Insurgents attacked Chuck Knetter’s outpost in Iraq in August 2006, ultimately leading him to earn a Bronze Star Medal with valor, the nation’s fourth-highest award for bravery.
When it was all said and done, 20 insurgents were killed and a Marine and a Guardsman were injured.
“I just looked at it as doing my job,” said Knetter who’s a mechanic for WPX in North Dakota.
“We all came home safe. We just reacted and did our jobs. They said, hey, you did a really good job. And it was either them or us.”
Roughly 5 percent of WPX’s workforce currently or once served in the military, including Knetter and five of his colleagues in the Williston Basin.
“Their dedication not only to the U.S. but to WPX is next to none,” said Joe Gruhlke, production foreman who oversees Knetter and Dustin Wold, a North Dakota National Guard member who has served for the past 17 years.
Knetter hadn’t planned on joining the National Guard as a teenager, but when he came home one day a recruiter was at his house visiting with his sister. He listened, like what he heard and signed up.
“I really enjoy being a part of that crew and having some armor between me and whoever we’re going against,” he said.
This past summer, Knetter spent time in Lithuania with his comrades. They were taking part in joint task force training with the Lithuania, German, Swedish and Croatian armies.
“It was definitely different to work with those guys,” he said.
Wold, meanwhile, has done two tours in Iraq and one in Kosovo. He’s had two direct hits on his vehicle from roadside bombs, but has never been injured.
“I was just kind of riding along when all of a sudden the cab was full of dust and I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t hear anything or feel anything but there was a large hole in the window,” he recalled.
Strong relationships are built between service members, he said.
“Once you get to know everyone, you hang out with them once a month and a couple weeks in the summer, and you form pretty good relationships,” said Wold, a mechanic who works on flaring equipment.
“The people you’re deployed with you become really close to because you deal with them every day for a year.”
Teresa Van Deusen served five years in the Air Force and five years in the Missouri Air National Guard.
“It seemed like the logical path for me. My dad is retired Air Force as is my brother,” said Van Deusen, who has worked at WPX for 11 years.
As a safety specialist in the Williston Basin, she conducts incident investigations, rig inspections and site inspections, among other things.
Van Deusen said she enjoyed the closeness of the members who served. “You go on assignments and you have a family around you even though your family is far away,” she said. “It was very inclusive and they took very good care of you. I really enjoyed the service.”
Her favorite time was when she was stationed at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina. She worked at a leadership school that taught a variety of courses about becoming a supervisor.
“There I felt like I was making an impact,” she said. “I met people stationed in New Jersey to Ohio to Charleston. It was a highly visible type position and I liked that.
Another time, she helped support people building a radar network in Denmark. “That was very interesting to get to see those countries and experience their culture,” she said.
WPX CEO Rick Muncrief offers his praise to all Veterans, saying, “Thank you for your sacrifice. You’re worthy of honor and respect beyond anything our words can ever express. You’re a hero because of how you gave of yourself to protect others, including me."
WPX's Dustin Wold has survived two IED strikes without injury.