Conversations with Anvil’s Veterans
For over fifty years, Anvil has proudly opened its doors to our nation’s veterans.
Whether it’s Ken Swalley, Anvil’s Lakewood Branch Manager and a Navy veteran, or Alex Bresnan, a Junior Electrical Engineer who is still actively serving his enlistment in the Navy Reserves, Anvil is proud to offer our nation’s veterans the professional opportunities they deserve, at every level of our organization.
With locations, clients, and projects all over the nation, it’s a special honor whenever Anvil can be represented by those who have made the personal sacrifice of serving our country.
In preparation for Veteran’s Day, we interviewed a handful of veterans throughout our company. By learning more about their experiences in the service and the military, we hoped to better understand the unique value they each bring to Anvil, as well as highlight their individual careers.
With a variety of backgrounds and military experiences, Anvil’s veterans can offer unique perspectives on every project they participate in.
For many of Anvil’s veteran employees, the chance to serve our country opened doors to a variety of professional and educational opportunities.
“It’s something I always knew I wanted to do,” Kevin Gaskin, Mechanical Engineer, says. “My service allowed me to visit countries and participate in cultures I would have otherwise never experienced.”
In the U.S. Marine Corps, Kevin served as a Rifleman for six years. He’s now been with Anvil for almost four.
“What was my call to serve? That’s a good question,” Aaron Voth, Electrical Engineer, says. “I think my answer is multifaceted. A big reason is I’ve always just thought very highly of veterans. I wanted to be appreciative of the freedoms we currently have because of the work put in from previous generations or generations currently serving.”
Aaron served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years as an Assistant Operations Chief before eventually becoming a Corporal. In the Marines, Aaron was often tasked with designing, developing, and establishing power grids, ultimately enabling the operations of locally deployed troops. He’s taken these professional experiences with him into his career at Anvil, where he’s now worked as an Electrical Engineer for three years.
Despite the professional experience the military offers, Anvil’s veterans also knew enlisting meant a chance to see the world.
“After my training, I went to the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, for five years. On the Lincoln, I travelled all over the world – we literally circumnavigated the globe,” Alex Bresnan, Electrical Engineer, says. “There were deployments all through Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and so on and so forth. Turkey was probably one of the most beautiful countries we visited – I have great memories swimming in the Indian Ocean and having barbecues on the flight deck.”
Alex, who is still actively enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserves, started with Anvil this year. In the Navy, many of Alex’s responsibilities revolve around electrical maintenance of Naval equipment, particularly submarines.
“I think a favorite place I visited must be Singapore. It’s a tropical island city – they really took advantage of the Olympic Games to rework their entire infrastructure,” Alan Clemenson, Electrical Engineer, says. “It’s the cleanest city I’ve ever been to in my entire life.”
Alan, who also joined Anvil in the past year, served as an Electrical Technician in the U.S. Navy for nearly seven years. In a similar sense to Alex, Alan served many purposes within the Navy – most notably, he serviced the USS Pickney, maintaining its surface-to-air missile guidance system.
“I was mainly stationed overseas in Gaeta, Italy. We visited over twenty different countries and basically serviced communications in the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, and the Black Sea,” Matthew Kelley, Electrical Engineer, says. “I was later stationed in Bangor, where I would do message traffic for all submarines in the Pacific Theater.”
Matthew, who joined the Navy over a decade ago, has been with Anvil for a few years now. In the Navy, in addition to servicing communications, Matthew was mostly tasked with maintaining radios, computer systems, and radars.
When Anvil’s veterans look back at their time in service, many draw memories from experiences as individualized and unique as their travels.
“We’ve had really cool things happen,” Alex shares. “We’ve had Toby Keith come out and put on a concert in the hangar bay, UFC Fighters came out and did a demo, even the cook from MasterChef came and cooked steaks for us on the flight deck. But, you know, there’s also the operational side of things – there’s nothing like seeing planes launching off the flight deck doing high speed maneuvers. There’s an adrenaline to all of it.”
“One of my favorite memories involves the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – when we were stationed in Russia, we were actually able to see the fireworks from the Opening Ceremony on our ship,” Matthew shares. “I’ll never forget that.”
“My wife is from Turkey – I actually met her while I was in the service,” Josh Goertz, Control Systems Engineer, says. “We have two kids together – my first was actually born while I was stationed at Fort Lewis.”
Josh, who fulfilled multiple responsibilities during his enlistment in the U.S. Army, was mainly stationed in Iraq. Together with local engineers, Josh worked to help rebuild villages and infrastructure that had been damaged by local warfare. In 2015, Josh was granted an internship at Anvil before being brought on fulltime.
In addition to a wife and family, Josh’s service in the U.S. Army ultimately sparked a career in engineering.
“My service was probably the kicker to my career in engineering. One of our big things, because we were working with host nations so much – infrastructure is just key to building any country,” Josh said. “We always had a hard time getting the right people to look at stuff. We were constantly working with engineers to help rebuild the infrastructure in the province.”
As was the case with Josh, many of Anvil’s veterans became interested in our shared industry because of their enlistment and the responsibilities it came with. In fact, most veterans we spoke with cited an easy transition between their service and becoming an engineer.
“You know, one of the things the Navy does well is take someone young and just force them to work with the expensive equipment,” Alan says. “You get your hands in the gears, and once you get used to it, the level of anxiety goes away, and you just start to understand how things work. I was able to transfer this experience when I started school – I was able to jump into our various labs and show my classmates that nothing was as hard as it looked.”
Despite the impressive level of technical experience, there were also lessons to be learned in the service beyond the realms of engineering.
“In terms of experience, it was always my failures I learned most from,” Aaron shares. “Both in the actual field of work I was doing, but also in terms of learning how to be a leader. As a Corporal, I was placed in a lot of leadership roles – it was important to not only work together with my team but also to be willing to lead by example.”
While the service undoubtedly prepared many of Anvil’s veterans for a career after their enlistment, it’s now Anvil’s responsibility to help support their lives at home.
“There was actually a small group of us that would go out every Veteran’s Day and hash it out,” Josh laughs. “You know, Anvil is just a good company. Nobody treats you differently – if I ever need help lifting anything physically, because I’m a bit limited in my arm, no one ever gets on my case. You are who you are, and you do whatever you can – nobody looks down on you for it.”
“I’ve been treated with nothing but kindness during my time at Anvil – it’s a great place to work while raising a family,” Kevin adds.
Even for Alex, who is still actively fulfilling his service with the U.S. Navy Reserves – Anvil ensures Alex can balance all his responsibilities.
“It’s definitely difficult – I’ll work a 40-hour week and then on weekends, I’m either going out of the state or sometimes out of the country,” Alex says. “I have to say though, so far, Anvil has been very receptive to my other responsibilities. I just try to be as transparent as I can be.”
As Anvil takes the time to celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, we found it important to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.
“Veteran’s Day isn’t just for remembering the ones that have died – it’s also for honoring those that are still alive,” Matthew says.
“You know, my great grandfather fought in World War ll,” Alan shares. “With opportunities like these, I like to think back to what he might have experienced, and what he ultimately sacrificed. Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to think about those who came before us. It’s important to remember their sacrifices.”
“It’s a comprehensive appreciation of all the men and women that have served or are currently serving our country,” Aaron says. “I also think it drives home a genuine gratitude for just all the blessings we have in the country.”
Anvil wants to thank our company’s veterans, as well as those throughout our nation who have served or are currently serving – thank you for protecting our country’s freedom. We stand on the back of your sacrifices.