In honor of Veterans Day, we salute our active military employees for their commitment to serve our country as well as American Transmission Co. It takes spirit and dedication to successfully balance military duties, civilian work, personal and family life, and we appreciate our employees who do.
Helping a squadron of 500 work together
System Control Operator Chace Parask has been in the United States military for 23 years. He spent eight years in the Army as a combat medic and cavalry scout. He currently serves in the Minnesota Air National Guard.
During his recent deployment, Parask was stationed in Qatar and put in charge of the welfare of more than 500 enlisted personnel. Part of his job was to brief each one of them in several small group formats.
“I gave them two general principles to guide them over the course of their deployment that were simple, and they could remember: One, take personal responsibility, and two, take care of your wingman. Over the course of the seven months in the Middle East every personnel problem I encountered involved one or both principles being violated. Taking ownership of our own issues and making decisions with our fellow man in mind leads to a harmonious working environment. I find that when people are happy and harmonious we achieve the greatest productivity.”
“As for my role in the military I appreciate the opportunity to serve my fellow man.” Parask said. “No matter what the political world climate is there is always a fellow soldier, sailor or airman that needs a comrade. It brings me great pleasure to serve in a capacity where I can make fellow troops’ lives better.”
Living in the desert for many months, Parask said the thing he missed most while deployed was vegetation. The people he missed most were of course his children and family.
“The thing I like best about returning to ATC is the people,” said Parask. “The appreciation, the patience and the overwhelming support have been amazing. Returning after being gone so long I was very concerned about being an asset to ATC and getting back up and running as soon as possible. ATC and the people here have made the transition back home and back at work very welcoming.”
Military role provides welcome challenges
Jake Jenkins, associate design engineer, has served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard for 10 years.
Jenkins provides intelligence oversight and support for an assault helicopter battalion. In addition, he supervises a group of intelligence professionals that monitor situations, current events, local threats and anything that could affect pilot operations. Last year, Jenkins spent seven months deployed in Iraq.
“There are many things I like about my role in the military,” said Jenkins, “I like that fact that the work itself challenging, fast paced and ever-changing. Other than that, I like serving with other Wisconsin Guardsmen who take pride in the work we do to carry out state and federal missions.”
While deployed, what Jenkins missed most was the ability to relax and take time to recharge. Upon returning to work at ATC, he was glad to see all the familiar faces and catch up with his co-workers.
Service members honor ATC bosses
Over the years, several ATC leaders have been recognized with a Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve for providing a supportive work environment for their reservist employees. The ESGR is a Defense Department program dedicated to promoting cooperation and understanding between civilian employers and their National Guard and Reserve employees.
The Patriot Award is awarded to individual supervisors who not only hire reservists but demonstrate superior support to the military employee and his or her family through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence if needed.
This year, Jeff Rutkowski, system operations administrator, presented Lori Pernsteiner, EMS team leader, with a Patriot Award, and Tam Vo, engineering team leader, was presented with the award by Jake Jenkins.
In another ESGR honor for employers, two ATC employees were sent on a special air ride dubbed the “Boss Lift” in Milwaukee this summer.
Boss Lifts allow active Guard and Reserve members to send their leaders to join a special mission. This year, John Gould, project management team leader, sent Sarah Justus, director of construction, and Jeff Rutkowski sent Lori Pernsteiner.
“I was so impressed with the members of the Air Guard. Knowing that part-time members put so much effort into training to work right alongside full-time members, while still maintaining their ‘day jobs,’ is an amazing testament to their commitment and professionalism,” said Justus.
“This event was a great opportunity for our supervisors to see the behind-the-scenes efforts and the pride and commitment those in the military have, particularly those of us in the National Guard,” said Gould. “For most in the National Guard, the military is their ‘second job,’ but we don’t treat it as such – it’s a privilege to serve our state and nation and we take it very seriously.”
ATC values our employees who have served or are serving in the military for their service to our country. They make up roughly 10 percent of our workforce and are an important part of our team. ATC is proud to support these individuals in their career growth at ATC and applauds the supervisors who support their reservist employees.
Think about the last time you attended a high school athletic game. There are the familiar scenes – the fans, the concession stand, the coaches, the players on the court or out on the field.
But take a closer look. Do you see them? The players on the far end of the bench. Do they look interested? Sure, some do. But others are giving the impression that they’d rather be doing something else.
That’s where high school mountain biking comes into play. It’s a sport that has surged in popularity in Wisconsin in just the last few years – and it’s not hard to see why, said Jay Johannes, American Transmission Co. senior project engineer. Johannes assists in coaching the Waukesha County Homeschool Team – a group of 6th through 12th grade boys and girls who are having a great time doing “something else.”
“Every kid has different abilities,” Johannes said. “We don’t exclude. Every kid gets a chance. You don’t sit on a bench, you participate.”
Paul Roltgen, senior estimator at ATC, agreed with his colleague. Roltgen is the coach and director of three teams in Sun Prairie and Madison. He struggled for years to find a sport that interested his son and daughter until he learned about high school mountain biking. His 15-year-old son, Owen, currently participates in the Sun Prairie High School team.
“I really like that we are an all-inclusive sport,” Roltgen said. “All the kids participate, and we are not all performance based. Our objective as coaches is to make cycling and staying active a lifelong pursuit – not just something you do during your school years – but something the athletes can take with them through life.”
A five-year history in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin High School Cycling League was originally founded as the Wisconsin Interscholastic Cycling Association in 2013. Later that year, it became an affiliate of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association and adopted its new name.
What began as a 60-member league now serves 953 students on more than 50 teams across the state and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Across the country, 25 leagues are made up of more than 17,000 riders.
Johannes became involved in the league last year. A friend’s children were previously involved in a local composite team and thought it was a great opportunity for his 15-year-old son, Paul. In 2017, the Waukesha County Homeschool Team had 10 riders on the team ranging from 6th through 12th grade. This year, 16 students participated.
Rules of the off-road
Each Wisconsin League season begins in July with practices twice a week through August, learning basic off-road biking skills and building endurance. Riders average 367 hours of participation and training each season.
For Johannes’ team, practices are held at Minooka Park in Waukesha and Lapham Peak in Delafield. In Sun Prairie, Roltgen worked with city officials to develop trails in Sheehan Park, where most of his team practices are held, in addition to other local off-road bike trails.
An expensive mountain bike isn’t always necessary to compete – in fact, many team members have cheaper models. What’s really important is that members ride safely. Both coaches and participants must adhere to NICA rules and undergo annual training.
“You can’t even put your leg over the bar unless you have a helmet on, and that goes for coaches, too,” Johannes said. “We know that this sport has hazards, so we encourage safety.”
Five league races are scheduled throughout September and October. This year’s races were held in Waukesha, Mt. Morris, Eau Claire, Wausau and Waterloo. Each race draws nearly 1,500 people and requires 140 volunteers. Races are held on the weekends and are typically 5½ miles long for each lap. The number of laps vary based on grade and/or ability level.
Johannes said mountain biking is a sport that “really grows on parents” and he has seen families that have embraced a healthier lifestyle because of it. A survey of Wisconsin League riders showed 95 percent of student athletes report an increase in health and fitness.
An opportunity to build confidence, endurance
As team coaches, Johannes and Roltgen inspire and encourage young people as they build confidence, strength and endurance to accompany their academic pursuits. Eighty-nine percent of riders have a GPA of 3.1 or higher.
“Mountain biking in itself is extremely challenging, so to see the youth put themselves out there really shows their ability to adapt and overcome,” Roltgen said. “I think today, where just making the team in high school sports requires so much, it’s good to see there is an outlet for some kids that don’t fit the niche of the big three sports.”
For Roltgen, the comradery at the events is what lets the coaches and parents know they are part of something special.
“I know this when the crowd is cheering and clapping as loud for the last-place athlete as the first, recognizing that each athlete is overcoming their own monumental challenges.”
If you would like to learn more about high school mountain biking in Wisconsin, visit wisconsinmtb.org.
The Monarch butterflies have begun their annual migration from Wisconsin to central Mexico, where they will spend the winter.
Did you know that Monarchs:
- …Fly 50 miles per day for approximately 1,500 miles to get to their winter home?
- …Need an abundance of nectar in the fall to supply them with the energy they need to fly all the way to Mexico?
- …Spend the entire winter in Mexico and fly back to the southern U.S. to lay eggs on young milkweed plants?
- …Can only raise their young on milkweed? (Wisconsin is home to about a dozen species of milkweeds including common milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly milkweed.)
Check out this new Monarch butterfly video featuring nationally known gardening expert and horticulturist Melinda Myers, who offers Grow Smart tips for helping these winged beauties get off to a great start on their migration.
Meanwhile, it’s not too early to start planning what you can do to help the pollinators when they return in the spring! Check out Melinda’s additional suggestions for habitat and vegetation that will benefit bees and hummingbirds, too.
On Friday, Oct. 19, the Milwaukee Bucks will kick off the 2018-19 season at home in their new stadium, Fiserv Forum. While their ambiance is new, and not to mention, coach – one thing isn’t: ATC’s partnership with them.
This year marks the third season that ATC has aligned with the Bucks on the Trees for Threes program and it’s no surprise why – it’s a beneficial relationship for communities and schools. The Bucks score a 3-pointer at home, and a Wisconsin school in our service area scores a tree.
“Our partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Trees for Threes program is a win for local schools and the environment,” said ATC’s Director of Corporate Communications, Anne Spaltholz. “ATC supports initiatives that have a positive impact on the environment, education, and health and well-being. Planting trees at schools aligns well with these initiatives, and we’re proud to continue our relationship with the Bucks to help accomplish this.”
During the 2016-17 season, the Bucks scored 343 3-pointers at home resulting in plantings at 83 schools. Last year, the Bucks bumped up the 3-pointer total to 355. This season, we anticipate even more. We were flooded with gratitude from many of the recipients last season. Below are the comments from just a few of them:
“I just wanted to be sure to thank you, American Transmission Company, and the Milwaukee Bucks for awarding us through the Trees for Threes program! We have planted four trees near our high school sports facility, where parents and athletes remind us that some shade would be nice! We plan to purchase a couple more, thanks to this fantastic program!”
Viroqua High School Principal
“On behalf of the entire Village of Waunakee, we would like to say THANK YOU again to ATC and the Milwaukee Bucks. This award was supplemented with funds from our parks budget and we were able to plant 31 trees earlier this month. We selected a wide variety of trees including maple, birch, ginkgo, oak, cypress spruce and flowering pears.”
Susan E. S. McDade
Community Services Director
“Your recent gift for the donation made through the Trees for Threes program makes it possible for Catholic Memorial High School to educate, guide and prepare young people who will distinguish themselves from all their talented peers.”
President, Catholic Memorial High School
“The staff and students at Humke Elementary School would like to take a moment and thank you for selecting our school in the Trees for Threes program. We are excited to plant the trees at our school and will have many years of joy watching them grow and prosper – just like we have with our students.”
Humke Elementary School Principal
“I am writing with deep gratitude for the Trees for Threes program. This gift will allow us to improve the grounds of our school and make a positive environmental impact. It is important to promote strong environmental values to our students, as well as provide a beautiful campus.”
Chief Executive Officer, Milwaukee Academy of Science
Read more in the Bucks’ news release.
Giving to United Way is part of ATC’s commitment to the communities we serve. We just completed this year’s United We Care campaign, raising a total of $214,468, including employee pledges, special event fundraising and company match. This was a 16 percent increase over last year’s campaign. Working together with United Way, we are happy to support programs that make our communities stronger, safer and more united.
We owe the success of the campaign in part to the fun events employees planned to help raise awareness of the campaign.
Our De Pere employees set up a United We Care mini-golf course in the office for a one-day event that included employee hole sponsors and great prizes. Employees, and some of their family members, got creative to make it challenging, building obstacles into the course like an aerial saw in a transmission-line right-of-way.
We brought back our United Way Throwdown bag-toss tournament and United Way Trivia Jam. Both games take place companywide with teams at each office across our footprint holding preliminary rounds. The winning teams played final rounds in the Pewaukee headquarters at the campaign closing celebration.
In Madison, employees brought delicious fixings for a taco bar lunch to raise funds. And our Cottage Grove employees used their backyard basketball hoop for a ‘Round the World basketball challenge and food drive to benefit Second Harvest.
The spirit of giving and the camaraderie generated during the campaign were a genuine reflection of our campaign theme, United We Care.