Top 40 Under 40 Military Spotlight: Brent Vogt
By Heidi Russell Rafferty, Contributing Editor
Article Sponsored by: URS
At the age of 19, Brent Vogt was already in charge of 60 Airmen and had "learned dozens of important lessons in leadership and accountability of one's actions" during six weeks of training in San Antonio, Texas.
Vogt, a native of Olivia, Minn., first learned that ethic from his father and late grandfather, who were in the masonry business. His dad took him along on jobs when he was 10, and by his mid-teens, Vogt was working alongside adults.
After high school, Vogt started college at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. The school was expensive. Vogt's priest in Olivia was a major general and the Chief of Chaplains in the Air Force who told him that if he joined the Air Force, it would pay for the school and he could get his degree while serving. He joined in December 1999. Vogt received his B.A. in business in 2004 and an Applied Associate of Science in Information Systems Technology (an Air Force degree). He was in radio communication system in the 109th Air Medical Evacuation Squadron for the Air National Guard in Minnesota.
In 2003, Vogt served one month at Camp Wolf in Kuwait and then deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, to work in the Green Zone (now known as the International Zone). He was the only member of his team sent on this mission and spent three months traveling from the Green Zone to the Baghdad International Airport on missions to evacuate the wounded to Germany and the United States. "We traveled these roads in unarmored vehicles without doors. The war, at this point, was far removed from the years in 2005 - 2007. I became a much stronger person enduring the hardships of conflict while evacuating over 1,300 individuals," he says.
Also while in school and serving in the military, Vogt continued to work with his father's masonry business. After his honorable discharge as a staff sergeant in 2006, he took a job as a field engineer for DH Blattner & Sons (now Blattner Energy), a construction firm in Minnesota. During the next 18 months, he traveled the country working in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and western Texas. "I worked on a project worth $20 million building an addition to a railroad line stretching from Houston to Los Angeles. In early 2007, I spent eight months working on various projects in wind energy ranging from $80 to $180 million. We built over 300 wind turbines throughout the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles," he says.
In July 2007, Wanzek Construction of Fargo, N.D., hired Vogt as a project engineer. The firm added three buildings to an existing ethanol plant in Chancellor, S.D. "This was my first experience in industrial construction and the third such instance of working in an unknown area of my professional understanding in project management. The new plant started the first time and was brought in under the $5 million budget," Vogt says.
"We were tasked to liaison with engineering professionals in the Afghan theater to inspect various Afghan National Army and Police buildings located throughout the country. It was the perfect opportunity to move our product overseas and continue my personal education in construction while serving the people of America and our Coalition allies in southern Afghanistan. In nine months, we worked with several countries in theater while exploring Kandahar, Spin Boldak, Shah Wali Kat, Maiwand, and the Arghandab Valley. In this position I instructed our Afghan security force in tactics while learning Pashtu through Rosetta Stone," Vogt says.
"I'm hoping for more time overseas, maybe Europe or Brazil. I would like to do international projects, be fluent in languages and learn more about the world," he says.
Freelancer Heidi Russell Rafferty is a reporter with 19 years of experience who writes about employment and business issues.
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