GULF BREEZE, Fla. – In many ways, David Tanner says being a lineworker at Gulf Power is like being in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I miss my friends in the Marines,” he said. “You get to know them so well. It’s the same at Gulf Power with other linemen. You look out for each other and you spend as much or more time with them than you do with your family. And you don’t want anything to happen to them.”
David, an apprentice lineworker at the Gulf Breeze office, served in the Marine Corps from 2001-05.
On the day after high school graduation, he took a bus to Parris Island in South Carolina for boot camp. A week before he finished basic training, the terrorists struck on 9/11.
“We were in the middle of a thing called ‘The Crucible,’ an exercise where you have little or no food and little or no sleep,” he said. “We hadn’t seen a TV in weeks. When they told us (about 9/11), we thought they were messing with us.”
When he and his group finished basic training, “We were ready to go whip somebody’s butt.”
David, 35, went on various deployments as an infantry machine gunner. He prefers to keep his time spent overseas private.
When he returned, he became a marksmanship instructor at Parris Island, training Marine recruits.
After his active service ended in 2005 as an E-4, he went to a junior college in Minnesota where he played wide receiver on the football team. He also studied military history. It shows as he talks about the history of the Marines.
David was a natural as a marksmanship instructor. He hunted all the time as a youth and was already “a good shot.”
He says he has mellowed over the last few years. He credits that to his wife and two children. “I used to be a tougher guy. That was the way I was brought up. But now, I’m a dad and a husband.
The Marines gave him a strong work ethic, but he has noticed one difference:
“You don’t have to be a robot,” he said. “In the Marines, if they gave you an order to run, you ran. In the working world, it’s different. In your job, you have to think about how to react.”
David continued working toward his degree and got a job as a high school coach in the Orlando area before returning home to Pensacola in 2011.
In 2015, he became a lineworker at Gulf Power.
“With all the time we put in as coaches, it came out to less than one dollar an hour,” he said. “I was never home in the fall. I decided I didn’t want to sit back and look at all the trophies I was chasing. I wanted to spend time with my wife and two children.”
The only time he’s away from his family now is when he goes on storm trips to assist other utilities. He says that, too, is like being deployed in the Marines.
“Being a lineman is a very demanding job that only a few people can do,” he said. “Just like the Marines.”