The only thing that kept Jeremiah Sloan from extending an exciting career in the U.S. military was an offer to join an electric cooperative and return to his roots in northeast Arkansas.

For Sloan, the choice was clear.

In June, Craighead Electric Cooperative welcomed the Air Force captain home as the first official hire of NRECA’s veterans hiring initiative, Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country.

The Jonesboro-based co-op’s offer was “an opportunity to do something I know that I love and do it where I want to be long term,” says Sloan, 29, who reported for duty as an electrical engineer in July.

For Craighead CEO Brian Duncan, the trek to hiring a veteran was a little more circuitous.

The co-op had offered the open engineering position to two other candidates who were steeped in utility experience. But for various reasons, both had turned the co-op down.

When Duncan was at the CEO Close-Up Conference in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this year, listening to co-op CEOs Kim Leftwich––a 25-year Air Force veteran––and Ray Beavers discuss the veterans hiring initiative, he remembered Sloan’s job application.

“The whole time they’re talking, I’m thinking about Jeremiah,” he recalls. “We probably need to look at this guy. For these guys coming out of the military, what better way to say, ‘Thank you’ than to give them a job.”

Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country is a nationwide initiative that seeks to honor and employ veterans, military service members, and their spouses.

Beavers, CEO of United Cooperative Services in Cleburne, Texas, sees military service as “almost synonymous with the type of culture we work to build within our organizations.”

Leftwich, who took the helm of Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative in Mattoon, Ill., in 2015, notes that more than 40 percent of military recruits come from rural America. “Ordinarily,” Leftwich notes, “we simply think about entry level positions when considering veterans. But don’t overlook the senior enlisted or long term officers that are exiting the service as they are a rich source of talented and motivated individuals—and, they already embody the cooperative principles of Service and Community.

“They have leadership capacity, discipline. There isn’t an area where they can’t help you. We need to bring them home and find them jobs,” he continues.

Duncan had to wait a bit to get Sloan on staff since his term in the Air Force was not up until June. But Duncan says he was worth the wait.

Sloan got his first taste of the electric co-op world when he interned at Clay County Electric Cooperative in Corning, Ark., in 2010 while waiting for his commission to Hanscom Air Force Base. For six months, Sloan worked on modeling the co-op’s distribution network, substation maintenance and upgrades, and relay coordination settings.

“I absolutely love the co-op experience,” Sloan says, who sees many similarities between his military service and work at Craighead Electric. “Everyone is committed to the cause and really takes care of each other.”

Duncan says he sees a long co-op career for Sloan.

“He’s going to be one of those guys who plants his feet here and works until he’s an old guy.”