Part VI – Value of hiring veterans – Technologically adept

Military service comes with many challenges. Implementing technology in austere conditions is among them. It amazed me at the things I saw our communications team do in extreme conditions in Afghanistan. Here in the states we are used to simply plugging our computers in to high speed internet which instantly takes us anywhere we need to go. Actually, we are used to being connected wirelessly wherever and whenever we want to be. This works well here as we have infrastructure to support it. Afghanistan does not have this infrastructure built. Our communications team set up and maintained communications (Comm) ties with the outside world. There was no hard wired internet running into the country or our location, yet they still had to build and maintain a comm system which would aide in accomplishing the missions at hand. They constantly had to monitor these connections to ensure we had the support we needed. Air quality was poor at best on most days which directly impacted the signals we received with the outside world. Comm was always there and always available. Our internet may not have always been fast and there may be a delay on our phones when calling back stateside but they were always available. I could sit at my desk and use a calling card or call back to my home base and be transferred to my family to speak to them; it was never something I had to worry about.

This is just one of many examples of how tech savvy todays vets can be. They hit the ground running and switch gears quickly when technical platforms change do to availability of suppliers. They face constant challenges in accomplishing their mission each and every day. Translate this into what employees in your business face day in and day out. Is it possible someone who has performed at this level could come in and perform at or above standards in very short order? If so, consider what your strategic plan should be for how you identify, attract, hire, develop, promote and retain veterans in your organization.

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part V – Value of hiring veterans – Diversity in action

Diversity continues to be a hot topic in corporate America. Over the years, I have come to favor a diversity approach of hiring the best person for the job while doing everything possible to be a reflection of the community or population you serve. Companies across America seek to attract diverse candidates and find the pools of talent which can produce talented and qualified diverse candidates. Many times one of the best pools of talent is overlooked – the US Military. Consider these statistics found here:

Approximately 2.6 million active duty and ready reserve service members
- Approximately 16% are female
- 40.8% of active duty is diverse (minority), 33.6% of reserves
Education statistics of the force show this:
- 82.8% of active duty officers have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
- 5% of active duty enlisted have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
- 84.5% of reserve officers have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
- 8% of reserve enlisted have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
- Majority of military training will get a member 2/3rds of the way or more to an Associate’s degree

One of the things the military does very well is take people from very diverse backgrounds and puts them together in situations where they are forced to work towards the best solution possible. Where else do people from Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska and Hawaii work side by side in foreign countries around the world and consistently deliver outstanding results in nearly every measurable category? If you are looking to hire a member of your team who is both comfortable and successful in a diverse work environment, consider a strategic hiring plan which includes veteran hiring initiatives.

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part IV – Value of hiring veterans – Performance under pressure

Pressure exists in all areas of the military, the only thing which varies is the degree of pressure and the potential impact it can have on mission accomplishment. Pressure tends to increase proportionally the further one gets away from home and the family or friends they are leaving behind. It continues to escalate as living conditions continue to become more and more austere. Austerity includes foreign lands or extended stays in foreign waters aboard a vessel which seems to never pull into port. Combat tends to exponentially increase pressure.

Pressure comes from leaving a family behind on short notice and traveling 8,000 miles to a foreign land, alone, to do a job which is new to you and with people you have never met. Pressure increases with a brief turnover with the person you are replacing who is focused on leaving and all the new routines which need to be learned. Pressure increases with video chats from home shortly after arrival and learning one of your children broke their arm and you could not be there to comfort them. People are born, people die, birthdays happen and holidays are celebrated apart from the most important people in your life.

These experiences are common with military service and the longer one serves the more of them occur. Performance under pressure is common place; most corporate environments have less pressure in a year than what one service member could experience in a single day. Below is a story of one such day, or rather, a weekend in 1965.

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
Captain Ed W. Freeman

Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November, 1965, while serving with Company A, 229th, Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at landing zone X-ray in the Idrang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The infantry unit was almost out of ammunition, after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force.

When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone, due to intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his own life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire, time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water and medical supplies to the besieged battalion.

His flights had a direct impact on the battle’s outcome by providing the engaged units with timely supplies of ammunition critical to their survival without which they would almost surely have experienced a much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area, due to intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing life- saving evacuation of an estimates 30 seriously wounded soldiers, some of whom would not have survived, had he not acted.

All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman’s selfless acts of great valor, extraordinary perseverance and intrepidity were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers.

Captain Freeman’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

Translate this to the corporate world. Will your business ever be under this much pressure? What if customers, both internal and external, were treated with such care in even the tensest situations? Could your business benefit by making performance under pressure the rule and not just the exception?

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part III – Value of hiring veterans – Accelerated learning curve

Sometimes the best way to demonstrate the value in something is simply to tell the story and let it saturate the mind as the power of the story begins to take full effect. This is a value that is best defined by simply giving a very real example of the power of an accelerated learning curve which comes as second nature for most veterans. The true value lies not simply in knowing the curve can be shortened but where the learning actually starts. In MOST ALL cases, the veteran had little to no knowledge of the job they would ultimately be doing when they completed training. The military is extremely adept at moving someone through a training program to get them functional, proficient and then an expert in their field requiring little to no supervision in completing daily tasks.

One of the most stunning examples of this for me is a candidate I had the opportunity to work with and hire in the past year. His accomplishments included completing nuclear power school as an enlisted member in the US Navy. Putting this in perspective, it is without a doubt the most difficult school in the Navy. Failure rates are high and if you do not meet the standard you will wash out. Graduates of this school ultimately end up on ships and submarines around the world running and maintaining their nuclear reactors. If the gravity of what they do day in and day out does not impact you, research Navy Nuclear Power incidents in the last 30 years and see how many you can find and just how safely they have done their job. While still serving on active duty, this candidate then went on to complete an undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology. He then switched branches and joined the US Marine Corps to earn his commission and go back to school to learn a completely different career field. He had no experience in anything he did prior to entering training yet assimilated the knowledge he needed to become a functional expert in his field.

He learned the discipline he needed to from day one of his military career and the military continued to add technical training along the way until he was proficient. If this is one of millions of examples of the accelerated learning curve, what return on investment would a hire like this bring to your organization? If someone like this can become a nuclear engineer on board a floating (or submerged) city is it realistic to think in fairly short order they could learn to run your specific software systems or perform critical tasks in your business with ease?

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part II – Value of hiring veterans – Discipline/Conscious of health and safety standards

Discipline – to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control. I have had the good fortune during my service to attend basic training not once but twice. Ok, while some would say it was less good fortune and more insanity, I appreciated the lessons learned through both experiences. The first experience was enlisted basic training in 1991; the second was to earn my commission in 2005. While there were many valuable things I learned, perhaps the most important was discipline. One of the traits the military is best at developing is the discipline needed to do a task the same way each and every time it is done. This trait is built through monotonous repetition, in the beginning it is accomplished through the endless folding of the clothes in your locker only to have them tossed out on the floor to do it all over again.

There are two memories I will always carry with me through those training experiences. The first was during enlisted basic training, it was explained to us after the endless folding of t-shirts and underwear the reason why we were doing it: Discipline in our processes. Many of us would work on nuclear reactors or sophisticated weapons systems and it was neither safe nor practical to put us directly into those environments without establishing a benchmark of discipline in all we did. There was a method to their madness after all!! The second memory was during training to receive my commission. The point was driven home for us that if we did not meet standard, we would be sent home. Coming close to standard was not good enough. It was an all or nothing proposition. We could someday be responsible for sending loved ones to war and putting them in harm’s way. If they could not ensure we had the discipline to meet the basic standards no commission would be awarded and we would be sent home, it was as simple as that.

Discipline which can consistently perform a task in the same manner and do it mistake free is not only important in the military but also in Corporate America. Simple mistakes in routine tasks can cost a company millions in lost revenue. Simple violations of regulations caused by a lack of discipline can shut a business down for short periods of time or even permanently. This discipline carries directly over to safety practices in any organization. A company can’t just be a little unsafe or safe most of the time. It only takes one time and a mishap occurs. At best you will suffer a little lost time and a recordable OSHA incident. At worst, people will die and depending on your business, many people could die. Discipline is a value which directly transfers to any career beyond military service. Does your organization have enough discipline or could you value from a disciplined approach to carrying out routine to complex tasks?

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Value of hiring veterans – Teamwork

Recently I have focused on core values as the link between a successful military career and the transition to making important contributions beyond military service into a corporate environment. Various lists exist on top reasons to hire veterans, I found one here ( and have reworked it to come up with the list below:

1. Integrity
2. Teamwork
3. Leadership
4. Discipline/Awareness of health and safety standards
5. Accelerated learning curve
6. Performance under pressure
7. Diversity in action
8. Technologically adept
9. Triumph over adversity

Having covered Integrity in a previous post we will focus today on Teamwork. One of the unique things about military culture is teamwork. It begins on the first day of training and never ends throughout an entire career. It continues well beyond the career, it never really dies. Whether one faces direct combat or not, everyone who serves will eventually face stressful and possibly life threatening circumstances which require action. The culture of teamwork relies on all members to perform their roles and when they can’t, other members step in to ensure the mission is successfully completed. In mission support roles, the stakes are high whether bullets are whizzing by or not. Without planes fueled, food served, medical supplies delivered and vital gear making it to the front lines the team can suffer dire consequences. There is no room for the mentality which says “Not my job,” the job must get done regardless of who is ultimately responsible for it.

Teamwork does not simply mean the job will always get done and the weak team members will simply be pulled along by the stronger team members. Effective teams will always raise their performance to the higher standard rather than sinking to the lowest common denominator, in other words, the worst performer on the team. Teams can only be as strong as the weakest link but strong teams work to improve their weakest link.

For years there has been a very special group of veterans which continue to work as a team to recognize the service of others. If you have ever seen them they are a well-run machine, a team which knows exactly what they need to do and executes it regardless of the environment they operate in. Learn more about them here: click on Friday Squad to see their teamwork in action.

In the military we say we will never leave a man behind. What would it mean to your organization to have a team which never left anyone behind? What if your team displayed selfless sacrifice? Rather than saying “It is not my job and it is 5PM, I am out of here” they said “It is 5PM and you are still here, what can I do to help you so we can both go home for the day?” What kind of success would your company have if a culture of teamwork was pervasive throughout your organization?

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part V – Excellence – The importance of core values

Excellence – Serve with merit, distinction, virtue. The best aspire to excellence in all they do.

When a member joins the service they take an oath that comes in a couple different forms depending on the members rank and branch of service. Below is one such oath of service:

“I, _____ , having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

From the very moment one raises their right hand and takes the oath, they begin their journey in pursuit of excellence. It is a journey which never ends; most continuously seek ways to serve with merit, distinction and virtue, regardless of the uniform they wear to do this. From serving the country with merit, to helping others with virtue through church ministries or simply serving with distinction on their children’s sports team, excellence is never far away.

To be the best in your chosen marketplace you must identify, attract, hire, develop, promote and retain the best. Are you the best in your marketplace? How does your company inspire excellence? Does inspiration start with hiring the best or do you lack a strategic hiring plan which incorporates hiring veterans and hope for the best?

Stop hoping, start planning. Hire a veteran.

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part IV – Vision – The importance of core values

Vision – The vivid anticipation of what may be. Effective leaders inspire others not only with what is but what WILL be. They foster a collaborative environment where their team passionately pursues the collective vision.

Over the years I have come to settle on what I think is a great definition of persistence: the ability to continue doing something long after the excitement in which the decision was made is gone. It is one thing to have vision for yourself alone but effective leaders must have a vision for their team, clearly articulate the vision to the team and continue to motivate and empower them to persistent and collective activity toward achieving the objective. It is a steep task but one which effective leaders learn to master and do so in a way which their people rarely notice or feel until they reflect back on what has been accomplished.

Military service builds the core value of vision in most leaders. History is full of examples of life or death situations where the impossible was achieved and it was a direct product of a leader(s) vision. What is the return on investment in the corporate world with everyone marching in the same direction to achieve a vision clearly articulated by a superb leader? Could your organization use more visionary leadership? Consider hiring a veteran…

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part III – Leadership – The importance of core values

Leadership – To guide, direct, inspire the actions of others. Processes are managed, people are lead. Military service is arguably the greatest crucible for developing leaders.

In 2011, the baby boom generation began reaching retirement age at 65. According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of the US population is boomers. Even with a challenging economy delaying retirement, their pending exodus from the workforce over the next 19 years will create a leadership vacuum. How will corporations replace the breadth and depth of leadership experience at all levels? What succession plans are in place at your organization to not only replace but develop leaders internally? How will lessons be taught which will build integrity and courage in your up and coming leaders and what will be the cost of these lessons to the organization?

Leaders are developed many places and in many ways. They come from the world of sports, medicine and certainly the business world. However, if leadership development is compared to the process of creating a diamond through years of intense heat and pressure, no environment can compare in leadership development to military service. At all levels of service the member is taught responsibility for someone or something else bigger than themselves. By the time a young college student graduates with a degree, a veteran having served 4-6 years will have had unparalleled leadership experience, responsible for millions of dollars of equipment and the lives of countless people he serves with. A veteran officer with the same 4-6 years is likely to leave the service with an even greater scope of responsibility, operating in the most diverse and multi-cultural environments the world has to offer and it is not uncommon for them to have earned a master’s degree as well. They will certainly have been through numerous graduate level leadership courses. Whether officer or enlisted, they have accomplished all this and done so under the near constant threat of danger and even death.

A great leader guides a team not by simply directing tasks but by setting the example and creating an environment where the team wants to follow them. They build trust and work in a collaborative fashion to empower their team to accomplish great things.

What is your organizations plan for replacing leadership as they exit the workforce? What would it mean to your organization to hire leaders already capable of leading and proven effective even in the most austere environments with limited resources?

Dennis Davis, Chief Translation Officer

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Part II – Courage – The importance of core values

Courage – Fearless, brave, intrepid boldness. Military service comes with inherent risk and danger. Safety is paramount; when this is violated, people die.

Courage can be a misunderstood value and is often confused with bravery. It is not simply running into a hail of gunfire, it is actually very closely tied to integrity. When safety is at risk or the status quo compromises values, it is integrity which gives one the courage to stand on their convictions and say, “No, not on my watch.”

What good are values such as integrity if nobody has the courage to step forward and live up to the code of ethics? In most cases, scandal does not just rest at the top; many levels along the way know about it and value security more than doing the right thing. Courage requires one to step forward, regardless of the perceived consequences and make the situation right. Without courage, the relative short term gains in security pale in comparison to the long term consequences which come with a lack of courage. At Enron, a culture was built where the lack of integrity was encouraged and common practice among traders. Huge money was at stake; many could have come forward but chose security instead of courage. In the end it cost them not only their job but quite possibly their career. After that happened, would you have wanted Enron on your resume as a trader, even if you never participated in the scandalous behavior? As a hiring manager, would you have hired a trader coming from an Enron desk immediately following the scandal?

Courage counts. Where courage exists, integrity is usually a companion following closely behind.

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