Eric Richardson began his next journey as a Pipeline worker on the Dakota Access Pipeline and a member of Local 49 after 24 years of experience in the United States Army. Richardson, who grew up in Wyoming, but now lives in Cloquet, MN, joined the Army in 1987.
“For my first two years in the Army I was stationed in Germany, and then came back to Fort Hood, Texas where I was then deployed to Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm,” Richardson said. After returning to the U.S. Richardson was a part of the counter drug missions between the U.S. and Mexican border. “I was responsible for tracking drugs coming across the border, and then later on I actually went back as a special ops mission planner, and I planned all of those missions,” Richardson said about the drug missions.
In 2004 Richardson was deployed to Iraq where he ran security force for combat support convoys. Richardson returned to the United States for a short time before deploying again to Iraq from 2006-2008. “That was a 15 month deployment, and that was a tough one…I think we lost about 30 some people during that deployment,” Richardson recalled.
When Richardson returned to the states he went to training to become a Sergeant in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011. After he completed his mission in Afghanistan, Richardson decided it was time to retire from the military.
From there he used his military experience for his next job as a personal security professional for the United States Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. “We provided diplomatic security for chief personnel in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I did that for nearly five years,” stated Richardson. “I would spend 105 days there, and then return to the U.S. for 35 days…you weren’t living in the best conditions, but it was a step above being deployed in the Army,” he added.
After his time doing security detail, Richardson decided it was time to come home for good, and find a job that is more local. Joe Chastan, the Local 49 Business Agent out of Bagley, MN, helped Richardson find his first job and helped him become a member of Local 49. “Joe gave me an opportunity to be an oiler on the (Dakota Access) Pipeline,” Richardson said of the new opportunity. “I thought it was fantastic and it was interesting to see how that pipe went into the ground,” he continued. “I had a really good business agent, good steward and great foremen up there that taught me a lot.”
Richardson became a member of Local 49 in June 2016, and worked on Spread 7 of the Pipeline, which is located in Williston and Watford, North Dakota. That part of the Pipeline work wrapped up in November 2016.
During the off-season, Richardson said he is taking full advantage of the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center. “I took the OSHA 30 class, two pipeline horizontal directional drilling classes, a side boom class, and then I also took the dozer and excavator class,” Richardson said. “I thought the Training Center was great, and the instructors are phenomenal; I can’t say one bad thing about any of the training there,” Richardson continued.
While Richardson hasn’t been a member of Local 49 for very long, he said he is excited about the opportunities Local 49 has already given him. “The union has got great benefits, great opportunities and it’s a way for me to travel around the United States.”
For more stories like Eric’s visit the Members At Work tab on www.local49.org