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AED Foundation Tech Award Winners

Jeremy Ford
Field Tech
Ascendum Machinery Inc.

This former farm boy from upstate New York attended community college for diesel tech training before taking a job at a John Deere dealership, where he began washing machines until he was promoted to a field truck. After two-and-a-half years, Volvo recruited him to work as a field tech, performing repairs on job sites.

Supplementing his education with Volvo tech training twice a year, Ford faced the challenge of transitioning from mechanical engines to fully electronic engines with emissions systems and drive-by-wire. “I came in at the end of the old days,” he reflects, explaining that he still struggles to figure out laptops, which can make troubleshooting difficult.

Although he enjoys the work in the field and the satisfaction of getting a job site up and running, he hopes to move into operator training, teaching customers how to operate new equipment and mentoring new techs.

Ford was surprised to hear about the award, unaware that Operations Manager Cory Penland had nominated him. “I heard about it on a day I was discouraged and wondered if anyone cares that I go the extra mile.”

Penland cares, valuing Ford’s passion, attitude, work ethic and willingness to share knowledge. “He possesses very high-level critical thinking skills, but also is able to translate his critical thinking to hands-on practical skills.” Penland also praises his eagerness to learn new technology, along with the way he combines field tech services with marketing and customer training. “I cannot think of a more deserving person for this award.”
 
Loren O'Connor
Topline Mechanic
Sunstate Equipment Co.

Loren is one of those guys who’s always been good with his hands. Before becoming interested in mechanics, he worked in a recycling factory and then in construction. About seven years ago, he became an apprentice at Sunstate, rising up through the ranks as a small engine mechanic, line mechanic and field service tech.

“Sunstate promotes from within,” O’Connor explains, “so the more you learn and do, the more you can raise your hand for opportunities.” He’s already got his eye on the next one: the delivery fleet. “I’d like to get into trucks.”

Meanwhile, he likes the freedom to diagnose, grow and learn on his own, although he keeps current on the latest technology with continuing education on things like hydraulics and air brakes. “Every year, we renew our fleet, so I have to learn all over again – things like how to strap down the equipment on a trailer so it doesn’t touch the sensors.”

Nominated by Ben O’Connor because he demonstrates the company’s core values and is committed to team goals, he says the award means a lot to him. “I’ve been working pretty hard; it’s a reflection of those years. Self-worth can go away; it’s nice to know other people see it.”
 
Dalton Koelzer
Field Service Technician
Vermeer Texas-Louisiana

Dalton Koelzer takes everything to the next level, according to Eric Dudley, the branch manager who nominated him. Praising his “outstanding performance and attitude,” Dudley adds, “Dalton doesn’t look for excuses. He takes every task head-on and tries to find a solution.”

Koelzer says working in this industry has changed his attitude, but admits his biggest challenge is learning how to remain calm when faced with adversity. Despite that, he never gives up. He’s the guy everyone counts on, and the guy customers want to fix their machines, the guy who isn’t afraid to ask questions or make mistakes along the way.

With an associate degree in applied science from Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and additional education in welding and tech programs, Koelzer has spent seven years in the industry. Still looking on the bright side by finding “joy in the small things,” he hopes to advance in his career and move into a product specialist position at Vermeer Texas-Louisiana.

“I am extremely proud of Dalton,” Dudley says. “I cannot wait to see what his future holds.”

Randy Ciolkosz
Field Service Technician
Miller-Bradford & Risberg

Another farm kid who grew up helping his dad fix tractors and other machinery, Randy Ciolkosz was drawn to heavy equipment during high school. After graduating from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College as a diesel and heavy equipment technician, he started doing small jobs at Miller-Bradford & Risberg before becoming a field technician.

Ciolkosz has continued his education on CNH, Kobelco, Sandvik and other manufacturers’ equipment. His duties have changed from working on mechanical issues to repairing and troubleshooting electrical and more advanced problems. “I work on equipment I never knew before.”

The job has changed his life, he says. “When I first started, it was just repairing customers’ equipment at the shop. Now there’s a more personal connection with the owners and operators.” It’s important to him that his customers know he’s doing the best possible job, that their machine is being fixed correctly and efficiently. “I want owners and operators to know, no matter how big or small their fleet is, they are being taken care of.”

But there was a time when Ciolkosz himself needed taking care of. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He describes the pain and fatigue as a roller coaster ride that included chemotherapy and hospital stays to fight bleomycin toxicity. Through it all, he felt a responsibility to Miller-Bradford, his service manager, his co-workers and his customers, so he worked as much as he was able to.
 
“Even though Randy had a personal setback, that did not change his commitment and sense of responsibility,” says Mary Beth Yeager, vice president of human resources & organizational development, and his nominator. “Nothing stood in his way to continue to serve the needs of his customers. He did not let anyone down!”

Now in remission, Ciolkosz is excited to see what new challenges await each day. Like other field techs, he enjoys going to different job sites and helping his customers complete their projects. “Randy finds happiness in helping others and enjoys the interaction and relationships he has built with his customers over the last 18 years,” Yeager says.

Pointing out that he “pays it forward” by volunteering with Future Farmers of America and mentoring young students in basic technician skills, Yeager says he has been an asset to their company.

“I love my job,” Ciolkosz says. “It can be very rewarding – having a machine down, repairing it and have it back up and running on the job site.”
 
Clayton Kennon
Heavy Equipment Technician, Journeyman
SMS Equipment

Saskatchewan farm boy Clayton Kennon acquired his work ethic at a young age. “Growing up on the farm, you never quit until the job was done.” He also displayed his talent for taking things apart to see how they work, helping his father repair equipment, and fixing bicycles he found at the dump.

Another trait he developed at a young age is his determination not to lose friends. Unable to speak clearly because he was born partially deaf, Kennon was held back a year at school. This could explain why he “takes new employees under his wing and makes them feel like part of the team,” according to nominators Jessica Heatherington, regional manager, human resources, and Ryan Medendorp, superintendent, trucks and facilities.

His empathy, teamwork and dedication are some of the reasons they nominated him. For example, after observing the crews struggling to put kits together for the welding department, he created a checklist with pictures and sign-off.

There are dozens of similar stories about how his contributions have increased efficiency. “Clayton is a leader, mentor, and ‘go-to’ guy for our technicians,” they say. “Whenever there is a major technical issue, Clayton is actively involved.” 

He makes it look easy, but he faces challenges on the job. “Everything changes all the time,” he says, adding that more of the tech tools are on a computer. “The machinery just keeps getting more and more advanced. On our farm, we run older equipment that doesn’t use DEF fluid and ten computers. My tools are in my toolbox.”

But he enjoys the challenge of troubleshooting and fixing problems. He also likes the shift rotation at SMS: two weeks on/two weeks off gives him time to return to his family and his farm.

Whether he’s building autonomous trucks or filling in for an absent supervisor, Kennon maintains a positive attitude, patience, attention to detail and dedication to finding solutions. “His dedication is contagious,” his nominators say.

Steve French
Service Technician
Rock & Recycling Equipment

“Steve French takes his position as lead mechanic seriously and stays up to date on all training,” states Dan Donoghue, product support manager at Rock & Recycling Equipment. He nominated French because he is “a really hard worker” who finishes jobs, even if it means working late to get the customer up and running.

Some of that training includes WHMIS for Workers training, PFERD abrasive training, Welding AWS D1.1 structural code, Volvo Penta global technical training and McCloskey technical training [MB1] for crushers, screeners and stackers.

French admits that his biggest challenge is keeping up with all the new engine technology and other component systems. Still, he appreciates the fact that there is always something new to repair, with a wide variety of equipment. “It’s never the same thing two days in a row.”

He also likes that his job takes him new places. “Doing road service has made me very independent.” But, after seven years in the industry, he’s still working hard and taking every opportunity to learn as much as he can. “You never know when that information will help you in the future.”
 
Jake Dugger
Field Mechanic
Coastline Equipment

Being recognized for his work is humbling, says Jake Dugger, field mechanic for Coastline Equipment. “I’m doing this job because it’s the only thing I’ve ever done.” In addition to 19 years with Coastline, he worked on mining equipment for 10 years at Caterpillar in Nevada.

Growing up on a farm near a little town in Idaho where he learned to fix everything, to working at a garage during high school and then attending a college in Twin Falls where he was sponsored by an equipment dealer, Dugger has gained a wealth of experience that his branch manager, Jason Sever, counts on. “He is intelligent, practical, dedicated and committed,” with a high level of professionalism and technical and practical knowledge says Sever.

“Jake is the type of field technician you can build a team around,” Sever continues, noting that other technicians turn to him for advice. Although Dugger has come to realize he doesn’t want to be in management or in an office, he’s willing to oversee the younger techs – if they have the right attitude, he says, because he understands that today’s machine technology is so advanced, it requires the proper training – “or you have zero chance of fixing it.”Dugger likes going to different sites – sometimes as far away as Nevada and Seattle – when others need extra help or are behind. Sever says Dugger takes on tough assignments without question. “You can trust that the job he performs in the field is complete and correct.”
 
David DeGood
Shop Lead
Bobcat Enterprises Inc.

Management thought that it was important for their employees to nominate their peers, with whom they work every day. “It wasn’t right for us to pick. They should decide,” explains HR Director Susan Clauson. She sent out ballots listing all qualifying technicians. David DeGood won by a landslide.

After growing up on a dairy farm, DeGood started his professional career as an ag mechanic. “A buddy and I were always tearing something apart and putting it back together,” he recalls. “It was a challenge to get things running.”

He bypassed an opportunity to attend an ag college in Wooster to take a job as a mechanic at a Massey Ferguson tractor dealership. “I started on a manure spreader. They never break down when they’re empty!” He also worked on tractors and combines.

Then he went to a small garage, where he worked on everything: cars, trucks, lawnmowers, tractors, chainsaws… “I did my first engine and transmission overhauls there,” he reminisces. “I got a ton of experience and learned a lot.”

He’s “done about everything” over the course of 43 years in the industry: service writer, shop manager, service manager, field dispatch, field service, some sales. Not yet ready to retire, DeGood says he wants to “keep doing what I do.” These days that includes teaching others. “Everything is electric-over-hydraulic now, so I train techs how to read electric schematics.”

Acknowledging the honor, he insists he doesn’t need recognition; pride in his work is enough. “I worked hard, but I have a lot to show for it. I’ve had a good life working in this industry.”

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