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Solar Ready Vets expands training to five more installations

The Energy Department announced Tuesday that five military installations will join Solar Ready Vets, which trains troops for solar industry careers once they transition out of the military.

The five new installations are:

  • Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey
  • Joint Base San Antonio
  • Marine Corps Base Hawaii

They join Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Carson, Colorado; Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and Fort Drum, New York, in offering training for service members who are interested in learning about the solar energy industry.

"With the addition of these five bases, we have met President Obama's goal of expanding the Solar Ready Vets program to 10 bases in its first year," said Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, deputy secretary of energy at the Energy Department.

Through the Defense Department's SkillBridge initiative, service members can participate in the program starting up to six months prior to separation. Since launching in April 2015, 252 service members have graduated from the four- to six-week Solar Ready Vets program. Each class takes about 20 students, and there's no out-of-pocket cost.

"Most everyone who's graduated thus far has had job opportunities immediately available to them in the solar industry," Sherwood-Randall said. "Every graduate has earned at least two interviews with solar companies."

Logan Rozanski, who graduated from the first Solar Ready Vets class at Camp Pendleton in 2015, started working at SunPower a month after finishing the program.

"After the training, we had a bout of interviews with five recruiting teams from five of the largest industry names," said Rozanski, who works as a remote operations control center operator. "The process was a very good model of the civilian recruitment process."

He said there's a strong veterans presence in his office, and it's nice being able to work alongside them.

"No matter where I choose to go, this experience can carry over as long as the location that I'm going to has an established utility grid," Rozanski said.

Sherwood-Randall said not every student who graduates chooses to work in the solar field immediately, but at least it's an option for them.

"They've been in a very structured lifestyle where they didn't have a lot of choice about what they would do next," she said. "They want to figure out what the next sequence is … this is a very valuable option and could be Option 2."

Brig. Gen. Robert LaBrutta, commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio, said more than 3,500 service members transition from the base every year.

"Renewable energy has national security framework consequences to it," he said. "Anything we can do to get a renewable energy source here is going to help us out in securing energy into the future."

The Energy Department also awarded more than $10 million to 10 projects through its Solar Training and Education for Professionals funding program. It supports programs like Solar Ready Vets and will help veterans connect with solar training institutions.

Charlsy Panzino covers veterans education, employment and transition issues, as well as travel, entertainment and fitness. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.

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