By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Due to difficult economic times, a Reduction In Force is currently sweeping the military. This current RIF is leaving many soldiers at a crossroads. Ed Poley of Whirlwind Career Counseling Center for Veterans believes the High Plains region is equipped to offer soldiers experiencing the RIF a smooth transition into a fulfilling civilian career.
Seward County Community College/Area Technical School has three specific programs becoming available either now or in the very near future that could be helpful to soldiers coming to the area following the conclusion of their military careers, Poley said. Oilfield compressor maintenance, he said, is already available at SCCC/ATS.
“There are some real positive things, I think, that are in our area,” Poley said. “The college has three new programs coming on. One of them has already started. It is a maintenance program for the oil patch to maintain huge compressors. It is really a diesel mechanic type job. The engines are huge, some of the pistons are 18 inches in diameter. That is a brand new occupational skill that just started this year and there is a huge need for them.”
Cathodic protection and fluid protection will be coming the SCCC/ATS very soon, Poley said.
“The second thing they started is a cathodic protection and it will start next coming fall,” he said. “Anything through a pipe, the pipe has a tendency to wear out. Natural gas is corrosive and many of the natural gas pipelines that were laid in this part of the world were laid right at the tail end of World War II, and really, when they jumped up was right at the end of the Korean War. All of the good pipe in the world that was around was used by the military, so the pipe that most of the pipeline companies got in the early ’50s and to mid ’60s was inferior pipe that the military had rejected. So, 70 years ago, we built pipelines all over this part of the world with inferior pipe and then we wonder why we have explosions.
“So, what cathodic protection does is it teaches the guys how to determine if there is a potential leak in a section of pipe,” he explained. “It also teaches them how to protect it and how to set it up for the future so things don’t happen.”
Another position, Poley said, could offer soldiers seeking a career a variety of opportunities.
“They are going to have another one that is called fluid production,” he said. “If you move anything through a tube, like the natural gas, there is wear and tear. Whether you are at National Beef moving fat through a tube or at the ethanol plant, those jobs require someone to maintain those tubes.
“They require people to think on their feet and think independently, but it also requires people that will say, ‘I don’t understand what is going on here, I need to call someone,’” he added. “That is a unique combination and to me, that is what our military does.”
Poley believes, with the aid of the GI Bill, soldiers looking to move on with their lives following the RIF can make a life for themselves right here in the area. He also believes soldiers deserve all the respect and encouragement the area could send their way.
“So, I see this as being a perfect marriage of bringing kids to our area to have quality jobs,” he said. “How do we say to our veterans, ‘Thanks, but we don’t need you anymore.’ We have these wonderful ‘welcome home’ ceremonies for our soldiers – then it stops.”