May 2011

New York Local Trains War-Bound Service Members in Electrical Safety
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Members of Watertown, N.Y., Local 910 don’t share the detachment of many Americans from the consequences of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fort Drum, the training base for the Army’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team is only 10 miles down the road. "The military is integrated into our community," says Local 910 Business Manager, Dennis Affinati.

As some service members at Fort Drum have faced three or more deployments, the local has "adopted" platoons, sending everything from chewing gum to food to personal hygiene items to their neighbors serving in the war theatre.

In late February, an Army captain called Local 910 asking for even more help. Members of his 10th Mountain Division were headed for remote areas of Afghanistan. Since their forward base would be running nearly entirely from generators, he asked if the local could provide training for troops in how to safely set up and maintain them.

"They were scrambling to be deployed in April and were nervous about giving them proper training," says Affinati.

After several phone calls, the local’s JATC, under leadership of training director James Rosbrook, worked with City Electric, a supply house, to set up two classes with 40 or more service members in each from maintenance and support platoons.

Rosbrook told an online news service that troops often don’t know the proper way to check wiring or how to size generators to their tents. The hands-on instruction, on equipment donated by City Electric, covered grounding , lock-out-tag-out, circuits and bonding.

"The troops were real attentive and we got good feedback," says Affinati, who encourages more local unions to help relieve the strain on military families by participating in Adopt a Platoon ( The Local 910 membership has voted to support two maintenance platoons from Fort Drum deployed in April. The local chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association participates in the effort.

"We are proud that we could play a part in aiding the safety of Army personnel while they serve in an inhospitable environment," says Affinati. Local 910 has offered its support to the Army for more sessions in coming years. The local’s efforts follow others to protect troops, already in harm’s way, from the inherent dangers of electricity.

The IBEW has long exposed shoddy electrical work at U.S. bases in Iraq that has led to electrocutions of service personnel. (See "Troops Endangered by Shoddy Electrical Work," The Electrical Worker, August 2008).

Cheryl Harris, a former IBEW member, testified at a Democratic Policy Committee hearing in 2008 about the death by electrocution of her son, Ryan Maseth, in a shower in Bagdhad, asking why military contractor KBR was not held to operating at the same safety standards required on U.S. soil. (See "IBEW Urges Electrical Safety at U.S. Bases," The Electrical Worker, October 2008).

Watertown, N.Y., Local 910 members train soon-to-be-deployed soldiers in electrical safety.