For OSU Institute of Technology alumnus Kaleb Wilson, “Be the One They Call” is more than a saying; it’s part of his job as a high voltage lineman.
When Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, La., as a strengthening Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and wreaked havoc on the community, more than 1 million customers lost power for weeks in the middle of the summer heat.
According to the Wall Street Journal, as many as 25,000 workers from 38 states flocked to Louisiana rebuild the state’s power grid mangled by the storm. Wilson, who works for OGE Norman south district was one of them.
“This is our job, when the lights go out day or night, holiday or workweek,” Wilson said. “This is what we signed up for when we attended the High Voltage Line Technician program at OSUIT!”
He mainly works in and around the Greater Oklahoma City area unless there are major outages in the system elsewhere, or a disaster like Hurricane Ida occurs.
Helping to restore the power after Ida was voluntary, but Wilson knew it was something he had to do and understands the importance of being involved in efforts like this.
“For me, it’s just the joy I get in helping others in need,” Wilson said. “Right at sundown when I close that barrel up on that cutout and see the lights come on and people cheering and so thankful for you, there is no better feeling!”
He and 60 other lineman from OGE spent 15 days in Louisiana to help to restore power after this devastating storm. With over 30,000 poles leveled to the ground, the crew had their work cut out for them by setting poles, fixing sagging wire and other service work.
Wilson said what he likes best about his job is helping others, but finding solutions is something he truly enjoys too.
“A neat characteristic of this job is the ability to always be faced with a different situation and figure out what the game plan is as a team,” he said. “A lot comes into the mix when it comes to building or rebuilding power lines. With everybody on the same page and doing their part, things operate in a very efficient manner.”
Wilson’s training from the High Voltage Line Technician program at OSUIT prepared him to “Be the One They Call,” and he encourages others to check out OSUIT.
“Attending OSUIT was the best decision I have ever made. The amount of opportunity is endless with the willingness to learn,” he said. “The instructors and advisors went above and beyond. They will set you up to succeed. However, with the reins in your hands, are you going to take them and make the most of it? What you gain from OSUIT is completely up to you, but if you show up and take it seriously, you will find nothing but success in your near future!”
“This is what we do at OSUIT; we prepare students to enter the workforce in careers that make a difference in our communities,” said Steve Olmstead, dean of the School of Engineering & Construction Technologies. “Our hands-on approach allows students to experience what these jobs require before they graduate, making them a valuable employee the day after graduation, prepared to answer the call.”
Wilson gained hands-on experience as a lineman while attending OSUIT during his coursework and multiple internships with OGE, which translated to a full-time job offer pending his graduation.
“There is absolutely no better feeling than being the person that gets to go and turn the power back on,” Wilson said. “I’m so grateful to have a really good group of guys I’m coming up under, and the ability to work together and turn the lights on is just a really cool experience that will hook you for life!”