Veteran’s Salute – Vernon Alcorn

While working on an Idaho ranch as a young adult, Vernon Alcorn decided he wanted a larger purpose in life. In 1994, he and a friend both decided to apply to the Idaho National Guard.

“The training was mentally challenging,” said Vernon. “However, I adjusted well and was excited to make the military my career.” After two years in the National Guard, he enlisted in the US Army as part of the 46th Engineer Battalion.

Vernon served 21 years in the Army, advancing from a Private E1 to First Sergeant E8. In 1998, he was sent to his first overseas deployment to Nicaragua for a humanitarian mission. Fast forward to 2003 – Vernon was part of the first army troops sent over for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later went again for combat operations in 2008 – 2009, as well as to South Korea in 2013 for an operations support position and to a final deployment in Afghanistan in 2014.

Serving in the military gave Vernon an opportunity to become a leader and an effective team builder. His dedication and bravery won him many awards, including two bronze stars. “My proudest moment serving was the day I became a First Sergeant in Afghanistan,” said Vernon. “With this position came the responsibility of commanding 294 soldiers – the height of my career.”

After returning home from Afghanistan, Vernon was on track to become a Sergeant Major but decided to retire in 2015 while stationed in Fort Polk, LA. “I enjoyed my time in the Army and the camaraderie I had with fellow soldiers. However, as my kids got older, I wanted to spend more time with my family.”

Starting a new career at any time presents challenges; this is often compounded when applying military skills to civilian positions. Like many veterans, Vernon struggled with making the career transition between soldier and civilian. “I applied to several jobs with very little luck. Most interviews went downhill after I had mentioned I was in the military. I went from a management position to an entry-level job to help support my family.”

Fortunately, Vernon kept searching for better opportunities and applied for a Quality Control Assistant Manager position at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk contract.

“From the start of my interview, I knew that this company was different. My prior work in the military was viewed as a positive aspect rather than something that I needed to hide,” said Vernon. He was hired in 2016 and shortly afterward was promoted to the Forward Operating Base/Range Facilities Manager.

“My job at PRIDE gives me purpose as a civilian,” says Vernon. “The Army never leaves you, and I enjoy being able to support the training on Fort Polk in a civilian capacity. It makes a positive impact on my life being able to work with people with disabilities and see their accomplishments. One of my children has a disability, and I know how important it is to have opportunities to enter meaningful careers with room for advancement.”

In his tenure at PRIDE, Vernon has become a valued team member. His advice for other veterans transitioning from the military is “Be prepared for change – I worked my way to the top and had to start all over again. Understand that a lot of companies won’t know what your job role is or your skills. Go in with an open mind.”

Veteran’s Salute – Kathryn Strawder

“After graduating high school, I had little experience but lots of ambition.” Kathryn (Kathy) Strawder enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1995 to start a meaningful career with potential. “I enrolled as a Private, the lowest rank possible. The transition was rough; I felt like I made a huge mistake. However, the rigorous training was necessary to build us up.”

After Basic and Advanced Individual Training AIT training, Kathy joined the 17th Signal Battalion in Kitzingen, Germany. Throughout her career, she was stationed in Germany, Fort Hood, Korea, and Fort Bliss, including a deployment to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission.

“In Bosnia, we dressed in full battle rattle (combat uniform). It was tough for my team, but we were always supportive and helped each other to get through the mission. I gratefully landed back in Germany after the deployment was over.”

With determination and drive, Kathy soon rose above the challenges. “When I was a young Specialist, I attended school to become a Non-Commissioned Officer. I received three awards, including the Commandant’s List (Honors Award), Iron Soldier, and Class A. After graduation, some female officers told me how proud they were of me for representing women in the force. I then went back to my unit and won Soldier of the Month.”

Kathy was promoted to Sergeant and enrolled in the Green to Gold Educational Program to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. “I never forget that every contribution, no matter how small, contributed to the success of our team. The Army taught me important leadership skills including mentoring, resiliency, patience, and focus.”

“To this day, I’m proud to have served for over a decade in active duty and the Army Reserves. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Kathy left the Army in 2009 to concentrate on her family. “The first six months after leaving were the most challenging – I felt like I had lost my identity. There were so many new things I had to get used to, including signing up for benefits and even picking out work clothes.”

“I still miss the Army, but I love the life that I have now. My advice to other veterans adjusting to civilian life is to have a plan, be open to new ideas and experiences and most importantly don’t give up.”

Kathy worked as a civilian within the military field until she was hired in 2014 at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss  contract as Human Resources Director – helping manage employee relations for a small city of facilities experts that keep the base operational.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be part of this wonderful company,” says Kathy. “I can’t say enough how much I love my job. My son has Autism, and I can only imagine what the parents who started this company had in mind when they envisioned something better for their children. Just like the Army, I believe in PRIDE’s mission!”

Veteran’s Salute – David Daniel

“My dad served in the military for 30 years. He inspired me to join as well.” David Daniel served in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 2012, enlisting shortly after graduating high school.

“My transition to military life was slightly humorous. At basic training, you follow a strict regimen: when to get up, go to sleep, make your bed, fold your clothes and hang your uniforms,” said David. “Coming from a military family, I thought this was normal. I guess this helped me make squad leader!”

After his first overseas assignment to Guam, David was sent to Patrick AFB in Florida in 1990. Shortly afterward, he was sent to Kuwait for the Gulf War. “It was a surreal experience,” said David. “I packed up and said goodbye to my friends and family, and still couldn’t believe I was leaving.”

David served multiple tours throughout his time in the Air Force, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “You realize that you are much more capable than you thought. I understood this especially during my deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan; when my team was attacked.”

Through his dedication and exemplary work, David moved from Airman Basic (E-1) in 1984 to Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) in 2012. The Air Force led him all over the world including the Middle East, South America, East Asia and Europe.

Throughout his career, David has completed many roles in civil engineering, helping keep various bases safely running through times of conflict and peace. His bravery also earned him several awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star.

“I went to 19 countries – and loved them all,” said David. “However, my most memorable moment was a 2010 humanitarian deployment to Suriname. I was asked to lead a RED HORSE team (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) to build medical clinics and schools. It was an incredible experience to create a positive impact.”

At the end of his career, David served as the Superintendent for the 87th Mission Support Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey – acting as the principal advisor to the Commander on all enlistment issues for 3,911 personnel.

Although he had enjoyed serving in the military, David looked forward to a new beginning. “I officially retired on November 1st, 2012, serving a total 28 years, ten months and 14 days,” said David.

“I enjoyed my career, but it was the right time to end. Thankfully, PRIDE Industries offered me a position as the Operations Manager at the Ft. Bliss contract.”

Working in a familiar environment helped make his military transition easier. “My transition went rather smoothly,” explained David. “I moved from Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB-MDL), NJ to Ft. Bliss, TX and took off the uniform. I was also fortunate to have my Dad’s advice to know what to expect.”

In 2015, David joined PRIDE’s Western Currency Facility contract as the General Manager. He currently manages a team of 50 people, including those with disabilities and veterans. “I love that PRIDE gives people opportunities and confidence through employment.”

“Working for PRIDE has positively impacted my life, and I enjoy the ability to build teams who accomplish more than they ever imagined.”

We are Forever Grateful

PRIDE Industries Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, we honor all the men and women who have served in time of peace and war. Today, we salute you acknowledging your contributions and sacrifice to safeguard our freedom and liberties.

At PRIDE Industries, we understand that Veterans may have difficulty adjusting to civilian life. The skills developed in service to one’s country include leadership, teamwork, and adaptability to changing needs. These are qualities valued by any employer.  Still, military jobs do not always translate easily to the civilian workforce. Disability adds another hurdle. Our programs and partnerships help veterans reenter the workforce after their valiant service to our country. We help veterans find their place in the working world, providing the tools needed to ensure their success.

To all  who serve, we say “thank you.” We are forever grateful.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Christopher Telles

PRIDE Industries Veteran _ C. Telles 2015

‘Semper fidelis’ is a Latin phrase meaning “always faithful” or “always loyal.” Known as the Marine’s motto, it exemplifies a commitment to service and country. It also exemplifies Christopher Telles’ approach to life.

Christopher Telles, 29 served in the Marines from 2005 to 2013. He was deployed three times with tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines. Constant physical training and multiple firefights left Christopher with physical and emotional scars. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress, and degenerative back disease.

When he returned home, Christopher became a caregiver for his grandfather, a fellow Marine veteran who was like a father to him. He also enrolled in trade school for welding and started working part-time at a welding shop in hopes of launching a career. However, as his back condition worsened, Christopher had to quit his job because his employer would not accommodate his numerous medical appointments. Fortunately, his brother-in-law, Carlos Ramirez, connected Christopher to PRIDE Industries where he also worked.

Chris was hired as a general maintenance worker supporting PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Bliss. Under the AbilityOne program – a federal initiative to create jobs for individuals with significant disabilities – PRIDE Industries provides base wide facilities support to this critical Army installation.  Christoper began by working on the ranges but has since moved to the Appliance Shop, where he assists with welding and plumbing, following his passion. “Getting a job with PRIDE Industries was a match made in heaven,” said Christopher. PRIDE allows Christopher to see his doctor when necessary and has encouraged him to continue his trades training. “My back was really messed up and PRIDE has really shown support by providing accommodations for doctor’s appointments, as well as for attending welding school. I don’t know of any other company that would do this,” says Christopher.

Christopher pays it forward as an active volunteer in his community. Recently, he extended his support to the American Patriots at Shadow Mountain Lake – a nonprofit group that provides rehabilitation, therapy, job networking and training to veterans like himself. The nonprofit hosts events and barbecues for veterans on a private lake that had become terribly overgrown and in desperate need of maintenance. Sixty volunteers showed with shovels and rakes, but one showed up with a tractor: Christopher. In record time, he was able to clear roads and fill pot holes while the other volunteers focused on beautification projects.

Recognizing Christopher from another event, the nonprofit’s executive director sent a letter to PRIDE’s General Manager, Jeff Belles. “It wasn’t a surprise to see a person like him helping us out,” wrote Hector Hernandez. “Mr. Christopher Telles is someone that will do bigger and better things for your company. Please thank him for us. He left his tractor there for us to continue to use; only kind-hearted people with passion and purpose do this.” Thanks to Christopher’s generosity, the area was cleared, and the grand opening remained on schedule.

Christopher lives with his wife and three children. He hopes to be a role model to them, leading by example. “It is important to me to show my children that even though I have gone through a lot in the military and now have a disability, I can still work and be a productive member of the community,” says Christopher.

After he completes his welding apprenticeship, Christopher plans to continue his education and study renewable energy at the University so he can assist PRIDE Industries in achieving Fort Bliss’s sustainability goals. “Working for PRIDE doesn’t make me feel like I am limited by my disability,” says Christopher. “PRIDE gives me the tools to work while having a disability.”

Saluting Those Who Serve: Donald Kestner

PRIDE Industries Veteran _ D Kestner 2015 B

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.”

Saluting Those Who Serve: Charles Green

PRIDE Industries Charles G_FB

In the battlefield, when the United States Army needs advance information about the enemy, they call on the Scouts. This was Charles Green’s first job in the military during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Acting as the commander’s eyes and ears on the battlefield, Scouts track and report enemy movements, and engage the enemy whenever necessary.  In all, Charles served 21 years and was deployed multiple times. In between deployments, he was stationed at Fort Bliss, where he works today for PRIDE Industries.

Charles retired from the military in 2011. His time in the service took a physical and mental toll. Like many veterans, he struggled with the transition from military to civilian life. “I was used to taking care of myself and being financially independent. This period was difficult to adjust to,” says Charles. He got a job with a company that supplies the military but was laid off after 18 months due to company restructuring. Charles decided to attend a trades college to earn his associate’s degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).  A classmate told him about PRIDE Industries’ facilities work at Fort Bliss. Charles applied for an externship to gain practical, hands-on experience. He excelled and was hired in October 2013 as a Material Trades Helper. Charles’ work ethic and talent stood out – he was promoted twice more within a year, first to General Maintenance Worker and then to an HVAC Tech II.

Charles takes pride in his career as an HVAC technician. He has found a welcome and comfortable place to work on the base, surrounded by soldiers and military personnel. “I love my job. I have never been with a company that provides the type of training and support that PRIDE provides,” says Charles. In a place as hot and cold as the Texas desert can get, Charles says: “It brings me great satisfaction when I can fix a soldier’s air conditioning or heating.”

PRIDE provides a helper for Charles due to his physical limitations. Training provides an opportunity for advancement and career growth. Charles appreciates the support:  “Other companies give you the service orders, and you are on your own.  PRIDE gives you an opportunity, despite your disability.”

Charles’ contributions have been recognized by both PRIDE staff and military customers on base. He greatly enjoys working on a military installation and the opportunity to continue to serve the troops. He is comfortable being around military members and can relate to them on their level.  He prides himself on knowing his Military Customs and Courtesies and is happy to use them still on a daily basis. “I love my job,” Charles says. “Being an HVAC Tech has changed my perspective and brings me great satisfaction.”

 

Saluting Those Who Serve

Each November, our nation sets aside a day to collectively honor and recognize those that serve – past and present – to protect our freedom. To all veterans we say “thank you.” Your many personal and professional sacrifices help to ensure the liberties we all enjoy. We are forever grateful.

PRIDE Industries’ programs and partnerships help veterans re-enter the workforce with honor, dignity and understanding. Our contracts on military bases provide a welcome and familiar environment for veterans where they can enhance their skills and advance their careers while serving their fellow soldiers.

PRIDE Profile: William A. Green

Veterans Day William G

William A. Green IV was born in Queens, New York and raised in McDonald, Pennsylvania. He lost his father at age 5 and his mother at age 16. He took care of himself while finishing high school and then joined the service. He enlisted in the Army in March 1983 as a Power Generation Equipment Repairer. “The Army was my family and every soldier was my brother and sister,” says William “You become so tight-knit and rely on each other- especially when deployed.”

William attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Advanced and Individual Training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He served in a variety of key leadership positions with his last being as the U. S. Army Garrison Command Sergeant Major, Fort Bliss, Texas. He was injured in Iraq twice and received two Bronze Stars. “Whether it’s a peace mission or combat, the military molds you and changes you forever. It makes you appreciate life and the things you have. Possessions come and go but experiences with people are what life is truly about.”

William retired from the Army in October, 2011 when he joined PRIDE Industries. After being in the Army for 30 years, he was a little apprehensive about his future.

“I spent my entire military career helping people and wanted to continue that when I got out of the service,” says William. “I didn’t just want an easy job; I wanted something that would continue to challenge me and make me grow as a person. I found that job with PRIDE Industries.”

Working at Fort Bliss Texas allowed William to continue to serve his soldiers – as customers and fellow employees. With almost 500 PRIDE employees at Fort Bliss, 87 are veterans. “The work we do together is amazing,” says William. “With over 1.1 million acres of land and 25 million square feet of building space, we do everything from grounds maintenance to electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and HVAC. In essence, we are taking care of a small city.”

William wears two hats at PRIDE: Assistant General Manager and HR Director. His experience as Garrison Command Sergeant helps PRIDE to serve our customer better. His leadership and dedication support our employees as an advocate and mentor.

“I’m glad to be a part of the PRIDE team,” says William. “We have taken the lead in recognizing and helping our veterans transition from military to civilian life. In the military, I had a great family with my fellow soldiers. Now I have a great new family with PRIDE!”

Below is a video of the 2013 AbilityOne Honor Roll for Veterans Award Winner Andrew Weissenberger, a PRIDE Industries employee at our Fort Rucker contract.

Today We Honor You

American Heroes II

Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans giving thanks to those who have served, are serving, or will serve our country honorably during war or peace time.

All of us at PRIDE Industries share a deep admiration and appreciation for the women and men who commit themselves to service for our county. Today we honor you.

To all PRIDE’s veterans, we thank you and we salute you.