Salute to Veterans in the Trenchless Industry

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Veterans. What can we say about them?

They come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, ethnicities and genders. Some served during times of war, others during times of peace — all in the furtherance of keeping the people they are charged with protecting safe. The one attribute they all encompass is that they are all heroes.

Scripture Verse John 15:13In the United States, we honor all of our veterans— living and dead — every Nov. 11 on Veterans Day. American flags dot the landscape in communities throughout the country. There are parades and ceremonies in their honor.

This year, we decided to honor those in the trenchless industry who served in the military in our own way, using the November issue as our salute for a job well done.

We invited trenchless military vets to add their name to our online Roll Call. You can check it out at trenchlesstechnology.com/veterans. If you have not done so, you can add your name to the list.

In this special section, are just a few of the trenchless industry’s patriots, including one from our friends in Canada. You may recognize some of these faces, others you may not. We asked them to share their insight into what they took away from years of service and how it has impacted their personal and professional lives.

They are an intriguing group — a combination of longtime industry professionals and relatively new ones. These are their lessons and stories.

Don’t forget to thank a veteran!

Click the links below to jump to a specific veteran profile or scroll to read them all.

Bernard P. Krzys
Dr. Tom Iseley, P.E.
Mark Wallbom
Leigh Bressner
Lynn Osborn
James Cooper
David Crowder
Timothy Coss
George Kurz, P.E.



Bernard P Krzys, U.S. Army

Bernard P. Krzys

Rank at discharge:

1st Lieutenant

Years served:

1963-1965

Branch of service:

U.S. Army

Present employment:

CEO and founder of Benjamin Media Inc., publisher of Trenchless Technology

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    When I entered college, the draft was very much in existence. Feeling that I’d likely get drafted, I wanted to be an officer, so I joined the ROTC at Kent State. I chose the Army perhaps because it related to the Marines that my father was a member of in WWII. My specific branch within the Army ended up being the Finance Corps. That choice was made by the Army, considering an ROTC graduate got to make three branch selections and one had to be a combat arms. I was really fortunate to get inance — my first choice, considering my degree was professional accounting.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    I did a lot of public speaking in the Army, as I was a computer instructor addressing hundreds of Federal government civilian employees. These students were from NASA, Army Corps of Engineer, Air Force, Army Audit Agency, DoD’s Defense Supply Agency, etc., plus, the students included U.S. and foreign military officers. All this had a big impact on my ability to lead people, as I was the most knowledgeable on the subjects I presented and I had command of this very senior level of federal government and military leaders.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    The Army totally changed the direction of my career, because I got involved with computers. I considered going Regular Army vs. Reserves, but left the Army to re-join Arthur Andersen & Co. in their management consulting practice. Every business direction I’ve taken since relates back to that decision to go into consulting all because of my Army experience. The Army instilled in me a wonderful feeling of patriotism for the United States; and importantly, admiration for all those have served in the military.
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    My role in the Army was to develop a course on Auditing Computer Systems. At that time, it was the only such course in the federal government; thus, why so many of my students were non-military. Many employers discount almost totally Active Duty military service and this was the same with AA&Co. when I returned. I was able to convince them otherwise because of my unique military experience. But many vets aren’t so fortunate. The leadership skills I learned while in the Army have driven me throughout my life. I certainly am supportive of veteran organizations and individual vets.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career? Discipline, teamwork, order of law, honoring performance, formal ceremonies, and even dressing properly all come to mind with what I carried over from the military. In the military, you are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and you follow orders. There is a very specific organization (for example: squad, platoon, company, etc.) regardless of the military branch and there are ranks (for example: corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, etc.) that are to be respected. To be awarded a medal in the military is very significant. All of this has applicability to civilian life and all of this has guided my career.

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Tom Iseley, Louisiana Tech UniversityDr. Tom Iseley, P.E.

Rank at discharge:

E5

Years served:

April 1968 to March 1972

Branch of service:

U.S. Coast Guard

Present employment:

Associate Director of International Operations, Professor of Civil Engineering, Construction Engineering Technology, Trenchless Technology Center, Louisiana Tech University

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    During spring 1968, the United States draft for the Army was at its highest level during the Vietnam War. My college deferment expired, and I had received a draft notice. I checked all military service options and was very fortunate to be able to join the United States Coast Guard (USGC). I had been married for almost two years at this point.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    I learned much about myself and the importance of being a team member and how to take responsibilities to become a leader. I served on an 82-ft search and rescue (SAR) USCG Cutter off the coast of Northern California before being selected to attend a six-month Aviation Electrician (EA) School at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. The SAR experience taught me a lot about how to deal with life-threatening situations during emergencies and what it takes to always be prepared for the unpredictable. At the AE School, I learned how to develop a skill. During my last two-and-a-half years of my four-year active duty, I served on the icebreaker support duty for the USCG where I made two cruises on two different icebreaker ships. Two helicopters were assigned to each Icebreaker. I was an AE for the helicopter, as well as an air crewman. I learned a lot about what it takes to keep helicopters ready for duty 24/7 in very cold weather. I learned about aloneness from being away from family for extended periods of time. My oldest son was just five weeks old when I departed on my first Icebreaker cruise, and my second son was just three weeks old when I departed on my second cruise.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    The realization of what is really involved when we talk about serving and protecting our great country.
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    Being able to go through the six-month AE Navy School has benefitted me tremendously over the years, as I designed water and wastewater treatment facilities during the early part of my career working for consulting engineers. These technical skills helped during my construction experience in many ways.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    Leadership.

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Mark WalbomMark Wallbom

Rank at discharge:

Staff Sergeant

Years served:

1966-1970

Branch of service:

U.S. Air Force

Present employment:

Executive Director and CFO, Hydromax USA LLC

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    I would like to say that I joined the military out of selfless dedication to our country – but that was not the case. At the time, I was working at Boeing as a mock-up machinist working on the 747 prototype. Then I got that dreaded brown envelope from the Selective Service telling me that I was being drafted and when and where to report. I had no interest in being drafted, because I knew exactly where I would be within a few months – Vietnam – and I was not keen on that idea.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    There are so many things that I learned about myself over my four years in the USAF, it is hard to select just one. I suspect the No. 1 thing that changed my life was the realization that a structured environment, with no outside competing interests, like working on my 57 Chevy or girls, would translate into achieving academic success, and that I actually enjoyed it. Based on my less than stellar academic standing in high school, I never saw myself making a living in the business world or another cognitively intense arena, believing instead that my destiny was to work with my hands as a machinist. The whole world changed for me when I was chosen Airman of the Month for academic standing during my eight months of Tech School in Denver.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    For those of us boys who were Boy Scouts, we learned this oath: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” When the Boy Scout enters the service, he makes this oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” Notice the similar sentiments in both oaths – God, Country, Service, Commitment and Obedience. These values weave their way into your fiber as a service man or woman, and I am sure I would not feel as passionately about our country as I do, nor would I realize — to the depth I do now — that Freedom is not Free!
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    I believe that we should have compulsory service – in some capacity – much like they do in 27 other countries because people mature and grow-up in the service. With self-discipline, almost anything can be achieved. Learning to work as a team, and knowing that in many ways your life depends on what your team members do – or don’t do – builds camaraderie that is essential for maximum performance in the workplace. Many – if not most – young men and women who enter the service have a certain edge of self-importance or entitlement about them, which is soon knocked off. As the saying goes: “There is no “I” in TEAM.”
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    I learned not to limit myself and that if you can envision it and are willing to work hard to achieve it, then the realm of possibilities increases dramatically. Military bearing becomes part of your personality and includes respect for superiors, honoring the chain of command, learning how to accept situations that you don’t like or enjoy, and being courteous, projecting enthusiasm and confidence and having a positive outlook. All of these are essential attributes to being successful within a team, regardless of what the nature of that team is. Last but not least, for service personnel who have been in combat, or close enough to it, they know what it is like to crawl up into the bowels of fear. What is learned from those experiences is that no matter how terrifying or difficult something might appear to be in civilian life, when put in context, nothing is as bad as it seems.

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Leigh Bressner, LMK TechnologiesLeigh Bressner

Rank at discharge:

Staff Sergeant

Years served:

1980-1986

Branch of service:

U.S. Air Force

Present employment:

Senior Accountant, LMK Technologies

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    I joined the military because I wanted to serve my country. It sounds cliché, but I wanted to experience what it felt like to do my part while also following in my father’s footsteps. My dad worked on radar systems in the Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, and later built the equipment that proved the theory of Doppler radar. I knew it was meant to be when I was sent to Eglin for my first assignment.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    I learned how to exist outside of my comfort zone. In the South, I was taught to be unassertive and to just blend into the background. As one of the few female crew chiefs on the flightline, I quickly learned to be self-sufficient and decisive. Once my time in the military came to an end, I was the crew chief of the wing commander’s F-16 aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    To persevere and be resilient under very difficult conditions, but it’s not just about persevering and being resilient. It’s your attitude toward it. When things are challenging, the learning, growing and being able to jump back in with a positive attitude and a resolution is what it’s about. It’s too easy to feel like giving up, but in the military, it’s not an option. The only way is to come out stronger on the other side.
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    Some notable benefits for me were to be able to accept new situations, to be able to take pride in my accomplishments, take responsibility for my actions (good and bad) and be comfortable with having people count on me.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    The military taught me to be part of a team. The attitude of a good military member is if one member of the team fails, the mission fails. I feel that way in my profession with the accounting team at LMK Technologies. We work as a team and the experience I gained through the military has helped me grow professionally in this chapter of my life. I also learned how to be proficient at many different things. OK, maybe I can’t perform brain surgery, but I’m a great mechanic and I know how to lead and pull people together for a common goal.

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Lynn Osborn LEO ConsultingLynn Osborn

Rank at discharge:

Sergeant

Years served:

October 1969 – March 1972

Branch of service:

U.S. Army

Present employment:

Owner LEO Consulting, LLC. and NASSCO Technical Director

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    My dad was in Patton’s army in WWII, so if I was ever to be in the military, it would be the Army. I graduated from college and was drafted in August 1969 while waiting to enter medical school. Ironically, this was only a couple of months prior to President Nixon suspending the draft and initiating the lottery system, which began that November while I was in basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. After I was drafted, I enlisted for three years of service. I was discharged six months early to attend graduate school.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    I learned that growing up on the plains of Kansas, I was detached from many of the cultures and different types of people in this great country of ours. The Army was a fantastic learning experience on how to get along with people in general, but, more importantly, with people who are different from you. Take 100 guys, none of whom you know, and throw them in a two-room wooden barracks with one latrine – well, you get to know people.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    It led to a lifetime of wondering what Vietnam was really all about. Being there didn’t at all help with understanding the big picture. In fact, the effect was quite the opposite. The 10-part PBS series on the Vietnam War was very educational, but at times it was too much information, and I kept reminding myself that much of the material presented was just someone else’s opinion. I remain very patriotic, but with a heavy dose of skepticism.
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    For a time, I was an instructor at Ft. Lee, Virginia, and was fortunate enough to go through the Army instructor course. That has been quite beneficial to my professional life, both at Insituform where I made many presentations and participated in many educational seminars to NASSCO where I teach NASSCO certified training courses.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    Organization was a good take-away from the military; everything is organized to the utmost. Every detail was planned from the training to procedures to execution. Discipline was another. If a military group is not disciplined, it is ineffective. I think the same can be said about the companies in our industry. And certainly you would have to include trust. In the military it didn’t take long to determine which individuals you could trust and that was very important. Much the same could be said about my professional career.

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James CooperJames Cooper

Rank at discharge:

Sergeant

Years served:

2004-2014

Branch of service:

U.S. Marine Corps

Present employment:

Northeastern Operations Manager M-I SWACO, a Schlumberger Company

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    I felt it was important to be a part of something bigger than myself. After 9/11, I wanted the opportunity to make a difference and be on the frontlines. I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to be challenged and a part of the United States most elite fighting force.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    There are a few things I learned about myself. I would say the most important thing I learned was selflessness, I sure didn’t do it for the money. I was also able to learn how resilient I was forced to become overseas and at home as everything in our training is compounding and evolving daily.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    It gave me the discipline and motivation to push through life and succeed at any task, it taught me the meaning and understanding of teamwork and the importance of communication and cohesion.
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    It gave me the unique ability to think outside of the box and bring creative solutions to overcome any challenge.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    I would say to sum it all up in the professional career realm, treat people how you want to be treated, hold people accountable and always take care of you staff with the mission end goal in mind.

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David Crowder in UniformDavid Crowder

Rank at discharge:

Sergeant

Years served:

1981-1998

Branch of service:

Canadian Army Reserves – Canadian Military Engineers

Present employment:

Senior Associate/trenchless practice leader, R.V. Anderson Associates Ltd.

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    I joined the Canadian Military (Combat Engineers). I was looking for something different, a greater adventure in my life.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    In my 17 years of services in the Canadian Army Reserves, I learned that no task is too big to accomplish. I can plan out projects better than most people and I work through until the project is complete.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    I made great friendships that have lasted throughout the years. I also realize and appreciate the importance of the military to myself and our country
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    Hands-on training and constant practice in the Army – translates into better organizational skills for my projects and improved people skills.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    I plan my life around accomplishing goals. I’m more methodical when I plan out my projects and I’m driven. When I am in the field, I treat it like it’s an Army project. When I work with contractors on tough, large-scale, trenchless or municipal projects (contract administration and site inspection) I challenge them. For instance, when they grumble about the rain or that it’s too cold, I remind them that I have built many bailey [portable]bridges in the dark and cold, and we did not complain.

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Tim Coss, Microtunneling Inc.Timothy Coss

Rank at discharge:

Staff Sergeant

Years served:

1965-1973

Branch of service:

U.S. Air Force

Present employment:

President, Microtunneling Inc.

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    I never really enjoyed school and options were limited at the time, getting a job for which I had no formal training or join the military. Vietnam was becoming a big deal in 1965 and the United States Air Force seemed right, so I joined. Being on the approach to LaGuardia Airport as a kid, I was constantly up on the sixth story roof top for hours at a time watching the old propeller airplanes land and take off. The Air Force was never a doubt in my mind when the time came.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    I learned that I lived a very cloistered life in the suburbs of New Jersey — the 1965 Mustang was the biggest thing happening, guys with long hair or girls in mini-skirts would get you sent home. Joining the military right out of high school really opened my eyes to the world and all it had to offer, as well as its challenges. I had always been told I was a special kid (whose kid isn’t); however, when I was commingled in a group of 1,000 guys how could I ever stand out? Everyone wants to be the best. I discovered the one who worked the hardest and had the most hustle was the one who prospered — a good life lesson learned early. Schools don’t teach ‘hustle.’
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    Learning to deal with people and so many of them in so many locations from varying ethnic backgrounds, we all depended on one another for the mission and our lives. I carry this with me to this day working around the world knowing that being an American does not make me a better person, smarter or a better businessman. It makes me try harder to be the best I can be. I think life, for whatever flag one marches to, is a precious commodity and whatever reasons we are given as soldiers of our country to take a life is reason enough to comply, but at some point, our humanity makes us take pause for the life that ‘could have been.’ The feeling is haunting it doesn’t go away. With some melancholy as the years pass, I respect more the soldiers who protect us and understand how many heavy hearts there must be on the battle field of today and yesterday.
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    he Air Force trained me in aircraft mechanical and electrical systems and also how to be creative solving problems. While in the Air Force, I recognized that my natural aptitude for mechanical and electrical systems could be my real calling. The Air Force also recognized my skill set and I was asked to be an instructor at one of its Aircraft Technical Training Schools. I have never been unemployed a day in 52 years, thanks to these skills. Nothing my military training taught me has gone to waste in all of this time. I will always be proud of my eight years of service.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    Our mission is the gainful employment to feed our families and have the pride of ownership for the work we perform. No clock watchers, no excuses, your highest performance to get it done and do it like your life depends on it, cause someone’s will if it’s not done right — That’s what a soldier learns and carries forward. That’s what I learned.

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George Kurz, U.S. Army, VietnamGeorge Kurz, P.E.

Rank at discharge:

Captain

Years served:

1969-1972 (active duty) 1972-1987 (reserve)

Branch of service:

U.S. Army – Military Intelligence

Present employment:

Independent Consulting Engineer (Environmental, Sanitary, Hydraulics)

  1. Why did you join the military and select that branch of service?
    I left college and received my draft notice in late 1969 when the Vietnam War was ramping up. Therefore, I decided to enlist in the Army to have some small degree of control over my future. After testing, I learned that I qualified for Intelligence School and I selected that option. I knew that I was probably going to Vietnam anyway, but this allowed me to have interesting work and improved my chances of survival.
  2. What did you learn about yourself from your years of service?
    Working as an analyst opened an avenue for me to tap into self-confidence as an internal resource. I learned that I enjoyed analysis, investigation and uncovering the truth. I also found that I had a knack for understanding a strategic situation from the enemy’s perspective. These were tools that could be applied in many professions, but I found them to be especially useful in engineering. I think it is particularly important to understand the impacts of engineering projects on the affected communities. This is one facet of seeing the problem from the other person’s side.
  3. What life-lasting impact did the military have on you?
    My time in the Army improved my sense and application of self-discipline and working in a hierarchical organization. However, I also learned that there are times (even in the Army) when unconventional (and thoughtful) tactics and approaches are needed and there are times to take charge of a situation to implement such approaches. Most successful projects are accomplished as a team in the military and in engineering. However, there are also times when it is important to be “an Army of one!”
  4. How did your military service/training translate to your life after service?
    As an Intelligence Analyst, I learned to be skeptical and to question the “conventional wisdom.” Most of intelligence work is tedious accumulation of small bits of data in a systematic manner. If enough data of the right kind can be accumulated so that patterns emerge, then useful “intelligence” can be created to guide strategic planning. In a similar manner, engineering planning and asset management (especially for I/I reduction programs) require collection and analysis of data to create well-informed and useful plans.
  5. What lesson(s) did you take from your service and have applied to your professional career?
    Like combat operations, I learned that most projects (especially unusual projects) succeed because there is a “honcho.” Nominally, that person is the project leader, but the person has to be more than that. The honcho is a person who will let no obstacle stop them from accomplishing the mission or task. That person will go around, over, under, or drill through any hurdle to get the job completed. I have not always lived up to that principle, but there are times when it has worked well for me and I have seen it work for others.

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Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology. Mike Kezdi is associate editor of Trenchless Technology.

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