For many veterans leaving the military, transitioning from active duty to civilian life isn’t an easy process. There are a number of hard questions to grapple with: where to live, what careers to pursue, does continuing education make sense? Friends and colleagues are left behind, which can make an already disruptive process even rockier.
For former Marine infantry officer Ben Stafford, however, the close-knit network of veterans working in the wind industry helped ease the transition.
Ben served the country for six and a half years–as a rifle platoon commander, company executive officer, and finally an instructor–but eventually was ready to move on. As he contemplated what to do next, GE’s Junior Officer Leadership Program (JOLP) offered a compelling option.
JOLP’s mission is to “transition high performing military officers into successful GE careers.” Designed around three eight-month rotations, JOLP gives returning veterans a variety of firsthand experience to help them successfully move on to the next chapters of their lives. Ben began the program in 2013, and his first rotation involved GE’s renewable business, then part of the Power and Water Program.
When Ben completed JOLP’s two-year program, he returned to GE’s wind arm in January of this year, now its own branch, GE Renewables. Today he’s a Commercial Leader working in wind energy sales. What attracted Ben to wind power?
“People feel great about their work,” he told me. “It’s a dynamic space and an exciting industry and an exciting product. It was a compelling place to want to come back to.”
And GE’s strong veteran presence made settling into his new career easy.
“It’s nice when there’s a few people who have been in your shoes and who have made the transition recently,” he said. “I can’t emphasize enough the value of having an existing veterans network like the one that welcomed me into GE.”
Ben also has a theory about why so many veterans are attracted to the wind industry, and why they tend to be so successful. The fast-paced and distributed nature of the business are well-suited to military experience, where soldiers are given tasks and expected to perform them well without necessarily close oversight.
“People recognize the innate qualities and skill of someone with military experience,” Ben said.
Fortunately, Ben’s experience is common. Many of the 88,000 Americans working in wind today have served our country, and the U.S. wind industry is proud they’re a large and growing part of our community.