Once a Marine Always a Marine.
For United States Marine Corps veteran Tom Harrison, the military-infused values of honor, courage, and commitment, permeate into his unfolding civilian career.
Harrison is a construction manager for our Electric Regional Operations in Escondido. He leads a team of more than 40 planners, crew workers, line workers, support staff, and supervisors. Together they ensure that the electrical distribution system is safe and reliable throughout the cities of Poway, San Marcos, Escondido, and northern San Diego, as well as the National Park system, and tribal nation lands.
Two years out of Bonita Vista High School, Harrison felt aimless and unorganized – he knew enough to know something was missing. He longed for a tight-knit team, a fulfilling purpose, and a truer sense of self. At twenty, with a high school sweetheart and a baby girl on the way, Harrison, and his -older brother (ten years his senior), who also served as his strongest male role model, walked into the South Bay Marine Recruiting Center and took the first steps to enlist as a U.S. Marine recruit.
The Marines taught Harrison how to serve alongside and take care of people. He recalled, “Enlistment meant food on the table but becoming a Marine gave me a meaningful sense of service above self and a newfound love of country.”
Harrison’s toughness was physically and mentally tested throughout his journey to become one of the few and the proud. It dawned on him that his capability could far exceed what he thought he could be. He submitted to a foundational reconstruction – thriving in an environment that required holistic change and adaptation. He excelled at bootcamp and graduated to become a third-generation service member. Harrison earned his first choice in duty station, becoming a military police officer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The service ignited drive and determination from within and unleashed an unparalleled work ethic. It would also serve as his cornerstone for success at SDG&E. The now 4 A.M. riser, awakes each day to a mantra of “Service first; Never done – Always better; Won’t settle.”
A Sword for a Shovel
In 2001, with four years under his belt, an expanding family, and a yearning to be back in California, Harrison was honorably discharged having earned the prestigious Naval Achievement Medal. He ventured off to become a federal prison officer with stints at U.S. Penitentiary in Victorville and Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. Both were high-security federal incarceration sites operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It was not for him. “When forty percent of inmates are serving life in prison, it is disheartening and can easily suck the soul out of you. The sporadic family time was also deadening,” he said.
Harrison was certain he could find his better purpose. He longed for a job that reminded him of his time with the Marines – a closely connected group, where your crew is your second family, and the relationship continues beyond work. In April 2006, Harrison found a distinct parallel to the Marines and made the switch from tactical arms to a shovel after being hired as a laborer here at SDG&E.
If serving in the Marines was foundational, SDG&E was a place where Harrison could thrive and again make rank. In 15 short years, he went from ditch digger to line assistant, apprenticeship lineman, journeyman lineman, supervisor, to construction manager in 2021. He attributes his progression and leadership to his time in the Marines.
Never done. Always better. Humbled with the benefit of age, wisdom he has gone back to school to complete his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from National University.