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The Paper Industry Through the Eyes of a Military Veteran Control Operator: Tyrone Hussey

When Tyrone Hussey, a military veteran, walked through the doors of an Essity mill in 2003, he had no experience in being a papermaker. But he saw the opportunity to enter an industry that would grow and later become essential for his family and many Americans. 

“The process of making tissue and paper towels is amazing! When you see the stuff that you make out in the world and think, ‘Wow, this is us!’” Hussey said. “Even looking at a piece of tissue and knowing that it’s yours. It’s just an incredible feeling.”

Hussey, who is now a Deink Control Operator, for Essity in Barton, AL, said it’s the team environment and overcoming day-to-day challenges that bring excitement to his work. One of the biggest challenges he’s faced to-date was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was able to help produce paper products, mainly tissue and paper towels. I felt that I directly helped to support local communities and families, and increase cleanliness and hygiene,” he said. “It gave me a sense of pride that I was able to help out. It was great to be able to say that we make the paper products that people needed during this pandemic.”

While both challenging and rewarding for Hussey, the pandemic response was just one more thing he finds meaningful about working in the industry. He wishes everyone knew about his work, and the industry as a whole, and the difference it makes for present and future generations.

“The paper industry can have a positive environmental impact on society through recycling, technology and other sustainable practices,” Hussey said. “It’s one of only a few industries where we can say that we’re giving the original product that was made a second life. 

Hussey believes there’s more room for growth in the industry. Over his 17-year career, he’s seen plenty of changes including upgrades in technology and equipment that promotes a safer work environment. There are opportunities across the industry, and at paper mills to build new skills, all while working toward a common goal of providing a product people rely on.

“People need paper products in all areas of society. Paper is safe and good for product packaging. We need it to help us be clean. We need it to ship packages and get them out into the world. It’s just important in a lot of areas of life. Companies will advance, technologies will advance and products will advance and move forward.”

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper