January 2010

IBEW On Duty
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Recession Colors Member's War Experience

For redeployed National Guardsman Omar Trujillo, serving in Iraq over the last year was a "feast or famine" affair. The Tacoma, Wash., Local 76 fifth-year apprentice helped lead infantry platoons guarding supply trucks on midnight runs from base to base in the country's northern region.

It was highly dangerous work that allowed for a lot of down time.

"The job was tense at first," said Trujillo, 29. "Then after a while, it became just like driving down the road anywhere else." But long stretches of caravanning were punctuated with occasional IED blasts, reminding troops of the constant, unpredictable threat.

Still, Trujillo said the main sources of stress and anxiety among his fellow soldiers were thousands of miles away, where family members and loved ones were weathering the worst economic blizzard since the Great Depression.

"In Iraq, the biggest topic of conversation was jobs," Trujillo said. "When we left last August, the economy was down, but things got progressively worse. It felt like everything was going to hell. It was on people's minds constantly. When you're doing the same missions over and over, it was all you could think about."

So Trujillo gave himself an additional mission: to spread the word of the trade to his fellow troops who would need jobs when they went home.

"I made a point to talk with everyone about being a union electrician," he said. "Being in the Guard is a good place to promote the IBEW. When reservists come back from their tours, they go back to the lives they left.

If you had no work before, you've got no work when you come back. The Guard is doing its damndest to make sure that people get jobs when they redeploy, and I think my advocating for the union adds to that. I want other reservists and guardsmen to know that there is help out there."

A year after hitting the sands in Iraq, Trujillo is back in Washington tackling his final year of apprenticeship and working for Carl T. Madsen, Inc. He said he's grateful for the chance to serve his country and is pleased he's been able to steer at least one fellow soldier into the trade: platoon member Manuel Magdaleno was accepted into the first class of the IBEW's Veterans In Construction Electrical program and now makes a good wage as an apprentice wireman in the Puget Sound area.

The local and his instructors are happy to have Trujillo back. "Words can't describe what it means to be a business manager of a membership that includes this caliber of an individual," said Local 76 Business Manager Gary L. Younghans.

´╗┐Tacoma, Wash., Local 76 member Omar Trujillo, center, spread the message of the brotherhood while in Iraq. Also pictured is Business Manager Gary Younghans, left, and training director Tony Lewis.