OPPD’s newest bucket truck is a sharp-looking piece of machinery bedecked in red, white and blue, with bald eagles on the hood and sides and emblems recognizing every branch of the U.S. military.
The Freightliner M2106 will rumble down the streets to service calls with an Omaha-based line crew, appearing in parades as needed and offering a public thank-you to veterans throughout the area.
The decorated truck, the only one of its kind at OPPD, is the culmination of more than three years of work by OPPD’s Veterans Network, an employee group focused on veterans of America’s armed forces, with help from many others within the utility. Members of OPPD’s executive leadership team got an early glimpse on Tuesday at OPPD’s Huddle Space in Aksarben Village.
“This is for all of the veterans in our service territory,” said William Banks, a U.S. Army veteran, president of the Veterans Network, and an OPPD industrial safety specialist. The project “has been a team effort, a lot of legwork. I just appreciate everybody who worked on the project.”
The 2023 truck is a standard model for line crews, wrapped in a special, heat-shrunk vinyl covering for its new look. Banks said the company that did the work, Revolution Wraps, took extra steps on a tight schedule to ensure it was done in time for the parade.
“They did a fantastic job accommodating us,” he said.
The idea for a special truck came from Werner Enterprises, a transportation company that designed its own military-themed trucks. The Veterans Network made similar plans, but the pandemic delayed the plans.
Sam Siracusano, an Army Reserve veteran and senior customer care representative for OPPD, said the truck is meant to demonstrate the utility’s commitment to veterans and their families.
“I just think it’s awesome that we’re showing that we care and we’re committed to those service members in our territory,” said Siracusano, vice president of the Veterans Network.
Siracusano said customers will sometimes tell her about their time in the service and their personal struggles.
“Sometimes they feel forgotten by the community in general,” she said. “They’re struggling and feel like nobody cares.”
Giving the truck a new look was an unusual job for Joe Comstock, an OPPD content generalist who does design work for print and web.
Comstock created a concept design using a side-view photograph of an OPPD truck. He incorporated U.S. military graphics and the stars and stripes, along with OPPD’s Veterans Network logo. Comstock had to balance the desire for a creative, eye-catching design with the rules and regulations governing OPPD’s trucks.
Some changes were made in the end, but Comstock said he was very happy with the final result.
“It was fun, and the guys (in the Veterans Network) were very enthusiastic,” he said. “I’d say the senior management was very supportive as well.”
OPPD has pushed for years to empower those who served. The utility participates in veteran-focused job fairs and has partnered with Troops to Energy Jobs, a group that connects service members with jobs in the energy industry. Some OPPD employees have also joined the utility through the SkillBridge program, a Department of Defense initiative to help departing service members gain civilian work experience. The utility is also a corporate sponsor of a group that works to prevent veteran suicides.
OPPD has 191 full- and part-time employees who have served in the military at some point. That’s about 10% of OPPD’s total workforce, according to the utility’s Human Capital business unit.
Employees also march yearly in the Veterans Day Defenders of Freedom parade. Among them is Sean Frazier, an OPPD insurance and forecasting manager who deployed to Iraq twice in the Marines. Frazier said such events are a chance to network among fellow service members and those who support them.
“I think it’s really important,” he said. “It helps build the community.”
The parade – canceled this year because of bitterly cold weather in the forecast – usually draws hundreds of people, said Patrick Daniel, an OPPD grid operational tech engineer who served in the Navy.
“I feel a lot of pride walking in that parade,” said Daniel. He founded the Veterans Network and served as its first president. “I’m proud that OPPD takes an interest in helping veterans. I hope there are some out there that see the truck and take a second to think, ‘Oh. That’s really neat.’”
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