From Emergency Management to investigations and everything in between, veterans working at TCEQ continue their commitment to public service to Texans. While some served a few years and others retired from the military, they all learned important lessons and skills that have aided them in becoming the best public servants they can be. We are so grateful for our veterans and wanted to highlight a few from the agency.
James Garner, retired from the U.S. Army after 20 years and has been with the agency for over five years, is a project manager for the Petroleum Storage Tank/Dry Cleaner Programs in the Office of Waste. Originally enlisting to afford college, his time quickly turned into something more.
“I enjoyed what I did and the sense of purpose that came along with it,” he said. “I joined before 9/11 but everything changed so much after that day that I couldn’t imagine leaving the military after that.”
Task management, prioritization, adaptability, and work ethic are some ways his military time has influenced James’s current work environment, allowing him to build on those skills.
“I particularly loved the time I was assigned to a NATO Headquarters in Germany and working in an international environment. Every day was a learning experience of culture and diversity with the influence of all the backgrounds of my colleagues,” he said. “Another was my time as a Drill Sergeant because you have a life-changing impact on people in such a short amount of time and it is one that they are thankful for, most of the time. No one ever forgets their Drill Sergeants.”
Jay Green, who is currently a criminal investigator for the Environmental Crimes Unit, served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years as a Security Police Officer on active duty stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene.
He chose to serve so he could attend college and get out of the Detroit Metropolitan area where he grew up.
“Most of my family had never left Michigan at that point or had even flown in a plane. I sought adventure and opportunity,” he said. “As my knowledge, rank, and education increased, so did my responsibilities.”
During his time, Jay had a lot of great supervisors and airmen, but the one who stands out the most is Sgt. George Cunningham.
“He was my first USAF supervisor. We spent many nights on patrol, me listening to his stories of Korea while I worked through my skills advancement training,” he said. “George was always supportive of my goal to move through my on-the-job training quickly so I could begin attending college classes as soon as possible.”
He continues to utilize the skills he acquired then- such as interacting with and interviewing witnesses and subjects, reviewing and applying regulations and laws, and investigating environmental crimes. Teamwork and leadership also rank high in the useful skills he gained.
“My experience in the USAF was life changing. As you move through training, as you accomplish each goal, you learn to trust your inner drive and tenacity to complete the mission (however big or small). The camaraderie is real and discipline breeds confidence. While it’s not for everybody, I consider myself very fortunate to have served my County in the military,” he said.
Anthony Buck, Emergency Management Coordinator for TCEQ’s Critical Infrastructure Division, served in a few different capacities. He started as an infantryman in the U.S. Army, then joined the U.S. Coast Guard for four years, and then he completed his time in the military serving for 15 years in the Texas National Guard.
“I had a really strong military background. I knew I was going to join the military somehow, I ended up choosing the Army first,” he said. “I went in at 17, I was the youngest person in my battalion at Fort Benning.”
Throughout his years of serving, Anthony gained a lot of skills and learned some important life lessons. One of the best skills he gained was humility.
“Getting along well with others, having to form teams with people you may not necessarily have known before. A lot of folks don’t really realize when you go into an infantry company, you’ll have people from all walks of life, inner cities, country, the rural south, Alaska. You’re in there and having to form a cohesive battle team to do very stressful things.”
Those in turn have helped him continue to build a community of people, not only across the state of Texas, but across the country, who all work together when disaster strikes. Not only that, but he also gained more knowledge being in the Coast Guard as a pollution investigator and on the 6th Civil Support Team during his time in the Texas National Guard.
“I worked for the 6th CST for almost 10 years. I did almost every enlisted job in that unit all the way up to Acting First Sergeant, starting out as a survey team member,” he said. “That ties into what I do now because a lot of times during responses we would fall under the direction of the TCEQ’s predecessor agency Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC).”
With his background in HazMat and WMD, the position just seemed like the perfect fit as Anthony decided to retire from the military. He had made contacts and had people he worked alongside of for years.
“I still see a lot of the people I worked with back then. I have called them several times to come help us out when we really need the best of the best,” he said.
While each of their military service was unique, they’ve all been able to take those skills and experiences and apply it in the work they do at TCEQ. We cannot thank our veterans enough for what they sacrificed for our country, but we will never stop trying. For those who have served, thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your commitment.