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Stars shine bright for hometown veteran


Jeremy Olson with his wife and daughters Theresa (10), Grace (7) and Julia (4) 

Nineteen years ago Jeremy Olson was standing on the podium as a Watford City state champion wrestler. His face lights up when he talks about the feeling of being a champion, the hard work he put into the sport and the feeling of achievement and support he received from his family, his coaches and his community.

In a sea of major accomplishments that include graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1998 with a degree in Environmental Engineering, attaining the rank of Captain, and then going on to a successful career in his field, having his name on the wall in the Watford City High School gym seems to give Olson an equal sense of pride.

“Wrestling taught me the life lessons I needed. It’s a team sport but the success of the team depends on individual effort,” Olson said.

It’s a motto that has served Olson well and saw him through his decision to enlist in the National Guard before his senior year in high school, a move that helped convince him he was cut out for his next step: West Point.

“My experience in the National Guard gave me a taste of the military and showed me that, yes, I could do this as a career,” Olson said.

The influence of his math teacher mother and history teacher father also fostered in Olson a passion for numbers as well as history.

“I would read about the leaders of our military in history books and most of them had graduated from West Point,” Olson said. “I thought, wow, what an opportunity to walk in these footsteps.”

And so it was with the support of his parents, and coaches that Olson submitted his application into a pool of 13,000 others and was selected in to the rigorous leadership program as one of only 1,200 students.

“Coach Fish told me that if I graduated from West Point he would drive out and attend the ceremony,” Olson remembers.

And Fish was happy to hold to that promise, loading up his family and driving nearly 2,000 miles to watch his former wrestler walk across the stage as one the remaining 871 students who graduated. 

Olson went on to have a successful military career serving as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army as an Engineer Officer, as a Platoon Leader in Kosovo where he led a group of soldiers in building what is now known as Camp Bondsteel, serving as a Company Executive Officer on his second tour and then finally attaining the rank of Captain before being medically discharged from active duty in 2002.

In the last eight years Olson has worked as a Financial Planner in Missouri and then in various roles in the engineering, safety and management fields for energy companies in Houston, Tex., all while raising a family of three young daughters with his wife Christine.

And last spring Olson was given the opportunity to return home to his family and biggest fans, including the coach whose gesture of support all those years ago still filled Olson’s heart.

Having grown up on his family’s farm near Arnegard, Olson has always appreciated the wide-open spaces and the close connection he had with his grandparents growing up.

“Out there my grandparents raised me just as much as my parents,” Olson said. “I wanted my girls to have the same support network.”

So this July Olson took an offer from Marathon Oil Company to work as a Health, Environment and Safety (HES) Professional. Olson moved his family in with his father while they waiting on their own house to be built, proving right away the value of solid family support.

And with his younger brother, Jay, working on the family farm one mile away and his sister Dia and her husband Layton five miles down the road,  Olson couldn’t be happier.

“I think the word is content,” he said of his family’s recent life change.

Olson and his family are enjoying the slower paced lifestyle and the wide-open spaces as well, a big change from life and work in the metropolitan area of Houston.

“Even though the Bakken is an active environment, the lifestyle here is much slower paced,” Olson points out.

Olson commutes from his home west of Arnegard to New Town daily, but he says he spends as much time driving 125 miles a day in Western North Dakota as he did 20 miles a day in Houston.

And it will come as no surprise that Olson takes his role as an HES professional seriously. An avid outdoorsman and hunter, Olson works to educate employees on safe work conduct, but also on stewardship and respect for the land.

“I take it personally. I want this to be here for the long term.” Olson said. “This is my home.”

Home where Olson can be found spending time with his family, cheering on the Wolves at a local wresting match, or, on clear nights, outside his house gazing at the big, open sky.

“I can see the stars again,” Olson said. “I haven’t seen the stars this bright for years.”

Hometown stories from the oil field brought to you by: 
Watford City EDC and McKenzie County JDA

Have a story to tell or interested in sponsoring this project?
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Jessie Scofield
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