It’s no secret many of our nuclear workers are also military veterans. But, some continue to serve their country while also powering their communities.
Both the military and nuclear energy industry require dedication and intense focus. So, how do active guardsmen and reservists balance these commitments simultaneously?
“Balancing both roles can be difficult, but the most important part to making it work is communication,” said Matthew Hamblen, a security officer at Harris Nuclear Plant and an active member of the NC Air National Guard. Hamblen takes time to explain his commitment to the Air National Guard to his nuclear supervisors – a commitment that’s much more than one weekend a month. But his consistent communication has paid off. “My supervisor has been nothing but understanding and supportive of my military obligations since I have been at Harris.”
That a sentiment echoed by Bryan Pipkin, a senior nuclear maintenance technician at Robinson Nuclear Plant, who has worked for Duke Energy for 21 years. He also just returned from a year deployment to Washington, D.C., as a tactical director for the 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. Duke Energy “has always and continues to support my training and when I go away on duty for extended periods of time.”
Many servicemen and servicewomen, like Hamblen and Pipkin, bring valuable technical skills and leadership qualities to our nuclear fleet and our company. Pipkin’s excellent leadership skills and technical and tactical expertise, for example, earned him the Army Meritorious Service Medal – one of the highest peacetime honors you can earn – as well as the Air Force Commendation Medal. “I feel [my military service] has made me a more reliable, dependable and well-rounded employee,” said Pipkin.
It’s only fitting that, as a nuclear fleet and company, we support our active service members. Military leave and job and pay retention are just a few ways Duke Energy provides for reservists and guardsmen. “Knowing that if I were to have to deploy, Duke Energy will hold my job for a maximum of five years, as well as pay me the difference if my military pay is less than what I make here is quite outstanding,” said Lt. Matthew Aucompaugh, another member of the Harris Nuclear Plant security team and a platoon sergeant/senior field artillery instructor with the NC National Guard.
The U.S. Department of Defense recently recognized Duke Energy for its efforts working with the military. The company was one of 15 recipients of the 2018 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest U.S. government honor to civilian employers for support of National Guard and reserve employees. What makes the award particularly meaningful is that nominations must come from a guard or reserve member who is employed by the company they are nominating.
Although he was not the person who nominated Duke Energy for the award, Hamblen is grateful for the encouragement his Harris teammates have shown him. Being a member of Team Harris, as well as the NC Air National Guard, “is the best of both worlds,” he said. “I get to work for a great company like Duke Energy and continue to serve my country.”