work ethic again. They really are incredible men and women and they’re a huge asset to the organization,” said Jukes.
And veterans said working for Chesapeake makes them feel like they’re still performing a service for their country.
Jake Swanson, Completions Foreman said, “Especially being in the Navy, having to go overseas and deal in foreign affairs with energy. Finding a job that works toward American energy independence was kind of a rewarding thing.”
Chesapeake Energy isn’t the only major corporation that specifically seeks out veterans.
But these veterans say it’s a good fit for them. They’re happy to learn new skills and have steady work.
Welch said, “You might not have the specific skills for that job but you have leadership and hard work, teamwork, all those types of skills. And you can easily be taught the specific skills for a particular job.”
Hydrofracking is not the only industry hiring veterans, especially in New York, where that type of gas drilling is not allowed.