Garrett Reinert, Valaris: Hands-on Merchant Marines experience paves path to rewarding career on offshore drilling rigs

By Jay Stracke, Editorial Coordinator

As the industry moves ahead in its quest for new talent, it is important to remember that young hopefuls need not fit a certain mold in order to find a place for themselves in a driller’s world. Anyone can find their place in oil and gas as long as they are willing to accept and commit to new career opportunities.

“There are doors open everywhere in this industry, and I’ve made my home in it,” Garrett Reinert, Assistant to Senior Manager – Operations, Valaris, said.

Through his work with the IADC Young Professionals Committee, Garrett Reinert hopes to promote the talent and skills of the drilling industry’s next-generation workers.

Originally from Denver, Colo., Mr Reinert was raised in an oil and gas family. His father worked in the heart of the energy corridor in Houston, moving there after BP’s acquisition of Amoco. At the time, however, he had no aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps. His dream, since he was just 7 years old, was to become a pilot in the US Navy.

During his senior year of high school, he decided to apply to the US Naval Academy, US Air Force Academy and the US Merchant Marine Academy. He ultimately chose the US Merchant Marine Academy because “you can choose to go active duty as an officer in any branch of the military, or you can take a commission in the Naval Reserve and then go to a private industry, the US Merchant Marine industry, and pay back your commitment that way. I really liked the flexibility of not being locked into one specific path for the rest of my life.”

After enrolling at the academy in 2009, Mr Reinert served as an Engine Cadet, dedicating more than 300 days of his four-year program offshore to operate marine propulsion plants aboard massive container ships, bulk carrier ships and tankers around the world. This gave him valuable hands-on experience through propulsion engine operations across California, China, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

“You’re working with the engineers down there in the engine room with this absolutely massive and extremely powerful equipment,” Mr Reinert recalled. “It was certainly hard work, but there’s no better way to learn, in my eyes. I missed a lot of holidays and birthdays through those years, but the sacrifice was absolutely worth it.”

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering and Shipyard Management in 2013, Mr Reinert was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy Reserve, where he gained further experience in supporting vessel propulsion and operations. His college experience eventually propelled him to the Engineer Training Program at Valaris (then Ensco), which aimed to develop future leaders by exposing its trainees to three years of offshore rotational positions, in addition to two years of office-based training with the Operations Department. This five-year program gave trainees hands-on experience as roustabouts, roughnecks, derrickmen, drillers and other positions.

Mr Reinert said his experience with the Merchant Marines helped him catch on quickly on offshore drilling rigs.

“I don’t think it was a coincidence,” he said. “What I had in my back pocket when I got hired was that I knew how the marine propulsion systems worked. I was able to build on that knowledge based on what I learned about engines and systems, because drilling systems, as a whole, aren’t all that different from propulsion systems in terms of how you power equipment and how you transmit energy. It’s just different outputs, so to speak. Instead of turning a propeller on a ship, now we’re using generated power to turn the top drive on a rig and drilling for oil and gas.”

Mr Reinert also believes that having a better understanding of the offshore environment proved critical for his development in the drilling industry. “The decisions that we make can have a huge impact, both on the environment and safety. It’s important that you have that background knowledge of what you’re making decisions about,” Mr Reinert added.

In his current position at Valaris, Mr Reinert supports three semisubmersible rigs and one SPAR rig located across both the US and Mexican portions of the Gulf of Mexico. This includes aiding the Senior Operations Manager with safety management, client-facing representation, managing vendors and finances for his designated rigs, as well as providing any assistance needed by the rig managers for each of the four rigs.

“What I do is fill in the gaps and help the team with whatever they need supporting operations. So, when rig managers go on vacation or are out for any reason, I’ll fill in as the rig manager for however long they need.”

“You never know what the day’s going to bring,” Mr Reinert added. “It could be anything from reacting to an emergency or an incident, to future contract bidding and planning, to budget planning, and everything in between.”

In 2019, Mr Reinert became active with IADC through the newly formed Young Professionals Committee, which he co-chairs. The group seeks to drive young professionals’ development through collaboration on recruiting and retention.

“We also have a subcommittee for exposure and involvement, and the goal is to drive initiatives that will develop young professionals’ skillsets and promote their work. I’d like to eventually see that subcommittee host rig visits and really get people learning what this industry is about.

“We started having an honest discussion about what it means for young professionals to really take this industry over as time progresses,” Mr Reinert continued. “We just kicked off last year, and this year I’m really excited for where we’re going.” DC

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