Kevin Johnson is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.
It is a tremendous honor to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change and I am humbled by the opportunity to share my experiences as an Iraq War Veteran now working to combat our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and the impacts of climate change. Throughout my life, I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by positive influences that have helped me shape my values and choose my career path. Growing up in Scranton, PA, I learned the true meaning of hard work and sacrifice from my mother. I learned what community really means and the importance of friendship, trust, and integrity. Moreover, I learned how important it is to appreciate service and leadership in all forms.
I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as an Army Captain in Bayji, Iraq. My tour in Iraq was served in the shadow of seemingly endless oil fires that filled the desert sky as insurgents attacked pipelines at a nearby refinery in an attempt to cripple the country’s economy. At the same time, our own military’s dependence on fossil fuels was placing thousands of my fellow soldiers in harm’s way. One in every 24 fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan ended in an American casualty, with more than three thousand Americans killed in fuel-supply convoys between 2003 and 2007 alone.
My proudest professional accomplishment was safely returning all 130 of my soldiers home to their families upon redeployment from Bayji in 2005. My experience taught me that reducing our dependence on fossil fuels would make our nation more secure and bring more soldiers home safely. For these reasons, I decided to focus my MBA studies at Cornell University and my civilian career at Acciona Energy on the advancement of clean energy technologies.
Thankfully, many veterans – ranging from privates to general officers – are returning from a decade of war with a similar commitment to securing our nation’s energy future and combating the impacts of climate change. Operation Free, a national coalition of thousands of veterans, national security leaders, and military family members in all fifty states, is tackling climate change. Today, Operation Free is leading the fight for clean energy policies at both the federal and state levels.
The Department of Defense has recognized that the need to secure our nation’s energy future is a national security issue of the highest magnitude and will require bold and decisive action. Deploying clean energy technology can help create a better future and a stronger nation, but it will not be easy. This is precisely the kind of challenge our veterans are trained for.
As the President noted in his 2009 inaugural address, “[…] it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor – who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter.”
Our nation’s veterans, from Scranton to Seattle, have been battle tested. We will carry the flag forward on this long, rugged path to a clean energy future. We will not turn back and we will not falter.
Kevin Johnson is the Senior Manager of Mergers & Acquisitions and Federal Business Development for Acciona Energy North America, a global leader in renewable energy.