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A hiring initiative is connecting veterans, active service members and their spouses with jobs at electric cooperatives across the country.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's Vets Power Us initiative began when the national coalition — which represents more than 900 consumer-owned electric cooperatives in the U.S. to various legislatures — was established in 2016.

Among the cooperatives it represents is Dalton, Georgia-based North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, which serves Walker, Catoosa, Floyd, Murray, Chattooga, Gordon and Whitfield counties in Northwest Georgia.

The North Georgia electric cooperative has hired veterans since its incorporation in 1936, according to John McMahan, the corporation's Human Resources generalist and a retired U.S. Marine.

Ten veterans from various services, including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, now work full time at NGEMC, and several retirees who served in the armed forces are part-time employees, he said.

Among the veterans working at NGEMC are Catoosa and Walker residents, such as apprentice line workers Zachary Hutsell and Adam Hare and communication systems and joint-use technician Ezekiel Nelson.

"Throughout the cooperative veterans serve in various positions, from our transformer shop, information services, operations, system communications and as a consultant to executive leadership," McMahan said.

The jobs initiative benefits both the veterans and the electric cooperatives that hire them, he added.

"Jobs at North Georgia EMC are a good fit for veterans transitioning to civilian life because of the many parallels between military culture and the electric cooperative culture," said McMahan, explaining that values taught in the Army — such as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage — complement the Georgia cooperative's values of teamwork, integrity and operational excellence. "The cooperative is also a good fit for transitioning veterans because of the many tangible qualities, such as many jobs that are both technical and physically demanding, in an industry that provides a necessary service to the community."

He also said employing veterans brings a sense of camaraderie and teamwork to the co-op, as they understand the importance of working together to accomplish a common goal.

"Their experience gained while serving makes veteran employees great problem-solvers who can carry out their responsibilities with resolve and careful execution, especially during a crisis," said McMahan.

The extensive training in leadership, safety and risk management that service members receive also makes them a natural fit for many electric co-op careers, he said.

Aside from those transferable skills, the cooperative provides veterans with career-specific training such as the three-year system control technician program and the four-year apprentice line worker program.

"Veterans often naturally gravitate to this type of career that provides the opportunity to continue to be part of something bigger than themselves," McMahan said. "I consider NGEMC's ongoing effort to attract service members a success, and look forward to seeing even more veterans hired at NGEMC."

For more information, visit electric.coop/vetspowerus.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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