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Merry Christmas Major Vibbert: How GE Becomes Family

Major Tim Vibbert trusts GE with his life. He spent 15 years as an Army pilot flying Apache attack helicopters powered by engines made by GE workers in Lynn, Massachusetts. “I know every inch of the engine and what they do,” Vibbert says. “I bet my life on it many times.” But that’s not why he calls GE “family.”

When Vibbert married his wife Margaret in 2001, she was an IT manager at GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville, Kentucky. For the next four years the couple moved between Army bases in Alabama, Texas, Korea and back. Margaret did not have to give up her career because GE transferred her between offices. “We are going to support her wherever you take her,” Margaret’s boss told Vibbert. “That was a great example of a company that values its people,” he says.

When duty calls: GE manager and U.S. Army Major Tim Vibbert spent 15 years flying Apache attack helicopters. His last tour in the middle east ended in September 2011.

The Vibberts settled back in Louisville in 2005. Vibbert, who is a West Point graduate, joined the Army reserves and started looking for a civilian job. GE was an obvious choice and he was hired as a commodity leader at Appliance Park. In 2010, Vibbert’s team found a supplier of compressors for the new GeoSpring hybrid heater, whose production GE moved to Louisville from China.

Major Vibbert goes to Washington: Tim Vibbert took part in GE’s American Competitiveness: What Works summit in Washington, DC, which concludes today with a focus on veterans.

Vibbert, however, didn’t get to see the GeoSpring through the full development cycle. In June 2010 he was called to duty and deployed to the middle east. Serving as a personnel recovery director, he trained soldiers and civilians in abduction prevention and built response teams to run recovery missions.

Vibbert’s bosses and colleagues back in Louisville did their part supporting the major. They sent him packages with books, candy, energy bars, toothpaste, and iTunes gift cards.

In December 2010 they sent a special gift. It was a signed picture of the entire team giving a salute. “I still have it,” he says. “It said ‘Merry Christmas Tim, from all your friends at GE.’ I keep it on my desk.”

Vibbert rejoined GE in September 2011. He is one of 10,000 veterans employed by the company. Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said this week that GE would hire 5,000 more vets over the next five years. The company will also join 22 companies in sponsoring “Hiring our Heroes,” a series of 400 veterans’ jobs fairs planned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2012. Besides financial support, GE vets will give resume and interview training at 50 of those fairs.

Vibbert remains in the Army reserves with his Apache unit. “I still get to fly,” he says. Those GE helicopter engines now feel like home cooking.

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