On Oct. 1, 2015, I became the director at Idaho National Laboratory. I’m grateful for so many things associated with this unique opportunity, including a heightened appreciation for this day and those we honor.
That’s because the military and our veterans are a vital part of INL’s fabric.
Our laboratory was built on land once used as a Naval proving ground. The U.S. nuclear Navy was born at the Submarine Thermal Reactor on the INL site in 1953 and nuclear propulsion technology has been continuously modernized with strong contributions from our Advanced Test Reactor.
The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has its own facility on the INL site, and the laboratory works closely with the departments of Defense and Homeland Security on projects vital to America’s security.
But it’s not our history or work projects that inspired me to put pen to paper today.
It’s our people.
About 10 percent of our staff identify as veterans. That’s nearly 500 people working in a variety of areas.
INL’s veterans secure our staff and facilities on the laboratory’s 890-square-mile site, operate nuclear reactors, protect our nation’s critical infrastructure from man-made and natural threats and so much more, including communications, accounting and administration.
Most of the time, these good people are simply my friends and colleagues. Like all of us at INL, they take great pride in their work and the trust our fellow citizens place in us to resolve the nation’s clean energy and national security challenges.
Leading up to this special day, however, one cannot fail to notice the spring in their steps and pride in their eyes.
It’s not lost upon them that, on Veterans Day, we set aside our differences. At community events, with Old Glory flying high and The Star-Spangled Banner booming out over loudspeakers, we are all Americans, united in our gratitude for those who served — and continue to serve — our nation.
This is their day, to be honored, thanked and celebrated for putting themselves in harm’s way so we might enjoy the freedoms articulated in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
My challenge to our organization is to carry forward the spirit of this important day to Nov. 12 and beyond.
One way we do that is by making sure veterans from across Idaho and throughout our nation know they are welcome at INL.
Veterans’ unemployment has been steadily decreasing for two decades. And yet, 326,000 U.S. veterans, including many in communities throughout Idaho, remain unemployed.
Many more are underemployed, meaning they are working jobs for which they are overqualified and, as a result, underpaid.
There is great dignity in work and the satisfaction that comes with supporting a family and contributing to society.
That’s why INL teamed up with the Idaho Department of Labor, the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization and Idaho National Guard in 2018 to hold a series of “Hiring our Heroes” seminars.
That’s why Boise State University, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies and the Navy are examining ways to optimize pathways between the military and INL and make sure veterans have access to education and training that will allow them to make a good living and raise their families here at home.
So far in 2019, INL has added 574 new employees. For some positions, we can’t hire quickly enough to fill the need.
Opportunities abound at the laboratory, and, for a variety of reasons, veterans often are an ideal fit at INL.
Soldiers tend to be disciplined, smart, value teamwork and possess a strong sense of patriotism. Many possess the technical know-how and training required to conduct mission-critical work at INL.
Please help us spread the word. And please join with me in celebrating our friends, co-workers, family and neighbors on this Veterans Day.
Let’s continue to be united, not just in support for our veterans, but also in our determination to leave future generations a world that is safer, cleaner, more prosperous and secure.