Auditor, Denver/Jefferson County Weatherization Services
From Marine to Civilian: Looking Toward a Brighter Future
When Sgt. Jordan Latva was wounded in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, he thought he was going to lose his leg. Shrapnel was embedded from his feet to his armpit due to an RPG explosion just three feet away.
Luckily, Jordan kept his leg – but the experience had a deep impact on his outlook on life. He gained a new appreciation for the way he treats the world around him, not only for his sake, but for the communities of Colorado and ultimately, his future children.
Jordan is a Marine Corps veteran. Having joined the Marines right out of high school at age 17, Jordan skipped college. He had his sights set on a military career. “I was very much in the military mindset. I loved being a Marine,” he says.
But after returning from Fallujah and leaving the Marines in 2005, Jordan realized for the first time in his life that he needed to find a job. “I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how to go about changing my resume from military to civilian terms,” Jordan says.
While Jordan was figuring out his next move, he worked in a construction job and attended some military career fairs. He eventually landed a job at a mine in Empire, Colorado. That experience helped him realize that a career in mining didn’t appeal to him; he decided that school would be the next step, and began exploring his interests.
“I wanted to work in a field that would be around for a long time, something that wouldn’t be phased out in 20 years. I was looking at careers in solar, wind and water – a growing industry that I could retire in,” Jordan says.
Through a VA rep at a community college, Jordan learned about Veterans Green Jobs. A quick Internet search told him what he needed to know: Veterans Green Jobs was doing the type of work that appealed to him. And, he says, “The best part was that it involved veterans.”
“Because I was in the infantry as well as injured, I felt like a minority. It was harder and harder to connect with other people. I wanted to connect with veterans who shared my experience,” he says.
The energy efficiency training program at Veterans Green Jobs filled the gap Jordan had been looking to fill.
Veterans Green Jobs’ accredited education program provided Jordan with the training he needed to find a position in home energy efficiency. Jordan earned Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification in home energy efficiency auditing and weatherization, and took advantage of Veterans Green Jobs’ employment placement opportunities.
According to Garett Reppenhagen, director of programs for Veterans Green Jobs, “These are ideal jobs for vets coming out of the military. Vets have lots of great soft skills and a strong work ethic. They also work well under pressure in diverse conditions, work as a team, and have an incredible sense of service. Coming out of the war zone, this is a terrific way to help vets continue giving a service to the country by helping fellow Americans save money on their energy bill and save energy for the nation.”
Most veterans who gain employment after graduating from the energy efficiency training program have the skills needed to join companies in entry-level positions. After serving time “in the trenches,” they may move on to supervisor or auditing positions.
Some graduates have taken jobs with Veterans Green Jobs, and others have landed jobs as weatherization specialists and auditors with the organization’s Governor’s Energy Office Region 3 contract, Summit Utilities and other energy efficiency companies. Some have found jobs in other states, started their own business, or continued into other higher education programs.
For graduates like Jordan, the training program is paying off. Veterans Green Jobs hired him to work in the Region 9 weatherization department, providing services to low-income families in Denver and Jefferson County, Colorado.
“I joined this not knowing anything about ‘green.’ I just wasn’t living that lifestyle. Learning about energy efficiency, and doing community outreach to help others be more aware, has been an eye opener. I have a new sensitivity to how important it is to be gentler to our environment,” he says.
Part of Jordan’s job involves talking with homeowners about the ways in which the new weatherization measures have a direct impact. From the wall insulation to the compact fluorescent lightbulbs, these adjustments make homes more comfortable and energy efficient, and lower utility bills.
Jordan also takes pride in helping homeowners understand how their other actions in daily life can make a difference: Turn lights off when you leave a room. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot. Look for alternative ways of doing things.
This is the kind of job Jordan takes home with him. Everywhere he goes, he sees opportunities for improving behaviors that have an impact on the world.
“I never used to think about these things. I just acted like there was an endless supply. Now, I see all the money that’s wasted. I look closely at my monthly bills and see what I can do to reduce energy usage.”
Jordan’s perspective on the future has changed as well. “I look at my lifestyle compared to my grandparents’, and how dramatically things change over the years. I don’t have children yet, but I will one day. My understanding today will change my children’s experience of the future.”