From US infantry to rig floor: Fort Hood job fair gave former soldier chance at a new career
By Linda Hsieh, assistant managing editor
Rogelio Noyola always knew he had what it takes to work on a rig. He had served in the US military as infantry team leader for four years and in the National Guard for two years. He was going to college part-time, working towards a degree in interdisciplinary arts, while making a small living as a store clerk in South Texas. As if that weren’t enough, he was also a new father caring for his baby son.
“I had been interested in working in the oilfield since I got out of the military,” he said, but never got the opportunity. “I knew I could do it… I had tried before, but a lot of people don’t hire people without any experience.”
By 2008, his son was three-years-old, and he knew he needed a job that offered health insurance benefits. “I was trying to get something going for him,” he said.
The opportunity finally came along early that year – when IADC Career Connection kicked off its Returning Military Campaign with a job fair at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Nearly 200 soldiers attended – among them Mr Noyola. He had heard about the event through his brother, who’s also in the military. “I decided to go and take a look, see what’s there.”
Finding the right people
Seventeen drilling companies attended that job fair, all looking to recruit competent people who could run their busy rigs. Among them was Precision Drilling (Grey Wolf Drilling at the time), which already had created its own Transitioning Military Program (TMP) as a way to step up recruiting.
“The TMP seeks young soldiers – typically specialists or sergeants that have completed between three and six years in the military. We recruit these young men to work as rig hands, with the idea that they will eventually develop into fine drillers and eventually rig managers,” said Tammy Gatlin, the company’s human resources manager for the Gulf Coast division.
As a recruiting representative at the job fair, she remembers being impressed by the number and quality of soldiers that showed up, especially “the leadership skills most of these soldiers learn.” She also met Mr Noyola that day and explained what working on a drilling rig would be like – not just the good stuff like nice pay and days off, but also the challenges like the physical demands and being away from home.
For Mr Noyola, this was an opportunity to truly learn about the drilling industry and assess whether he had what it takes. “She gave me an overview of the job and what it entails. She told me the difficulties too. Some people say they’re willing to do the job, but, when they get there, they don’t realize how difficult it can get. She let me know everything. I walked out of that meeting with a good understanding of what the job was.”
A month after the job fair, Mr Noyola had a second interview and was hired. Soon after, he started as a floorhand trainee. And now, he’s a full-fledged floorhand working on the company’s’ Rig 102 in East Texas.
This means weekly 11-hour drives to and from his South Texas home, yet he’s loving the 7-on/7-off schedule because it gives him “the opportunity to be at home with my son. On my time off, I get to really be home and not have to worry about work.”
As for actually working on a drilling rig, Mr Noyola admits that it was tough at first. “But the team really helped me out. They took me aside when they knew there was something I didn’t understand, until they were comfortable and I was comfortable with the task. They took care of me and made sure I didn’t get hurt or get involved in anything that was over my head.”
He added: “It’s an exciting job. There’s always something new going on. And it gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day – that was one thing I was looking for in a job, something where you can feel like you’ve really done something that day.”
A talent resource
Although Mr Noyola is just one success story, the company notes that military personnel have been an overall great source of talent for the drilling industry.
“They are reliable, hard-working, drug-free, willing to move and understand leadership development from both the senior and subordinate positions,” said company project manager Wayne Mason. “They are exactly the kinds of people that we seek to attract and keep.”
For more information about the IADC Career Connection program, go online to http://careers.iadc.org.