August 2010

IBEW On Duty
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Ohio Journeyman in Afghanistan:
Local is 'Second Family'

John Rusnak’s apprenticeship instructors in Painesville, Ohio, Local 673 were won over on his first interview. At 19, Rusnak spent $400 for a plane ticket to fly to Cleveland from Boston, where he was in summer camp for the Army Reserves.

"It was a big price for a 19-year-old, but a small price to pay for a career," he says. Rusnak had tinkered with electricity in high school and thought about getting a college degree in electronics, but "being the hands-on, outdoors, always-moving-person I am," he says, sent him to the trade.

Nine years later, Rusnak is a journeyman inside wireman and a sergeant first class on his second tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. A petroleum laboratory specialist, Rusnak travels around making certain that fuels for Army generators, planes and equipment meet specifications. He also certifies military or civilian labs that conduct similar testing.

Balancing Army service with his job and a new marriage has been challenging, says Rusnak. But he takes comfort knowing that Local 673 and his employer, APL Electric, have teamed up to have his back.

Local members offered to help Chrissy Rusnak with yard work and snow shoveling as she adapted to a new role. She stated many times that being an Army wife was not her calling, but "Chrissy really stepped up to the plate and made me proud," says Rusnak.

Frequent care packages, cards and e-mails from Local 673 members, says Rusnak, "show people on the outside what being part of a union is all about."

"It’s not just about better hours, wages, and benefits. It’s also about taking care of one another, like a second family," says Rusnak. A member of the 475th Quartermaster Group, based in Farrell, Pa., Rusnak says, "I feel as though I am truly blessed."

APL Electric, his most recent employer, was helpful when he had to miss multiple days of work due to training. "That kind of support is priceless," he says. And his trade has made life better for his Army buddies. In the field for training exercises, he hooks up the generators and runs power and light sets. "It definitely makes me a more valuable asset to my unit," says Rusnak. In the Reserves, he says, people look for you to bring "something extra to the table." The military and his trade have both instilled a good work ethic and a pride in teamwork.

Rusnak wants others in the service to experience the kind of support that he has known. "There are many good stories that don’t make the news," says Rusnak. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are helping to defend our nation while helping other nations "put the broken pieces back together," he says.

Painesville, Ohio, Local 673 member John Rusnak travels to bases in Iraq and Afghanistan as a petroleum laboratory specialist in the Army Reserves.