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Duke Energy supports veterans


Klemas journey from being a veteran to Duke Energy.

If Tyler Klemas had known what he knows now, he would have looked for work as a lineworker after leaving the United States Marine Corps in 2010.

In his fifth year as a member of Duke Energy's Customer Delivery Business Transformation group in Charlotte, he has made it his "secondary job" to spread the word about job opportunities for veterans in the energy industry.

His passion is to help veterans both inside and outside of the company.

Klemas is one of over 2,000 veterans employed by Duke Energy, which seeks veterans for their skills, adaptability, and leadership qualities. He is the chair of the Charlotte chapter of the Together We Stand employee resource group, which has 450 members who mentor newly hired veterans and volunteer in the community to help veterans and their families.

Klemas had no intention of joining the military. However, his plans were altered after terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. He was in 11th grade and wanted to play football in college.

He instead enlisted.

“I may not have even understood the full magnitude of what had happened,” said Klemas.
“But I knew that was one of those events people experience in life where they remember where they were when it happened. I felt it was my duty as an American citizen to enlist.”

Klemas began his military career in the Presidential Support Duty Program at Camp David, Md., and later served as a machine gunner in Afghanistan - two very different experiences.

His favorite Camp David memory was making an omelet for then-President George W. Bush in a new mess hall. Klemas eats an omelette every day and now raises his own chickens, but the four to seven minutes he spent cooking for the president of the United States were probably the longest of his life, as he tried not to mess up.

He didn't have to be concerned. Bush declared it the best omelette he'd ever eaten and presented Klemas with a Presidential Challenge Coin, which is given to service members for exceptional accomplishments.

Klemas took part in the successful but arduous Operation Whalers in Afghanistan, a follow-up mission to Operation Red Wings, in which 19 special operations personnel were killed.

“We were walking, fighting, sleeping, rinse, repeat,” he said. “We lost four Marines during that deployment and numerous others were shot or injured in other ways. The fighting was intense.”

Klemas thought he was done with the Marines after his four-year commitment ended in 2007, but the Marines were not done with him. He was called back to serve in Iraq, where he spent the majority of his time on base.

When Klemas returned home for good in 2011, he did what many other veterans did: he became a police officer, serving in Matthews, N.C., from 2011 to 2016 and Charlotte, N.C., from 2016 to 2018.

In 2018, his life took a new turn when his wife, Emilee, became pregnant with the first of their two children.

“Your whole emotional and mental dynamic shifts once you enter a child into the picture,” said Klemas. He wanted a safer job with more reliable hours, and he found both at Duke Energy. He is a senior business systems specialist, working to make Customer Delivery processes more efficient.

Last month, on behalf of the company, he led the effort to bring The Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans memorial in Washington, D.C., to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“They support our mission,” said Klemas of Duke Energy. “They’ve been 100% on board.”

Employees who are called up to serve in the National Guard or Reserve receive 120 hours of full pay. Duke Energy received the 2018 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award from the United States Department of Defense in recognition of its support for those employees.

Recruiting and assisting veterans benefits everyone, according to Derrick Robinson, senior manager of Talent Acquisition. He stated that veterans have fundamental skills that align with Duke Energy's priorities, including a strong work ethic, safety awareness, leadership, and transferrable skills.

“These soldiers sacrificed, their families have sacrificed. It gives us a chance to not only give back, but we gain by offering careers that are often a good match,” said Robinson.

“They have technical skills, an understanding of electronics and mechanical aptitude. Also, they’ve operated in a high-risk environment, and many things we do in the field are definitely high risk, so it requires a healthy respect for dangers in the field.”

Veterans work in corporate, plant, and field operations in roles as diverse as field technician, project management, and information technology, according to Robinson.

Klemas believes that veterans are particularly well-suited to the role of lineworker.

“When you’re in the infantry, every single job in the military is in some way connected to that infantry person in making sure they are as prepared as possible, as successful as possible,” he said. “In the energy industry, it’s literally the same way when it comes to linemen. Every single job is in some way connected to the linemen.”

Klemas has made it his mission to get the word out.