New Pathway To Clean Energy Jobs For Military Veterans

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EPA chief Scott Pruitt is having a little trouble grasping the importance of clean tech in the survival of our planet, but the US Department of Defense is taking yet another step to achieve a more sustainable state of things. In the latest development, DoD has expanded a new program that provides paid internships connecting military veterans with high level energy jobs in the armed services.

The ultimate goal is to nail down the “long-term energy sustainability for the future fleet and force,” so let’s take a closer look at that.

Energy Jobs And National Defense

To one extent or another, energy jobs have been built into the armed services ever since fighting forces switched from actual horsepower to mechanical horsepower. Energy is the critical platform for force effectiveness, so energy awareness comes with the territory.

The US experience in fighting desert wars has prompted DoD to adopt solar power and take other measures — including energy efficiency — to reduce dependency on fuel supply lines.

The US Navy, in particular, has promoted a culture of energy awareness. That includes the Marine Corps. Here’s some representative insights from a Staff Sergeant in a Marine Corps maintenance division:

…a single generator can weigh 5,000–10,000 pounds. They are the heart behind our operations, and we have to account for not only the fuel that powers them, but also the fuel to transport them, the spare parts and the back-up generators. Simply put, our forward-deployed power needs have an enormous logistical footprint.


…your life might depend on your ability to communicate, which depends on the power stored in your batteries, which depend on electricity from the generators or vehicles, which depend on the availability of fuel. It is all connected, and it shows how much we rely on energy.

We have become power-addicted and power-reliant — not just in the Corps, but in society. Luckily, we’re innovating and working toward a future where we have supplies of power that are highly mobile and removed from the fuel convoy, like solar. I’m looking forward to that future.

More Energy Jobs For Veterans

The US solar and wind industries have known for years that veterans’ skill sets — discipline, team building and technical savvy — are a good match for civilian energy jobs.

Perhaps inspired by the trend, the Office of Naval Research has launched a paid internship program for veterans under its Energy System Technology Evaluation Program.

ESTEP is broadly designed to improve energy use throughout the Department of the Navy. By tapping into veterans’ skill sets, the Navy aims to accelerate its transition into more sustainable operations:

43% of veterans indicate their military specialization was STEM related. With a well documented shortage in qualified candidates in the U.S. STEM workforce, “Veterans with STEM military work experience, paired with a degree, are better prepared to start contributing to  a job at a higher level than recent graduates without military experience.”

Here’s ONR explaining why the fossil fuel model for national defense is not sustainable:

…We have seen the dangers faced by our Marines when it came to resupplying forward operating bases. We see the dramatic costs involved in providing the fleet and force with enough fuel and energy to run their bases at home and accomplish their missions around the world.

The ESTEP internship program also has a cyber security component in addition to clean tech elements, including energy efficiency and storage, and strategies for lightweight personal power.

The internship program is a win-win, providing veterans with jobs while also filling energy-related slots in the armed services with employees who are already familiar with military culture:

…the unique program merges academia and naval commands in an effort to advance energy technologies to meet critical naval needs and reduce one of the biggest costs for the services — as well as some of the biggest dangers, including resupply runs in combat zones.

Veterans who already have hands-on experience with clean tech while on active duty provide yet another layer of benefit.

Support Our Troops!

Speaking of veterans jobs, the US Department of Energy recently stepped up its veterans solar training program.

No word yet on whether or not that program will survive the Republican budget axe.

Meanwhile, the ESTEP paid internship program is still going strong. For more information check out the Veterans Center at California State University at San Marcos.

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Image (screenshot): US Office of Naval Research via YouTube.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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