Serving Our Country

Several POET team members hold a title that deems utmost respect – veteran.

Vital has introduced quite a few of our heroes over the past year. They reside in our local communities and operate POET ethanol plants. Their skills have been honed and they are the experts in their fields. They are the local basketball coaches and concession stand workers. They mentor the children of the community and serve on the local economic board.

They strengthen the rural American economy.

They decrease dependence on foreign oil.

And in doing that, they bring our soldiers home. Countless Americans have been deployed overseas to protect foreign oil. They’ve left their families, friends and jobs. They left the safety of the U.S. and a comfortable life. They made endless sacrifices in service to our country.

This reason resonates with many team members here at POET and inspires them to continuously innovate within the ethanol industry. Many have friends or family who have served, and many personally stepped up to protect our nation.

Brandon McLellan, Project Engineer for POET in Sioux Falls, S.D., spent nine years in the South Dakota Army National Guard. Deployed twice for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and again in 2005-2006, he’s seen firsthand the true cost of relying on foreign energy and knows it goes much further than the price at the pump.

“My military experience gives me a slightly clearer perspective on our mission at POET,” he says. “For me a large reason we do what we do here is so we can limit our dependency on foreign oil and not have to rely on the economic and civil stability of some other country that doesn’t like us.”

While the instability of these countries continues to grow, the U.S. is spending more and more to protect the supply and pathways of oil. In fact, the Navy spends $84 billon on protecting international trade routes alone.

“I’ve always told people that I got out of the military to fight the war on terrorism on a different front with POET,” McLellan says.

He’s not alone.

“I started working for the ethanol industry because I was able to see firsthand how much money is spent defending foreign oil,” says Brian Torgerson, Chief Mechanical Operator for POET Biorefining – Big Stone, S.D. Torgerson served with the United States Navy for five years and was deployed during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

By offering an alternative fuel option, domestic ethanol has helped reduce oil imports to only 45 percent. Now that’s something to get excited about.

“After four years of being a General Manager for POET, I understand what POET wants to do for our country by providing an alternative fuel and minimizing our dependency on foreign oil,” says Gary Eischeid, General Manager at POET Biorefining – Gowrie, Iowa who served with the Army National Guard for 35 years. “It has really gotten me excited.”

Though many have now completed their service, their time in the military serving their country shaped who they are. It created and amplified beliefs and values. Some joined because a father or grandfather had been enlisted, while others joined for the sense of adventure or because it helped pay for a college education. And some joined, simply, because their country asked them to.

“The military is a great experience to mold young adults,” says Robert Muller, Maintenance Manager at POET Biorefining – Preston, Minn., who served with the Air Force. “It teaches humility and aligns with POET’s cultural values as well.”

The military gives many young adults a direction for their lives. It teaches values such as loyalty, respect, honor and integrity. For many, it’s a first job teaching skills that will carry into future careers.

Mary Gerken, Operator at POET Biorefining – Ashton, Iowa, served in the Marine Corps for 10 years and was deployed on tours in Okinawa, mainland Japan, Korea and the Philippines. “My Marine Corps pride has carried over into my entire life,” she says. “I want to get the job done right the first time.”

Then there are those who continue to balance a day-to-day career, but stay on reserve – serving their country in its time of need.

Jim Hill, Automation & Electrical Engineering Manager for POET in Sioux Falls, S.D., has been serving with the Army Reserve for the past 17 years. He spends his weekdays working at POET and one weekend a month at battle assembly.

“I’ve always tried to find a position in the military that would complement my position at POET,” Hill says. “Prior to my new assignment, I was an instructor teaching the electrical course for soldiers reclassifying to a new job skill.”

And while his work schedule is demanding, the time he spends with the Reserve is worthwhile.

“We each continue to serve for a different reason,” Hill says. “For me, it’s my way to give back to the military.”

So ingrained in his life, the military has called two of Hill’s three children to serve as well.

In total, 182 POET team members have or continue to serve in a branch of the United States military. To the veterans of all our military branches, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your sacrifice shows selflessness to an extreme and has inspired us to push forward to decrease our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. You have given us the motivation and we will give you results.



Vital is a news & media resource published by POET, presenting a variety of stories with the thought leadership one expects from the largest, most forward-thinking ethanol producer.