AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — Members of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) got up to speed about the industry and did some networking as they held their annual meeting in Amelia Island, Fla., recently.

AHRI also provided members with a look at military service from the eyes of one of our nation’s most highly decorated combat veterans when Robert O’Neill presented the keynote speech. Though his message was peppered with business-related metaphors, there was no doubt that the crowd was electrified when he provided glimpses of a day in the life of a Navy SEAL Team 6 member who had carried out more than 400 combat missions.

As much as most of us like to brag about our mega-responsibilities at work so our families think we are superhuman, O’Neill spent 17 years working at a job that, for the most part, will always remain a secret. Navy SEAL Team 6 became a popular topic of conversation for its role in the capture of Osama bin Laden. But, until that point in time, very little was actually known about the elite military group by the general public. Now, several books, some controversial, have begun to unravel some of the mystique associated with SEAL Team 6.

Many of O’Neill’s military to business segues were connected with the Navy SEAL axiom — Mission Success. O’Neill said, “Everybody has the never-quit attitude if they are a SEAL. Getting to the next level, becoming a member of Team 6, involves intense training which reveals how each person handles stress. Eight months of high-stress training separates those people who make it to the next level. In your business, you must be the person who handles the stress and makes the decisions that are critical to Mission Success. Seals measure Mission Success only one way, but there may be 40 ways to get the job done.”

“Don’t be intimidated by people who are better than you. Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean you can or should do everything,” said O’Neill. “Just as in Team 6, you have to know how to prepare people to do their jobs, and trust them to do what they have been trained to do.”

He described the nature of SEAL Team 6 members as people who have been so well-trained in the minute details of every task that they often had completed assignments even before O’Neill had the opportunity to make the assignments.

Though specific locations and missions were rare in O’Neill’s presentation, he did tell the audience that he led the SEAL Team 6 mission that rescued Richard Phillips, former captain of the Maersk Alabama who had been held hostage at sea by Somali pirates in April 2009 after they had hijacked the merchant marine ship carrying relief supplies to Kenya. Under the leadership of O’Neill, unidentified U.S. Navy marksmen from SEAL Team 6 opened fire with .30 caliber precision rifles and killed three pirates on a lifeboat, where Phillips was rescued in good condition.

O’Neill continued to relate particular stories of SEAL missions which illustrated several other key points he made during the presentation; one being, Separate Emotions and Decisions. During his talk, it was noticeable that emotion regarding the enemy targets was completely set aside in the process of accomplishing the mission. Whereas, many military speakers will avoid description of violent war, O’Neill often referred to “eliminating threats,” and “clearing the target,” or more simply stated “kill the insurgents.”

According to one of O’Neill’s stories about clearing a house of insurgents, when every movement of the entire team is choreographed down to the length of a footstep, he witnessed one of the “coolest moments ever.” O’Neil told the AHRI audience, “I had just entered an open-ceilinged room when a shot rang from overhead. An insurgent dropped in front of me, and as I looked up I saw my teammate perched even higher. He made a clicking sound with his mouth as he pulled an imaginary trigger pointed at me. We worked so closely together and each of us depended so much on the other person doing their respective jobs. I always knew that my brothers were there watching out for me.”


Information and Recognition

AHRI brought its members up to speed with a Need to Know session on Sunday night. They covered numerous topics including:

•  Certification: In 2013, the number of licensees in the AHRI certification program rose to 490 OEM and 201 PBM, well above previous years. This year alone, AHRI submitted more than 4,000 reports. AHRI conducted more than 2,100 tests this year as part of its globally recognized certification program.

•  Policy: Members were brought up to speed on the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, otherwise known as the Shaheen-Portman bill. The bill includes an amendment that reduces the regulatory burden of unnecessary duplicative product testing while ensuring compliance to federal standards. It directs the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize voluntary industry certification programs like AHRI’s for air conditioning, furnace, boiler, heat pump, and water heating products.

•  Regulatory: AHRI has participated in a DOW working group established to develop certification and enforcement recommendations for commercial HVAC and water heating equipment.

During the meeting, AHRI also elected its new officers and directors in addition to presenting awards to industry leaders.

“We are pleased to recognize these thoughtful leaders, and thank them for their service to AHRI and the HVACR and water heating industry,” said AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek.

AHRI’s new chairman is Robert McDonough, COO, Americas for UTC Building & Industrial Systems. Additional officers include vice chairman: Ed Purvis, Emerson Climate Technologies; treasurer: Chris Drew, Burnham Holdings; immediate past chairman: Harry Holmes, Morrison Products.

AHRI also awarded the Richard C. Schulze Award, which is given for distinguished service and commitment to AHRI and the industry’s goals and objectives. Winners included Gary Clark, Goodman Manufacturing; Dick Foster, Trolex Corp.; Jill Hootman, Trane; Gary Potter, Cambridge Engineering; Paul Sohler, Crown Boiler; Sue Walker, Empire Comfort Systems; and Richard Wood, Carrier Corp.

The AHRI Public Service Award recognizes deserving individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the HVACR industry and in furthering AHRI’s goals. The association awarded this honor to the International Exposition Co. (IEC), which has managed the AHR Expo since its inception in the 1920s. The award was accepted by Clay Stevens, president, IEC.

 The AHRI Distinguished Service Award is AHRI’s highest award and recognizes individuals who are leaders in the industry and who have made significant contributions throughout their careers. The association recognized Robert Wilkins of Danfoss, who has served the HVACR industry with distinction, energy, honor, and humor, throughout his long career.