July 2010

IBEW On Duty
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Teamwork Key to Apprentice’s Battlefield and Career Success

Staff Sgt. Tim Flood spent nearly a year navigating some of the hairiest spots in the war-torn countryside as an Army National Guardsman stationed at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq. The Coos Bay, Ore., Local 932 fifth-year apprentice coordinated large convoys that ran fuel and food between U.S. bases along the main supply route from the southern area toward the north past Baghdad.

The squads waited until the black of night to roll out for missions—avoiding easy detection by insurgent operatives who kept their rifle crosshairs on the roads 24 hours a day. The runs usually took anywhere from eight to 20 hours, including daytime hours spent at far-off bases while waiting to return to Tallil. One protracted assignment lasted nearly a day and a half due to an IED explosion that hamstrung the mission. Hours upon hours on bumpy roads tested the patience and endurance of U.S. troops who had to be ready for anything at a moment’s notice, even when threats never materialized.

"It was 99 percent waiting, because you’re just driving down the road, gun in hand, expecting something to come at you in the dark," said Flood, 33, who returned home in May. "Then that last one percent finds you working as a tight-knit team. You might have to respond to a sudden IED or gunfire. At that point, you and the other troops have to be a well-oiled machine to meet the challenges."

Flood estimates that he supervised 60 missions during his July 2009 to May 2010 tour. Every run found the squad leader commanding six gun trucks, each carrying four soldiers. The heavily armed—and armored—mine-resistant vehicles escorted about 50 fuel trucks per mission. Flood said his crew ran the most missions of any other similar outfit during his deployment in Iraq, racking up 80,000 miles over hostile terrain.

Though Iraq marked his first time in the battlefield, Flood’s military pedigree runs deep. His father is a retired Navy chief and his grandfather served in the Army during World War II. Flood followed in their footsteps when he was 20, signing up for the Army, but opted out of the service to work various jobs starting in early 2001 to pay the bills. As his grandfather was a card-carrying IBEW member for decades, Flood always had it in the back of his mind that going into the trades could be a lucrative track.

"I had been working in manual labor jobs when I signed up for the apprenticeship with Local 932," Flood said. "I knew it would pay off in the long run. I needed something more than just a job—I needed a career that was going to give me opportunities."

Flood landed a position as an inside wireman apprentice with Ladd Electric in nearby Reedsport, where he worked for several years. He signed up for the National Guard in 2006, which ultimately led to his 2009 deployment.

"The union was great when I needed to go to Iraq," Flood said. Local leaders arranged for him to postpone coursework and finish his final year once he was back on American soil. The married father of a five-year-old girl, Flood looks forward to added financial stability once he finishes his assignments and the economy bounces back.

Flood also continues to sharpen his soldier skills by spending three months a year training, including logging time at air assault and rappel master school—all courses that boost military-level skills and credentials.

"Working with my fellow union members offers a lot of the same kinds of camaraderie and team-building that I value about the Guard," Flood said. Though currently out of work, he can count on a military paycheck to get by until he’s called to grab his hardhat and tools—and he says the work picture looks promising for the summer.

Local leaders praised Flood’s sense of dedication and brotherhood.

"Tim Flood has been one of our best apprentices, and he’s going to make a fine journeyman when he turns out," said Local 932 Business Manager Robert Westerman Jr. "We’re thankful for his sacrifice and service both to the country and the membership."

Coos Bay, Ore., Local 932 member Tim Flood spent nearly a year in Iraq.