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International Operating Engineer - Summer 2016

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The quarterly magazine of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Feature “He served in

Feature “He served in Vietnam, had injuries, found a career through the Operating Engineers, and has provided leadership for other veterans for many years. Now others have to navigate their trail ahead.” Kurtz said the Operating Engineers were a natural partner to carve out the trail largely because of Wetzel’s 41 years in the construction union and lifetime membership in American Legion Oelschlaeger-Dallmann Post No. 434 in Oak Creek. Camp American Legion Director Kevin Moshea added, “To me, this trail is the first, initial step in an overall development plan for that land.” Future additional uses may include camping and hunting. Local 139 President/Business Manager Terry McGowan noted that while the Operators could provide manpower and machines for constructing a trail, the union was looking for a community project on which apprentices could enhance their skills. “We are extremely proud to partner with the Wisconsin American Legion on this project,” McGowan said. “This is a natural extension of our Combat 2 Construction programwhich aims to help our veterans acquire career skills and find employment with our signatory contractors.” Apprentice Operators cleared and grubbed, excavated, and paved the trail over about a month in April-May. Most of the apprentices are veterans such as Leroy Miller of New Berlin. “I learned about the Camp American Legion project at our union meetings,” said Miller, a second-year apprentice who served in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, was wounded in combat in Afghanistan, and was an Army Ranger instructor. “I had a compelling feeling of wanting to serve [photos clockwise from top] Entrance to Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin; men and machines crowd a section of the trail through the woods at the start of the work day; the trail is named in honor of Gary Wetzel, a Medal of Honor recipient and a 41-year IUOE member. my country and, after leaving the military, I wanted to continue that and to build for America.” “When the project started, Woody (Local 139 Training Center Site Coordinator Woody Wickersheim) called me and asked if I wanted to be a part of it and I said ‘absolutely.’ “To provide this type of service for other veterans is an overwhelmingly emotional experience for me, to get veterans out of their daily grind, veterans who are restricted to their homes, or their wheelchairs, and to get them out into the woods where they need to be for healing reasons. It’s also medicating for me.” Another Army veteran, Mike Burt, supervised the trail-building project. Burt is an instructor at the Joseph J. Goetz Jr. Training Center in Coloma. He watched some of the apprentices return to the site in the early evening hours of May 4, after eating supper at the mess hall at Camp American Legion, so they could get additional seat-time operating heavy equipment. “It’s fulfilling to watch them grow as Operators, from being tentative to being confident in what they’re doing,” he said. “We cut a hill and created a slope maybe two or three times. But that’s OK. That’s why we’re here, to learn. “These apprentices are learning basic techniques that we teach at the training center, like excavating below subgrade, topsoil stripping, and slot dozing. “Our days are the same number of hours as we would put in at the training center and even longer, sometimes, because some of these guys volunteer to come back and work after supper.” 14 INTERNATIONAL OPERATING ENGINEER SUMMER 2016 15

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