Native Veterans Serve Fellow Veterans on Navajo Nation

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August 27, 2018

It was a hot, summer day during monsoon season when GRID Alternatives’ Tribal HQ team traveled down dirt-packed New Mexican roads to the tiny town of Ojo Encino on the Navajo Nation. Hundreds of miles from the nearest city, Ojo Encino is home to under 300 people, and thanks to a team of tribal veterans, it’s now home to solar. 

Veteran volunteers and tribal members converged in Ojo Encino to help install solar through GRID’s Troops to Solar initiative, which provides workforce training to U.S. military veterans and active service members across the country. This particular Troops to Solar project was special because not only were the volunteers veterans, but the homeowners were as well.

Homeowner John Bitah, Navy veteran, and his son Steven Bitah, Army veteran, both participated in the installation alongside veteran volunteers. Together, the team installed two grid-tied solar systems, each 1.98 kW-DC, which is expected to supplement 80-90% of the Bitah’s energy usage.

Sergeant Alvin Harvey, Steven Bitah & John Bitah smile behind a solar panel
Sergeant Alvin Harvey traveled from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado for this special project after initially volunteering with the GRID Tribal HQ team during Solar Spring Break 2018. He was excited to continue building his solar skills while connecting with fellow veterans.

“This is a great opportunity to meet other veterans. It seems like I’ve known these guys my whole military career...we kind of have this bond from being in the military that I wasn’t expecting, explain Harvey. “It’s like you’re helping your own, kind of like a battle buddy type of thing, working together.”

GRID’s Tribal team previously installed solar on the Ojo Encino Chapter House, EMS Building, and an off-grid refurbishment, in addition to providing hands-on solar training for tribal members, many of whom are veterans looking for a new direction for their careers.

“Some of us just came back from the military, and we don't know what to do with our lives,” said Steven. “This is a good way to keep us positive.”

Special thanks to equipment partner Enphase Energy, whose equipment donation helped make this project possible.