A soldier’s story … revisited
Panaupio Louis, an Army National Guard soldier and gas operations employee since 2000 in Downstate New York, was deployed to Iraq in early 2004, and was seriously injured by a suicide bomber later that year. Panaupio rehabilitated for 18 months at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland and returned to work at National Grid in 2006.
We first featured Panaupio in this video a few years back, and in honor of Veteran’s Day, we caught up with him to talk about his experience working for National Grid as a veteran.
What did the company do to accommodate you when you returned from service?
I came back to work slowly and they worked with me until I got 100%. At first they had me on clerical duties – working in the tool room and so on, until my body got stronger, and eventually I got back out in the field. They actually offered me a different position of supervisor, which would have been a lot more oversight and less hands-on work. But I prefer working outside, so I got back in the field as soon as I could. Things are going great now – I’m currently a crew leader.
Did you have a background in the utility industry before joining the company?
I was in heavy machinery and masonry while I was in the Army—concrete work, carpentry and such, so it was somewhat easy to deal with pipelines and stuff after that.
What skills from your years of service do you find valuable at National Grid?
Leadership and keeping a cool head. When you’re under fire you need to keep your wits about you. Besides that, you need to know how to keep stuff in line—if there is a hit main and interrupted service, you need to deal with the fire department and police. We do a dangerous job! You also need to know how to do investigations to learn what the problem is, how to fix it and what led to it.
Besides that, it’s all about relating with folks – the communications process – understanding where they may be weak and how to deal with that. Just like I learned in the military, when you have a mission to do, you need to find new ways to reach and touch all kinds of people, and make sure they understand and can track what you’re saying. You need to show them what needs to be done and why – and maybe the different ways they can get the job done. You have to get the job done, no matter what, so you want to make sure people are on point. You need to look forward and do all you can to make sure people don’t get hurt and we don’t lose a lot of money or make our company liable in any way.
What would you share with other veterans who might be thinking about working at National Grid?
National Grid is a great place to work. They’re very loyal and understanding and friendly towards veterans. There’s always someone who can assist you even with different problems. There’s a lot of stuff that veterans deal with, and National Grid has a policy that no matter what you’re going to do, if you’re having issues they’re there to help you. You can always speak to someone. I’ve been through my ups and downs in my time here and no matter what happened they were there to help me. National Grid definitely understands and I would recommend it to any veterans who might be thinking about coming to work here.
How are you feeling overall, Panaupio, since we last spoke?
I’m hanging in. I have good days and bad days … but some days that are pain free. That’s where I’m at.