American Water remains committed and takes great pride in creating meaningful opportunities for veterans and military spouses, as well as providing safe, clean and reliable water and wastewater services to 15 million people across the U.S., including 17 military installations.
We are proud to be recognized with several awards for our commitment to veterans and the military, including: the 2022 Top 10 Military Friendly® Gold Employer, Supplier Diversity and Brand designations, the top 100 Best for Vets Employers by Military Times, the 2021 Vets Indexes 3 Star Employer, and the 2020 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award from Department of Defense among others. So, in honor of Veterans Day, we want to recognize just a few of the ways that our incredible team at American Water partners with, works with and serves those, who have protected us and those who currently are.
Partnering with the greater veteran community.
American Water supports and partners with the greater veteran community in several ways, inside and outside our walls. Within business operations, we are committed to supplier diversity, and our team views veteran and service-disabled veteran owned business enterprises (VBE) as a key component of our overall supplier diversity strategy. In fact, over the past three years, American Water has increased spend with veteran and service-disabled veteran businesses annually, and we fully expect that trend to continue.
American Water also partners with American Corporate Partners, an organization that connects veterans, active duty spouses and eligible military spouses with corporate professionals for customized mentorships. Approximately 30 American Water employees are currently serving as mentors to veterans on their path towards fulfilling, long-term careers. In addition, we are also a corporate partner of The National Veteran Business Development Council, one of the leading advocates for veteran businesses, and provides them with the opportunity to certify and network with Fortune 500 companies, along with educational opportunities. We also began a partnership with Hirepurpose, an organization that provides career guidance to help military talent transition to civilian life.
Serving military bases with a veteran-friendly workforce.
We are proud to count ourselves among the few companies that operate in the water and wastewater Utility Privatization program (“UP”) for the Department of Defense, and we take great pride in being the largest provider in terms of bases awarded. Through UP, American Water currently owns and operates the water and wastewater systems at 17 military installations, through which we are responsible for providing services to approximately 540,000 daily customers. At the largest base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, we provide water and wastewater services to 115,000 people: 40,000 active duty, 60,000 family members and 15,000 civilian and contract employees.
Our operations on all the bases are supported by American Water’s Military Services Group (MSG). The individuals who make up MSG are dedicated to providing the military men, women and their families the best possible service and support to their customers—and we couldn’t imagine our American Water team without them! So, we’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to a few of the many, individuals who not only support these operations, but are also veterans or active service members themselves.
Capital Project Manager, Fort Leavenworth
Krista Abernathy joined the U.S. Air Force in 2011 as an enlisted Structures Troop in the Civil Engineering Squadron. She was commissioned in 2013 as a 1st Lieutenant and is currently an Engineering Officer (Captain), with an upcoming promotion to Major. Prior to her position at American Water—which she started in March of 2020—Abernathy was the full-time Deputy Base Civil Engineer
at the 139th Airlift Wing. Her job was to coordinate, manage and oversee design and construction for all projects on base. She also led numerous deployments working with troops on all aspects of construction projects. Captain Abernathy sees her position at American Water MSG as a similar environment to her role in the Air Force, and has been able to bring her knowledge of the language, needs, and processes of our client to her work with us. But, possibly most importantly, she has seen firsthand how important an employer’s support of her role in the military can be.
“Being at a company that embraces my experience from and dedication to the military is truly amazing. I have worked for companies in the past that don’t understand the role the military can play in someone’s life, and the support American Water has provided is second to none. As I am set to deploy in the coming months, the company is going above and beyond to make me feel like this is the place I was meant to be!” – Krista Abernathy
Before beginning with MSG, Erik Bonstrom had a distinguished career with the Marine Corps. Enlisting in 1993, his first station after boot camp was in Yokosuka, Japan for 18 months. His next duty station was 1st Battalion 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during which time he was deployed to five continents and took part in numerous schools all over the world, with militaries from many different countries. He also took part in three operations (Joint Guard, Silver Wake and Guardian Retrieval), for which he earned the Combat Action Ribbon. Bonstrom’s final duty station was Marine Barracks 8th & I, where he was the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) in charge of the White House NCOs. At the White House, he greeted the President of the United States and all his guests, including former Presidents, foreign heads of state, dignitaries and members of the House and Senate. During this time, he was also awarded the Presidential Service Badge. He credits his time with the military with teaching him how to engage with people and embrace compassion—both of which make him an honored member of our team.
“It is an honor to be able to work with the active-duty military and veterans daily. Not only does every day on the base feel like a trip down memory lane, I feel that being a veteran who lived on base for many years gives me a better understanding of the needs of the bases and the service members.” – Erik Bonstrom
James M. Hicks, Jr.
Manager, Health & Safety, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
James M. Hicks, Jr. served in the U.S. Army for 27 years before discharging in 2021. He held several positions in the Field Artillery Organizations and his special duty assignments included being a Drill Sergeant, Senior Military Instructor at University of Wisconsin-Stout and a Firing Battery First Sergeant/Operations Sergeant. As a manager and supervisor in the Army, instilling safety was his number one concern. When conducting daily maintenance and training exercises/combat operations in Iraq, he ensured that his team’s vehicles remained serviceable, team members were trained properly, and equipment remained serviceable and operational. He sees this as great preparation for his current position at American Water MSG.
“The values that I learned in the military are a mirror reflection of what I emulate being the Manager Health & Safety today. It’s been great working for a company that serves the military, because the Army is my family and taking care of my family members and team members daily is one of my top priorities. It’s a great feeling coming to work every day!” – James M. Hicks, Jr.
Manager, Operations Support
David Schuck enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1987 and spent 20 years supporting the submarine force. He served aboard the USS Pennsylvania, USS Florida, Naval Submarine School, Trident Training Facility Bangor, Commander Submarine Forces Atlantic Fleet and Commander Submarine Group TWO. His only tour outside of the submarine force was at Navy Operational Support Center in Peoria, Illinois as the Commanding Officer.
In 2007, he joined American Water MSG. In the last 14 years, he has supported Contract Services, Business Development on several Utility Privatization bids, worked through 12 new base transitions, served as Utility Manager (Scott Air Force Base and Ft. A.P. Hill), served as Regional Manager (Ft. Polk, Ft. Belvoir, Ft. A.P. Hill, Scott Air Force Base, Ft. Sill, Ft. Leavenworth, and Ft. Bragg), and currently serves as the Manager of Operational Support. From his time in the military, he brings to MSG experience in hydraulic systems, pumps, motors, valves, electronic control systems, computer (hardware & software) systems, people management, project management, water chemistry, and military operations.
“To keep our military on the front lines, there are a whole host of people on the back end. American Water provides a vital service that helps the warfighter complete their mission, and I am a part of this. I still get to keep serving, with a great group of fellow veterans and employees. There is a sense of camaraderie in the military that is hard to find in the workplace, but in the Military Services Group I find that same sense of pride, values, trust and desire to do things right.” – David Schuck
John D. Williams
General Manager, Fort Polk
After basic training in 1997, John D. Williams attended Advance Initial Training, training as a Combat Medic, and later training as a Pharmacy Technician. He then spent 10 years on the enlisted side as a Noncommissioned Officer, achieving the rank of Sergeant First Class. He later applied for a Direct Commission as an Environmental Science and Engineering Officer, and in 2007, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. He spent 13 years as an Officer, achieving the rank of Major, a Field Grade Officer. He has been stationed all around the world, including time in Fort Hood, Korea, Germany, Fort Jackson, Sinai, Egypt, and Fort Polk. He also served in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Williams truly believes that, during those years, the military provided him with the tools to prepare him for his current role as General Manager.
“The military provides structure, demands discipline and provides leadership training. These tools, along with other skillsets the military provides, prepared me for life’s unknown challenges and empowered me to lead team members through known and unknown challenges as well.” – John D. Williams
Click here to learn more about American Water’s Military Services Group.