Erin Wakefield

Erin Wakefield

Recognizing the value of veterans

A monthly column from Waste Management.

  • Monday, November 11, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

By Hannah Scholes

Special to the Record

In honor of Veterans Day, this special column is dedicated to the men and women who served our country and now serve the Snoqualmie community.

It’s 5 a.m., and Erin Wakefield is surrounded by 45 people – all talking at the same time. It’s Waste Management’s (WM) Central Dispatch. It’s loud and fast-paced, a high pressure, critical nerve center – and Wakefield feels right at home. Central Dispatch is where she manages WM’s highly skilled technology systems, customer service, communications, scheduling, and routing team. She credits her comfort level in this intense environment to her four years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force.

“I was a combat arms instructor. Every year Air Force personnel have to come in for weapons training on safety, cleaning and shooting,” Wakefield said. “It was my job to teach and certify them.”

Wakefield was the lone female in a 12-person unit responsible for the weapon proficiency of airmen in combat. When a weapon malfunctioned on the battlefield, Wakefield and her team had to identify the problem, fix it and get it back in action as quickly as possible. Lives depended on it.

These experiences prepared her for a career at Waste Management, where safety training, teamwork and sophisticated systems are key to providing reliable and professional service to residential customers and businesses. Similar to a military operation, Wakefield’s dispatch team trains on safety protocol, huddles daily to problem solve and share best practices and uses information from cameras and computers mounted on collection trucks to help drivers steer clear of unexpected roadblocks and detours.

The dispatch manager position is a natural fit for Wakefield. She said her training helps her understand her team members’ personalities and characteristics so she can tailor their training for the most successful outcome. Through her military service, she developed a firm understanding of the need for clear communications, accountability and chain of command. That translates well to her daily duties at WM.

“The Air Force taught me integrity, a strong work ethic, and a can-do attitude,” Wakefield said. “As soon as I hear someone say, ‘We can’t do it,’ I start looking for ways we can.”

Those are qualities Waste Management looks for and why one of every 14 WM employees is a veteran, spouse of a vet or reservist. It’s also why Waste Management is one of the top employers of veterans in the nation and is a champion for veterans.

Why does WM recruit vets? Because WM managers understand the value veterans bring to the workforce and our community. Veterans arrive with a safety mindset along with the teamwork and leadership skills that WM needs to serve communities. Veterans have extensive training, are prepared to adapt, and excel in a team setting. They can easily assimilate into WM’s proudly diverse workforce as we strive for inclusiveness and equity.

Wakefield embodies these qualities. She calmly, confidently supports the WM drivers and teams who serve the Snoqualmie community – just as she did in the Air Force. Whether she is teaching a superior officer the correct way to break down, clean, and fire a weapon, or helping WM drivers navigate the unexpected on their routes, Wakefield feels right at home.

Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s education and outreach manager. Learn more about local job opportunities for military veterans at careers.wm.com.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

Margery and Pat Godfrey. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Couple’s love story inspires new Hallmark Channel movie

Inspired by local residents Pat and Margery Godfrey is the story “A Godwink Christmas - Second Chance, First Love”

Deception Pass State Park. Deception Pass is a strait separating Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island. File photo
Free Park Days in 2021 start in January

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will again offer 12 free… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

Washington State Fair cancelled
Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health
Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health

The stream-a-thon supports NAMI Eastside and nonprofit Hold Your Crown

Waste reduction from home
Waste reduction from home

A monthly column from Waste Management.

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses
Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

UW students create Spira app to gather COVID-19 data
UW students create Spira app to gather COVID-19 data

The app was created to screen for respiratory diseases but the teen creators shifted their focus once the COVID-19 outbreak began.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons
KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

A monthly column about the King County Library System.

Earth Month 2020 and COVID-19
Earth Month 2020 and COVID-19

A Waste Management column about caring for the planet and each other.