Sandia LabNews

From sea to desert: Building for America

Local veteran awarded by DOE

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BUILDING FOR AMERICA — Paul Farless, left, began his building career as part of the U.S. Navy’s Construction Battalion. He continues serving his country through projects at Sandia, other national labs, federal institutions and private industry. (Photo courtesy of Paul Farless)

When Paul Farless joined the Navy after graduating from Los Lunas High School in 1992, he was looking for his future. That future turned out to be building.

Farless became a part of the Navy’s Construction Battalion known as the Seabees. Their primary role was to provide advance wartime infrastructure support and construction during Navy and Marine Corps ground force operations.

“Our teams were often deployed to undeveloped areas where we were tasked with everything from humanitarian objectives to building base operations from the ground up. That included everything from runways to bridges,” Farless said. “The Seabees must be ready to respond under any circumstances, so we also had to be combat trained. When something was bombed out, we had to be ready to repair it immediately and defend our teams and others. This lends to the Seabee motto of ‘We Build, We Fight.’”

Today, Farless’ job is much less dangerous, but he still supports America’s mission. He is president and CEO of SDV Construction, which stands for Service-Disabled Veteran Construction.

The DOE recently named SDV Construction as the Service-Disabled Veteran Business of the Year for its extraordinary work in supporting Sandia’s mission.

Working for Sandia

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VETERANS HELPING VETERANS — Paul Farless, right, advanced wartime infrastructure support and construction when he served in the Navy. Today, he uses his experience in the military to mentor other veterans and help them start careers in the civilian world through SDV Construction. (Photo courtesy of Paul Farless)

SDV Construction is recognized as a top-performing general contractor at Sandia, earning $80 million in subcontracts. It is also the sole Certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business providing construction services to Sandia. SDV has traveled as far as Prudo Bay, Alaska, to support projects for Sandia, primarily involving facility building, expansion, design and remodeling.

But it’s not just the work itself that has earned SDV Construction recognition. Alongside its efficiency and safety record, the company also embraces new technology, practices and creative solutions to elevate its work. In one example, they used an elevated work platform attached to a telehandler to aid in the assembly of a pre-engineered metal building.

The company also boasts a substantial number of employees with security clearances, reducing escort costs and project times. They also provide a 4-10 work schedule, which has proven to be an incentive for their workforce.

Providing a place for veterans

Supporting veterans is the reason founder Kirk McWethy started the company in 2005. He wanted to provide opportunities for veterans transitioning into the civilian world. Farless continues to carry that torch.

“Veterans transitioning out of the service are not always given a lot of opportunities,” Farless said. “Veterans say they are taught how to write a resume and how to look for a job, but they don’t help you find the role you need or the best possible role for the skills you have.”

Fareless says another challenge is the difference between the skills taught to active-duty members and the ones in the civilian world. “If you have roles that are combat centered, there isn’t necessarily a role like that in the civilian world. You must learn new things,” he said.

SDV Construction helps veterans build those needed new skills through trade association sponsored apprenticeship programs and scholarships they fund at the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College. These scholarships are exclusively reserved for veterans and their families looking to get into the construction industry.

Following his mentor

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VETERAN BUSINESS OF THE YEAR — Paul Farless, president and CEO of SDV Construction, left, accepts the DOE Service-Disabled Veteran Business of the Year Award for its outstanding work helping Sandia accomplish its mission. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Brown)

It’s a situation Farless knows all too well. After leaving active duty, he knew he wanted to continue to build, but needed additional wisdom and guidance. He worked as a journeyman carpenter and worked toward starting his own construction business. Knowing the value of mentorship, he connected with Air Force veteran Kirk McWethy with whom he had worked on other projects. He ultimately found a home in SDV Construction.

Today, Farless leads the company and serves as a mentor to his team, including the veterans on staff. While the primary goal is to help veterans find a place where they can use their skills, SDV Construction also supports veterans in other ways. This includes donating to and volunteering at numerous veteran-centered nonprofits, as well as Roadrunner Food Bank, which often supports homeless or struggling veterans. SDV Construction has also donated to the Habitat for Humanity Honor and Remember house, a home dedicated to veterans.

Being honored by DOE

Farless and SDV Construction are now being awarded by the DOE for their work in supporting Sandia and its mission. He says it’s an honor.

“It gives my team the recognition they deserve for the work they put in every single day. It’s really the icing on the cake.”

But Farless says it’s the work they do every day that brings the most satisfaction. “The entire premise of veterans as a whole is service. We are able to continue our service to our country, and national defense just as veterans have sworn to do.”

Three years running, and honored again for helping small businesses

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SMALL BUSINESS MVP — Royina Lopez, center, accepts her MVP award from the Small Business Administration’s Supply Chain Management Center on May 1. She is pictured alongside Sandia Integrated Supply Chain Director Louis Griego, left, and Supply Chain Management Center Senior Director Scott Bissen. (Photo by Candice Montoya)
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DOE MENTOR OF THE YEAR — Sandia’s small-business team accepts the DOE Mentor of the Year Award for Sandia’s Mentor-Protégé Program. From left to right, Sandia supplier diversity advocates, Marie Simms and Royina Lopez, Director of DOE’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Ron Pierce, and Sandia Small Business Manager Zach Mikelson. (Photo by Tricia Sena)

The DOE has named Sandia’s Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program as DOE Mentor of the Year, an award that the program has received for three years running.

Now in its fifth year, the program has mentored five protégés from around the country. It takes 153 volunteer mentors and support personnel to help these small and disadvantaged businesses grow, succeed and navigate doing business with Sandia and others in the DOE enterprise.

Royina Lopez leads the program and has become known at Sandia as the go-to person for helping small businesses. She was also named this year’s Small Business Advocate MVP by the Small Business Administration’s Supply Chain Management Center. This award recognizes outstanding performance by a small-business professional who has made a significantly positive impact on the NNSA’s small-business program.

Royina’s outreach efforts have not only helped protégés but have also expanded small-business opportunities throughout DOE. She received the Small Business Advocate MVP award on May 1 and accepted the DOE Mentor of the Year Award on behalf of Sandia on June 4 in Minneapolis.

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