By Hannah Scholes
Special to the Record
In honor of Veterans Day, we spoke with area fleet director for Waste Management (WM) operations in the Pacific Northwest Aaron Alvarado to find out how his military experience translates to his career outside the military.
Aaron Alvarado’s approach to work is straightforward: safety and service. Alvarado learned, and lived, those principles serving with the U.S. Marine Corps. They are the same principles that guide him in his leadership role at Waste Management.
Alvarado manages the 100-plus employees who make the equipment work at Waste Management. Whether it’s trucks, bulldozers, conveyor belts, welding equipment or fork lifts, Alvarado’s job is to make sure Waste Management’s technicians have the training and tools to get the job done safely and efficiently.
Alvarado’s first tour of duty was as a Lance Corporal in the Marines supporting Operation Desert Storm/Shield in the 1st Marine Division 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He arrived as the marines were ramping up a campaign to reduce casualties related to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – the deadly roadside bombs that were common in the area.
“The solution was straight forward,” he said. “It was all about situational awareness. We all needed to be more dutiful and disciplined about taking the time to inspect our surroundings, so we could anticipate and avert risk.”
Alvarado learned to be watchful 24/7 to protect himself and his fellow marines. That same constant state of awareness is critical in the recycling and waste industry where heavy equipment is constantly in motion.
“You have to have your head on a swivel at all times,” he said. “I’m impressed how Waste Management embraces safety as a core value.”
Sometimes it’s the operational readiness of a 26-ton garbage truck, other times it’s the labyrinth of conveyor belts in a recycling plant — always Alvarado makes sure equipment and systems work, and work safely. His attention to detail includes things as small as spotting a stool that could be a trip hazard on the repair shop floor.
From his office in Kirkland, it’s a short drive to Woodinville, home to two of WM’s busiest operations. The Cascade Recycling Center processes more than 144,000 tons of material each year. Woodinville is also home base for 161 collection trucks and WM’s natural gas fueling station. It’s where drivers fuel their trucks and huddle each morning for safety briefings before they go out into the Snoqualmie community.
“The leadership I provide for WM teams today is very much grounded in my early training in the military,” Alvarado said. “My work then was safety and service for my fellow marines and for my country. I consider it a privilege now to be part of a team that brings safety and service to the community.”
One of every 14 Waste Management employees is a veteran, a spouse of a veteran, or a current reservist. That’s why WM has earned recognition as one of the most veteran-friendly companies from U.S. Veterans Magazine, Military Times and GI Jobs.
It also explains why Alvarado and so many military veterans are proud of their work as WM drivers and managers.
Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach coordinator. Learn more at sustainability.wm.com.