From the front lines to the power lines

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Dean Pannell shares Decorating Ideas

Walton EMC Board member and Vietnam War veteran Billy Ray Allen is the recipient of a Bronze Star Medal and two Army Commendation medals for heroism in combat zones.

From the front lines to the power lines

Employees and leaders apply military experience to Walton EMC work

Almost from the time Walton EMC’s first lines were energized, rural electrification and the United States military have been closely aligned.

Expansion of farm production was becoming part of the U.S. World War II production buildup just as the lights started coming on across Walton County’s countryside in 1936. Local farmers were urged to maximize their production of grain, meat and dairy products. Increasing farm production created greater demand for electricity to meet the military’s Food for Freedom goals.

Generations later, the ties between Walton EMC and the armed forces are different, but certainly no less important. We learned decades ago that some of the very best people we could hire to fill positions within the cooperative were those who had worn a uniform in service to their country.

View a Walton EMC video honoring

veterans who serve our customer-owners.

Our current cooperative team includes 18 employees and board members who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. These individuals fill roles, from lineworkers climbing poles to customer care representatives answering questions to engineering experts managing and maintaining our sophisticated electric grid.

In addition to the technical skills these jobs require, Walton EMC employees must be hard-working, disciplined, loyal, safety-conscious and team-oriented — all qualities that are common among military veterans.

Veterans’ views

Veterans now working and serving in leadership positions at Walton EMC agree that their military experience prepared them to better perform their jobs.

Fred Muldrow, a journeyman line technician who has served Walton EMC customer-owners for more than 15 years, joined the Marine Corps “because it’s the toughest.” He says the discipline he learned in the military helps him to better serve co-op members, especially during power outages.

“You may be tired, or hungry, or want to go home to be with your family, but you keep going until that last person is back on.”

“You may be tired, or hungry, or want to go home to be with your family, but you keep going until that last person is back on,” he said. He likened his commitment to putting customer-owners’ needs ahead of his own to the pledge he made when enlisting in the armed forces.

There is commonality among those who serve on the front lines and those who care for power lines, agrees Blain Pulliam, also a Marine Corps veteran. He learned to be ready at a moment’s notice while serving in a unit responsible for recovering downed aircraft and personnel. As a journeyman line technician for Walton EMC, he continues to be among the first called when there’s trouble.

“We’re first responders, so when the power goes out we put everything else behind us to get it back on,” the 16-year employee said. “We understand that not having power changes everything for people. To be a part of restoring that is a big deal to me.”

Walton EMC linemen are also on the front lines when disaster strikes elsewhere. Navy veteran Ben Powell recently returned from Louisiana where he was among hundreds of lineworkers from across the nation who deployed there to help restore power in areas hit hard by Hurricane Laura.

Just as in the Navy, teamwork is essential to accomplishing power restoration in challenging and often-hazardous situations, said the journeyman line technician. He served the country as an electronic warfare specialist assigned to the USS Pensacola.

“You understand that it can’t just be about you.”

“You understand that it can’t just be about you,” the 18-year Walton EMC employee said. “Everyone has to work together toward a common goal.”

Adam Monk, who was an avionics technician in the Air Force, sees many similarities between his military service and his work as a Walton EMC customer care representative.

“Every day is another opportunity to do my job – like in the Air Force — you’re there to do your duty,” he said, comparing the importance of bringing power to the co-op’s customer-owners to his previous work in maintaining instrumentation for U.S. supersonic fighter aircraft. “We all do our job and work really hard… There is a lot of unity and a lot of singularity of purpose I see here at Walton EMC.”

Walton EMC Board member Billy Ray Allen is a Vietnam War veteran who served on an armored tank crew in the Army. He was presented a Bronze Star Medal and two Army Commendation medals for heroism in combat zones where he witnessed loss of life and battlefield horrors. A half-century later, the co-op leader continues to honor fallen comrades with a daily commitment to service — service that often benefits his fellow Walton EMC customer-owners.

“To me, service is about any time one person

does something for another.”

“Even before I was drafted, the word ‘service’ was instilled in my heart,” he said.  “To me, service is about any time one person does something for another.”

Before and after he served in the Army, Allen built power lines that bring electricity to homes and businesses. As a co-op director, he now uses that knowledge to make decisions in the best interest of the customer-owners who elected him.

Honoring service

In 1938, Congress made the 11th of November a holiday — Armistice Day. It marked the anniversary of the end of World War I when major hostilities were formally ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Congress changed the word “Armistice” to “Veterans” in 1954, and November 11 became a day to honor all veterans.

On Veterans Day 2020, we say thank you to all the men and women who have served to keep America strong. At Walton EMC, we are proud of the current and retired employees and board members — 40 in all — who donned a uniform in service to our country. We also want to express our deep appreciation for the co-op’s many customer-owners who are veterans, as well as those serving full time or part time in the armed forces to defend freedom.