Going Up: From Diver to Lineman

Navy Diver Finds Second Career in Utility Industry

By Rodger Nichols

Sailor Erik Gardipee joined Northern Wasco County PUD as part of a job-shadowing program through the Department of Defense.
Photos Courtesy of Erik Gardipee

Erik Gardipee will finish 20 years in the U.S. Navy in January 2021. He is serving the last few months of that term not at sea, but with Northern Wasco County PUD. Erik is job shadowing under a Department of Defense program called SkillBridge.

“For service members, SkillBridge provides an invaluable chance to work and learn in civilian career areas,” the DoD website states. “For industry partners, SkillBridge is an opportunity to access and leverage the world’s most highly trained and motivated workforce at no cost. Service members participating in SkillBridge receive their military compensation and benefits, and industry partners provide the training and work experience.”

A number of industries participate in the program on a regular basis, which gives businesses a chance to see how easily the service member can be trained and how well he or she fits into the working environment for six months at no cost to the company.

Erik with his family on the day he was promoted to chief petty officer.

This is the first time the PUD has taken part in the program.

Erik is a native of The Dalles. He and his wife, Tiffany, have two boys, David and Logan. Erik’s brother, Andrew, is a lineman at neighboring Wasco Electric Cooperative.

“When I reached out to them, they responded quickly,” Erik says. “They were willing to take me on without a lot of experience. They have been very welcoming. One of the things that’s
attractive about the PUD is that there’s a lot of job security. As long as people need to have the lights on, utility workers are going to be in demand.”

Erik is a Navy diver. He has dived all over the world, including a mission to Vietnam to recover American remains from sunken ships and planes lost in the war. He also has hunted for a lost submarine off the coast of Argentina and made numerous deployments to the Middle East.

Although Erik is investigating several job opportunities at the PUD, he is looking for something hands-on. One of those is a lineman position.

Erik wears a traditional MK-5 diving apparatus as an instructor at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Erik says he has observed surprising similarities between divers and linemen.

“Both work in dangerous environments where you depend on co-workers to
have your back,” he says. “As a diver, you communicate with topside. As a lineman, you communicate with the ground. You go down in one and up in the other, and in both cases, you’re performing vital work.”

Erik says he really likes the people at Northern Wasco PUD.

“They have treated me so well and been so welcoming,” he says. “It’s a wonderful place to work, and I’m looking forward to a second career here.”