TEP’s largest wind farm is powered by veterans who transitioned into the renewable energy field after their military service.
The New Mexico team at the Oso Grande Wind Project is led by Asset Manager Michael Bryan and Steven Lavinger, Supervisor of Oso Grande, who both served in U.S. Air Force. The three Wind Turbine Techs are veterans.
“These truly are great guys and outstanding additions to the TEP family,” Bryan said. “Their attention to detail in every task and willingness to take on any challenge sets them apart. They have served their country with dignity and honor and I am a better person for knowing them.”
Meet the three techs, who explain how and why they made the transition to renewable energy.
Maxwell was unsure what he was going to do after leaving the United States Army. Then, after signing some papers at a military office, he made a quick stop at a Red Bull vending machine.
Recruiters approached Maxwell as he was surveying the selections. They asked if he would be interested in Airstreams Renewables, which has a program to train transitioning active duty service members for a career in renewable energy.
“I gave them five minutes of my time and I thought maybe I should give this a shot,” Maxwell said.
Growing up on a farm on the Navajo Reservation, Maxwell came from a military family. His parents met while serving in the U.S. Marines. As a middle schooler, his older brother was stationed in Afghanistan and Maxwell listened in on phone calls about his deployment. “That was definitely a big motivator.”
Maxwell served in Afghanistan and Kuwait before leaving active duty in October 2020. He’s stayed in the U.S. National Guard, working on a wildfire mission and participating in a shooting competition, making the regionals.
Before entering the renewable energy industry, Maxwell had long been intrigued by wind turbines. They caught his eye as he drove by them on his travels, and he was attracted by the idea of climbing for repair work. Now, he enjoys the work, especially his coworkers.
“It makes my day. I get to hang out with some veterans and military folk,” Maxwell said. “It’s easy to work together here.”
A South Texas native, Martinez had never been farther than Louisiana when he joined the United States Marine Corps after high school.
The military gave him the chance to see snow for the first time in Missouri, live on both the West and East coasts and get a background that led him to train as a wind tech.
Upon leaving the military in 2019, he enrolled in the Michigan Institute of Aeronautical Training, which had a wind tech program. “It was something new. I saw the growing potential in wind since back home, they were putting up wind turbines everywhere. It just fueled my interest.”
Because he finished school during the pandemic, it was difficult to find a job at first. But when he learned about the TEP position, he quickly got an interview. “It had a very good vibe.”
Since starting at Oso Grande in September 2020, he’s enjoyed the various roles he’s taken on for the small and new team.
“It’s been a good transition. It’s helpful that I got those competencies from my military background and I’m putting them to work here,” Martinez said. “Everybody has a different background, but we have shared experiences. We all basically know where we’re coming from when it comes to a military background.”
For Joseph, a job at Oso Grande means that he can live in his hometown of Roswell, NM, and work in a promising field.
Joseph joined the U.S. Army to find new challenges following a construction job in Roswell. After serving for four years in Korea and Colorado Springs, he left the service and worked for a cement processor in the oil fields in Texas. It wasn’t what he was looking for.
Time was running out to use his GI Bill, so he went to school to become a Wind Turbine Technician at the Northwest Renewable Energy Institute. “It seemed that renewable energy was ramping up in America and it’s not going away. I figured it was time to jump in,” Joseph said.
Plus, he appreciated the environmental benefits.
At first, Joseph worked as a contractor for Harvest Energy, traveling around the country to do tower inspections. Then, he learned about the Oso Grande opportunity, which would allow him to stay put in Roswell, where his family lived while he traveled for work.
“It feels like a bright future,” Joseph said.