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Army veteran brings safety mindset to Southern Company Gas

<p>Our commitment to safety won over Barry Merchant.</p>
<p>&quot;Safety is our number one priority in my current position,&quot; says the field service specialist A, who works for Southern Company Gas in Savannah, Ga. &quot;At the interview, we talked about safety-this and safety-that, and I knew the job would be a good fit. That excited me about the company.&quot;</p>
<p>That interview took place several years ago, when Barry joined Atlanta Gas Light, which became part of Southern Company in 2016.</p>
<p>He first served as an aviation mechanic and later became a leader, responsible for up to 72 service members, including pilots. &quot;In the Army, safety was a priority. I was in charge of tasks and missions, and safety came first,&quot; Barry says. &quot;My&nbsp;work was very hands-on.&quot;</p>
<p>A native of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands of the United States, Barry joined the Army in 1985 after high school and&nbsp;was stationed in the U.S. He served three combat tours; he was deployed to Somalia, Africa, for eight months, Iraq for 18 months and Afghanistan for a year.</p>
<p>Barry considers working for Southern Company Gas a big &quot;win.&quot;</p>
<p>&quot;I love the way I was received at the company,&quot; says Barry.&nbsp; &quot;When people heard about my veteran status, they would thank me for my service and were interested in hearing about my experiences. That gave me a sense of pride.&quot;</p>
<p>&quot;It's a great company, and I compare working here to my time in the Army in terms of how I am treated and the benefits,&quot; he explains. &quot;When I talk to other veterans who are employed elsewhere, I realize I hit the jackpot – getting a job with Southern Company Gas and a job that I love.&quot;</p>
<p>Barry works directly with customers, inspecting meters, activating service and checking their gas appliances to ensure safety. During a recent activation call, Barry was able to use his military experience and knowledge to assist a customer whose son had just passed away after 10 years of service with the Army.</p>
<p>&quot;We were talking and she knew little about the military, so I provided contacts at the Savannah and Hinesville, Ga., bases,&quot; says Barry. It turned out the customer was the beneficiary of a military life insurance policy that she didn't know about.</p>
<p>It appears service and safety come naturally to Barry.</p>