Thirty seven-year old Nate Humphrey (a.k.a., “grandpa”) isn’t just strong, he’s physically imposing, too.
And the expression on his face is one that could best be described as a standing invitation to “bring it.” It’s the kind of countenance a man wears after seven grueling combat deployments, including one each in Iraq and Afghanistan. Truth is, Humphrey’s a real nice guy and grateful beyond measure that Jeff Edwards, the chief executive officer of Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC), suggested that he give the Power Line Worker program hosted by Southside Virginia Community College a try.
“It’s the brotherhood and the comradery; working together with a group of men and being a member of a team. You depend on the person to the left and right of you, and when the storm hits the fan and everyone is left in the dark, the lineman is who they depend on to get the lights back on.”
But, enrolling in the program was something his doctor advised against.
“I went to the VA hospital to get my physical and told the doctor what my plans were, and his words were, ‘Nate, you have been blown up, taken shrapnel, and endured multiple combat deployments. You and your body can’t do this.’“
“I politely disagreed,” Humphrey said.
Not surprisingly, Humphrey says he’s not afraid of much. But, having a healthy respect for electricity in his line of work is a good thing.
“You have to have fear. If you don’t have fear, that’s when you get hurt. Every day, I know that there’s a possibility that I might not make it home. So, every day, I make it a point to tell my children that I love them.”
Humphrey’s out-of-pocket costs for tuition were significantly reduced thanks to the WCG program. He says, in fact, that he had to pay only for his boots and his belt, and he says he would recommend highly the training program to any veteran.
“When you medically retire from the military like I did, you feel like you’ve lost something. And it’s not that you lost a job; you lose a part of you that you’ll never get back. But, being a lineman, you get it back,” Humphey said.
After completing the Power Worker Training program in December, Humphrey started working full-time for SEC less than 30 days later without putting thousands of dollars “on the line.”
Humphrey served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 25TH Infantry Division, and was medically retired from Joint Forces Special Operations, TRADOC. He served in Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and taken part in seven combat deployments.