As an 88M-Transport Operator in the United States Army, Donald Kestner was responsible for transporting personnel and cargo, providing advanced mobility on and off the battlefield. Donald served from 1994 to 2013; he was a squad leader and operations non-commissioned officer. He directed and trained troops for missions; he was deployed to Haiti in 1994 and five times to Iraq. He served with bravery, but not without injury – however invisible to others.
Donald went through PTSD counseling and enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Transition program while waiting for his medical board review decision. Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be a challenge for all veterans, but especially those with disabilities. Attending a job fair, he met PRIDE’s recruiter, Cynthia Baca. She mentioned that PRIDE was hiring for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians who were always in demand. Donald went directly to the Western Tech College booth and signed up for HVAC school.
Always good with his hands and engineering, Donald picked up the skills quickly. He attended HVAC school part-time until he completely separated from the military; he lived with his in-laws while he looked for steady employment. Donald took advantage of an externship partnership that PRIDE shares with the technical college to gain hands-on experience and complete his credit hours. He applied for the first opening he saw at PRIDE Industries after completing his coursework. Joining PRIDE’s team in April 2014 allowed him to move to his own home just three months later.
PRIDE Industries provides base wide facilities support services to Fort Bliss through the federal AbilityOne Program. In addition to employment, PRIDE provides accommodations, training and supports to its employees. Having a steady and good-paying job helps Donald cope with anxiety and relieves some of the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress. Since joining PRIDE, he has been promoted twice. He continues to develop his skills and wants to move up through the ranks to Lead Technician. Work and life are better now. “I am happy with my job,” says Donald. “I am grateful for PRIDE.”