Bobcat compact equipment is operated by people in work boots on the home front – and those in combat boots overseas. Some veterans bring the equipment skills they learned in the military back home to start their own businesses and serve their communities. As we recognize Veterans Day across the country this November, we’re spotlighting one American hero who’s serving his community with the help of Bobcat equipment.
Staff Sergeant Joshua Kerr has spent the last two decades serving in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. He’s been deployed twice – once to Iraq in 2004 and once to Afghanistan in 2013 – and began operating Bobcat loaders in the military. Today, Bobcat equipment helps him get the job done for his business, JK Services of Ohio, located in Mingo Junction, Ohio. JK Services specializes in finish grading, demolition, land clearing and excavating – and whatever else the seasons bring.
“Here in Ohio, you get a little taste of all four seasons, so you just kind of go with the flow and adapt to what you can deal with,” Joshua says.
In 1998, at the age of 18, Joshua enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves as a heavy equipment operator. His training provided him his first taste of using Bobcat equipment. He learned how to operate a Bobcat S150 skid-steer loader with the “full-spectrum tool kit,” including a 4-in-1 combination bucket, breaker, auger and pallet forks.
Much of the work Joshua did as a heavy equipment operator was on improvements to the soldiers’ living quarters, which sometimes included safety improvements.
“For one of our jobs, we were in charge of improving and developing the front gate of the installation we were living on to improve the safety of anyone inside the installation,” Joshua says. “That’s where they did truck inspections for IEDs that would have been possibly in the vehicle as it was making deliveries.”
Devotion to Community Service
After returning from his initial training at the equipment operator school in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Joshua went to work in construction while getting an associate degree in environmental restoration from Hocking College in Ohio. In a local economy largely based on coal mining, Joshua felt that his coursework at Hocking College would help him find his place within the area workforce.
For the last 12 years, Joshua has worked for a large-scale power generation company and operates his business, mostly as a one-man show, on his days off. He also still serves in the U.S. Army Reserves. Depending on his work schedule, Joshua is behind the controls of his Bobcat equipment anywhere from 20 to 60 hours per week with occasional help from friends and family.
“I’ve got a few guys that kind of help me here and there, but it’s primarily me,” Joshua says. “A lot of my friends, going back to the friends and family support, they’ll help me out if I get in a jam and then I return the favor.”
Joshua created an LLC for his business in recent years but has been doing construction work since around 2006. Back then he was renting Bobcat equipment from a rental company. Eventually, he decided to purchase a 2007 Bobcat 425 compact excavator from the rental company.
Not long after, Joshua developed a working relationship with Dustin Hynes, a sales representative for RECO Equipment in Morristown, Ohio. Joshua later went on to buy a Bobcat T630 compact track loader and an E35 compact excavator from RECO Equipment. Those two machines are what he currently uses for his business.
Joshua has discovered that using a foot throttle on the T630 can save about a half tank of fuel per day. The big draw for the E35 was that Bobcat is the only manufacturer that offers an extendable arm option, making Joshua the only contractor in his area with that feature.
“That extendable arm, it’s a pretty huge feature on that thing,” Joshua says. “You tend to forget that you’re in a compact machine once you start reaching out that far. You kind of think you’re in something a little bit bigger.”
Joshua mostly serves residential clientele, providing services both to general contractors and property management contractors. The growth of the local gas and oil industry, however, has necessitated clearing wooded areas to create access roads, pads and pipelines. After the trees have been cut down, Joshua removes the wood using his E35 and T630.
“That’s kind of how I get through the winter lull, making and selling firewood for folks around here,” Joshua says. He also uses the wood to heat his home during the winter months.
JK Services has grown rapidly since officially launching. Joshua says his service in the U.S. Army Reserves prepared him for owning his own business by teaching him to be flexible and resilient and by building stamina and drive.
“You can’t just go home because you’re tired and have a headache,” Joshua says. “You’ve got to keep going just the same as we do if we’re in theater or doing a training mission or something.”
In addition to his military experience, Joshua has been a firefighter and EMS first responder since he was 14 years old.
“I got in as a junior firefighter, so it’s all pretty much community focused all the way around,” Joshua says.
Joshua says that his approach to serving his community through JK Services is very similar to how he serves his country in the U.S. Army Reserves.
“It goes back to helping out your townspeople. Just the same as supporting your country and providing service to your citizens,” Joshua says. “So yeah, it’s kind of the same mentality within your company as it is to your community and to your country.”