THOSE THAT SERVE

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INTRODUCTION

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By Retired Colonel Rob Cambell

 

When I was thinking about starting a new interview series focusing on those from the military, the first person that came to mind was  retired Army Colonel who I interviewed back in 2018. It is an honor that he was so gracious to write the opening for this series featuring those who have and do serve in our military. 


It’s no coincidence that when people think of leadership they think of the military. Often the scene is one where a soldier is leading his or her troops through a life and death situation in combat. This scene is essence of what the military prepares for, to fight and win its nations wars and care for its people and their families. Military units live and die (quite literally) by the strength of their leaders. Because of this there is such a large investment leadership training, education and evaluation. Servicemembers spend their years in uniform learning time-tested leadership concepts and growing and improving as leaders. Leadership seeps into their DNA and they carry it into their personal and professional lives far beyond their military years. There is much to be learned from this and thanks to Anthony Eaton’s “Those Who Serve” series we can all benefit. Tune in as Anthony shines a spotlight on the link between military service and leadership.  


~Retired Colonel Rob Cambell


 COMMENT 

DAVID SURBER

By Anthony T. Eaton | May 2020

David Surber is an experienced Supply Chain Operations Leader with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Global Business Management from American Military University. Serving for more than a decade in the U.S. Army David is a passionate believer that we can all find Fulfillment in the work we do. That as a leader it is a sole responsibility to ensure that the needs, wants, desires and dreams of our people can be merged with the goals and objectives of the business. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I recently had the privilege and honor to ask David about his Military service, experience and thoughts on leadership.


As we are doing this interview, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic never seen in modern history, how are you, your family, and friends handling it?


Overall the family is doing well. Everyone is healthy, but unfortunately, a few family members have been subject to layoffs. I try to stay away from all the negative coverage on the news. There are a lot of amazing things being done by people all over the world; it's been great to see. 


It will be interesting to look back a few years from now and see pictures of people social distancing at a store, wearing facemasks to work. It's devastating and unforgettable. 



“At the end of the day, the majority of people on this small planet we call home just  want to take care of their basics needs, find happiness, and contribute to something  greater than themselves.”

Let’s talk about your military service, what was it that drew you to serve in the Military?



For the most part, every generation in my family has served. My Great Grandfather served in the Army in the early 1900's, WWI period. My Grandfather served in the Army, Korean War Period. I had two uncles who served in the armed forces; my mother was in the Navy and my Father in the Marines. 


That is an impressive lineage of service. Did you feel any pressure to enlist?


Granted, there was absolutely no pressure from my parents to join or anything like that. However, I believe it was the generational history matched with the events of 9/11 that spurred me to sign up when I was 17. This required a waiver from my parents. At the time, there was a split entry program, not sure if it is still around. The bottom line, I joined to serve my country; this felt natural, given my family history. 



Interestingly, after the 9/11 attacks Americans did not rush to enlist in the armed services the way they did in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While there was an increase, it was modest in comparison. 



Were your family and friends supportive of your decision to serve at such a young age in light of what was going on in the world?


Absolutely. I think there was the natural worry that parents have, it being a time of war and such. Overall there was a sense of pride and support. 


Given your family history of service I am sure that you had an understanding of the military that those without your background don’t, but once you had joined, were there any ah-ha moments for you?


It took a few years of service before I came to a realization that the beauty of the armed forces is the diversity of those who serve. The fact that people from different regions of the country and a variety of age, race, sex and religions can come together for a short period of time and accomplish great things is an amazing feat. The diversity of experience, diversity of perspective, and diversity of thought is what cultivates excellence. It's what makes our military great …it's what makes America great. 


Speaking of diversity, you served in Iraq, Germany, and Afghanistan. Those are all very different places with very different cultures and beliefs, what were those experiences like for you?


To sum this one up. At the end of the day, the majority of people on this small planet we call home just want to take care of their basics needs, find happiness, and contribute to something greater than themselves. Iraq and Afghanistan have both been through an endless state of warfare. 


Our society and governments focus on the geopolitical aspects of the conflicts themselves. It was interesting to see that these macro-level theories, regardless of who's side you were on, generally ended with those in leadership positions within those organizations. I didn't encounter a large amount of "true believers" for the cause on either side. For example, shortly after the harvest season, the "fighting" season begins in Afghanistan. The country is the largest cultivator of poppy in the world. Much of this poppy goes to supply the Eastern European drug trade. Hence, quite a bit of the funding for Taliban operations in Afghanistan comes from those sources. Which doesn't sound too ideological, right? It's much more business oriented. 


At the same time, the US military on the ground is trying to convince farmers to grow corn or other crops. In turn, if a farmer converts to a different crop then their lives and the lives of their family are now threatened by the Taliban because it threatens their revenue from poppy.….at the end of the day….the farmer just wants to tend his fields, take care of his family and live his life...he isn't a radical, he isn't an extremist, he's just one of the millions of souls caught up in the middle of a geopolitical conflict. 


A similar experience occurred when our convoy was hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) while on patrol one day. Our Afghan Police partners had detained the individual who buried the device. He was paid a few dollars to complete this task. He was a farmer from Iran who came to make money through the harvest season and then was denied access home until he carried out a few of these tasks. 


Finally, our Afghan police partners, about 30% of them were Taliban fighters the year prior. Some were planning to go back to the Taliban the next year. Why? Not some ideological reason. The decision of where to fight was similar to the reason one might choose a certain organization over the other; In 2011 the Afghan police were paying 5 dollars more than the Taliban…rumor was, next fighting season, the Taliban might be paying more. 

The whole experience made me a much more empathetic individual. It gave me the perspective that you might not get from watching the news at night from home. 



“Life is short, and it is fragile. As leaders, we should understand that our teams spend  most of their lives at work, commuting to and from work or preparing to go to work.”



That is very enlightening, most people never get that perspective watching the evening news or reading about it on the internet. It sounds like it had a profound impact on you. How did being deployed and away from friends and family affect you?


It's interesting. When you are deployed, you can still have access via technology to family and friends. Albeit the frequency may change depending on your location and mission. The strange part for me was returning home and hanging out with my childhood friends for the first time. The experience was like going through a time warp. A lost year. Not from a personal growth perspective, because you will grow exponentially as a human being while deployed. However, I came home, and life had gone on without me…as it should. Relationship dynamics had changed within the group. Inside jokes were told from shared experiences and I had no idea what they were talking about. At the same time, I just left my second family, the team I had spent an entire year with…. every day…every moment…now they're gone. So, as a veteran, during those first few months, you can feel like an outsider for a bit. It takes a moment to find your footing again. 


That seems to be a common experience with everyone I have interviewed so far. Some to greater or lesser degrees. Having served in the Military and worked in the corporate sector, how do you feel leadership is different between them?


I believe leadership is universal. Regardless of the sector or business, you operate in. If an individual is a great people-centric leader who can execute in one organization, … they'll be successful in the next provided they have a good coach or mentor in that new organization. 

The biggest difference from the Infantry to corporate leadership was understanding that it can be more difficult to align an entire organization of individuals to a common cause or purpose. It's a bit easier to tie yourself to a sense of purpose when in the Military, to feel like you are contributing to something greater than yourself. In corporate leadership, I feel that the ability to develop an inspiring vision with your team is paramount. 


You make a very good point in that first statement, and I would think it easier in the Military given that you don’t have the competition of individual interests. With that said, what is the most impact-full thing that you take away from your military experience?


Life is short, and it is fragile. As leaders, we should understand that our teams spend most of their lives at work, commuting to and from work or preparing to go to work. Our teams get home at night with 3-4 precious hours to decompress, spend time with loved ones, and do the things they love to do. I saw this within our soldiers every day, and its' no different for anyone else. 


That couldn’t be more true now in the face of this pandemic we are in the midst of. We have seen a wide range of leadership styles in various leaders, how would you describe your own leadership style?


Align the organization to do everything we can for our great people. This is coupled with setting extremely high expectations for what it means to be an exceptional team member within our organization. I've found that if you take care of your people, lead with empathy, and show that you care, then your team will do everything they can to take care of the organization. 


Granted, I always have someone who will tell me that this isn't universal or doesn't work because not all individuals operate in that way. However, I feel that establishing a culture of extreme ownership and high accountability will naturally take care of outliers. 


I agree with you, I believe some things are fundamental and basic to everyone. How did your service in the military influence your leadership style?


I was enlisted first and then transitioned to a commissioned officer. My first Commander Captain Ed Limbo (rank at the time), pulled me into his office on my first day as a young Lieutenant. He said "all your team leaders and squad leaders out there in your platoon have over 20 years of experience …they're the experts. Give them general direction but don't tell them how to do their job. A lot of new officers come in here trying to make a name for themselves. This isn't going to make you a successful officer. All you need to do is take care of your team, in return, they will take care of you…they will not let you fail." 


Here were the major takeaways from my time as an officer:


1) It is very seldom you are the expert in the room, yet it is quite often you have full responsibility for the decisions made within your organization. Harness the knowledge of your team. Engage them in strategic initiatives. Trust their expertise and be vulnerable.


2) For every decision you make and for major organizational changes, always start with an intent statement. Why is the change happening, how will it affect the lives of your team members and make it known what aspects of the change they can influence. 


3) You are meant to be the surge protector for your team. Many times in your career as a leader, the stress level of new corporate initiatives, cross-functional projects, and the demands of the day to day will feel as if they are about to boil over. If you have a leader who can't handle that stress and takes it out on you…do not allow that to trickle down to your team. Your job is to communicate, coordinate and advocate in a cool, calm and collected manner. 


Studies have shown that when humans sense stress levels rising in another person, even if it is for something completely unrelated, that individual's cortisol levels begin to rise as well. Your attitude alone can affect someone’s health and wellbeing. Be a leader. Be an advocate. 

I like that, you articulate very well what I myself believe. What inspires you?


Seeing people within our organization achieve something for themselves that they didn't think they were capable of. Simply having the opportunity to be a part of that is enough to get out of bed each day. 


What advice would you give to those considering joining a branch of the armed services?


The decision must be yours and yours alone. Truly reflect on why you want to join and understand the length of the commitment. I've met a few soldiers who were crying because the time for a combat deployment is coming, and their reasoning for joining was "the free school" offered through the GI Bill. In that moment they are mad at the Military and the government. Here's the deal, the decision is yours; you need to practice extreme ownership of the process and be prepared to accept the realm of possibilities that might unfold when you join. I'm not saying everyone must join out of pure patriotism. However, if your "why" for joining isn't enough to carry you through the struggles, reconsider. 


At times it will absolutely suck. Then there will be other moments of complete bliss. In the grand scheme of things, you're either surviving or thriving, and each is beautiful in their own way. 


In the same vein, what advice would you give to those getting ready to transition out of military service?


Start early, six months to a year before you transition from service. Begin to network (LinkedIn is great for that). Most importantly, do not try to go it alone. There is a multitude of organizations out there seeking to assist you, reach out! 


Were there any challenges for you transitioning from Military service back to civilian life and work in corporate America?


The biggest challenge was finding a sense of purpose as I transitioned to civilian life. My first job was at a truck plant in Corsicana, Texas, as a night shift supervisor. We had some of the worst production metrics in the country. It was a tough, hands-on labor environment for the team; every aspect of the production line was manual labor. For our teams, the job was exhausting and labor-intensive. I found myself falling victim to the monotony as well. It was 16-hour days, six days a week. My life with my family at home in Dallas was not going well, I wasn't happy, and I was hardly home. 


One thing that kept me going through Ranger School, through both deployments and any other challenging times in life, was connecting my current struggles to the end state vision. It took some deep reflection to realize that our teams need this sense of purpose in a corporate environment just as much as our soldiers do in warfare. Our product from the truck plant was Penske, UPS, and FedEx trucks (primarily). So we made a few posters of kids receiving presents at Christmas, a family using a moving truck to move into their first home, etc. These images helped create an emotional tie between the hard work that went into creating our product and the greater impact it had on our society. This is a process I think we can encourage throughout all organizations.  


I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that." -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


I like to think of this from an organizational standpoint instead of an individual perspective. Thoughts in the link here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reject-status-quo-drive-organizational-change-david-surber/


Connect with David on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/david-surber-4b373362

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JOHN PODLASKI

By Anthony T. Eaton | May 2020

The Vietnam war went from November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975, and 2,709,918 Americans served with 58,276 soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice. In 1970 John Podlaski was one of the many drafted into the Vietnam war. Now retired from working in the automotive industry, John Podlaski spends his time managing a blog site about the Vietnam war and its warriors. A published author of two Vietnam War books about his war experiences as an infantry soldier, I had the opportunity to ask John about his experience in Vietnam, his thoughts on leadership, and his work as an author.

You were drafted into the Army during the Vietnam war in 1970 serving almost two years before being discharged at the end of 1971. Was military service what you thought it would be like?


Some of the people I had worked with were former military soldiers, claiming their tour within the military matured them and helped to organize their lives. I needed to grow up. I was still living at home and had no responsibilities, my attitude was lackadaisical, at best, and because of my attendance record, I was extremely close to being terminated. The timing was perfect.


In 1970 I was 3, so I have no concept of what the time was like from a personal perspective, how would you describe it?


There was still much confusion for high school students and graduating seniors during the late sixties and early seventies. Teens wanted to go out on their own and do something with their lives, but the world was abuzz with corrupt politics, war demonstrations, racial unrest, an upsurge in drug usage, disrespect for authority, and supposedly the peace movement and "free love". Important people were assassinated, boys grew beards and long hair, music evolved into a psychedelic, angry and protest tunes which reflected the times. Even the Beatles evolved. The space race was on, and the United States was first to land a man on the moon in 1969 – that was an exciting day for all. All in the Family debuted on TV and censorship was challenged by the innuendos and discussions that took place on the show. It was a groundbreaking time and the beginning of many changes in society that were yet to come. 


Did your time serving teach you anything about leadership?


In basic training, I developed the utmost respect for my drill instructors. Although they were belligerent, at times, they were great leaders and teachers with our best interests in mind. Everyone knew we were going to Vietnam in a few months, and they did all they could to teach us the skills needed to survive. I was so impressed by their leadership skills that I voluntarily enrolled in a leadership preparation course immediately after basic. I wanted to learn the "secret" of becoming a good leader. The basics were in place when I entered Infantry training at Fort Polk, which helped me to focus on and improve my teamwork and communication skills during the next eight weeks. Time and experience were now necessary in order for me to further grow as a leader. 


After Vietnam, I was stationed in Ft. Hood, Texas, and placed in charge of the radio repair center for the company. It was my first official term as a supervisor and department head; my responsibility was to oversee three other technicians and maintain 100% communications on all the APC's in the company. This only lasted for four months before I was discharged, but it set the stage for the future.


Did serving in the military and the Vietnam war teach you anything about yourself?


After Vietnam, I thought my life would be charmed because of what I had to endure during that one year. I thought nothing in life could ever compare. The experience also taught me to pursue those things that appear "out of reach" as I humbly learned that nothing was impossible.


Looking back at your time in the service, is there anyone that was a mentor or role model for you?


During my time with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, I took on the role of carrying the radio for the company CP. The Captain and the First Sergeant were both instrumental in getting me promoted to Sergeant and bringing out my leadership skills, which impacted my future career after the service. As a result, my civilian career path took me into the ranks of management until this very day.


Even today, the Vietnam war brings up powerful emotions and is still very divisive. Unlike those who make the independent decision to serve, Uncle Sam made it for you. Did that affect your view of serving or the war?


I was ready for a change in my life, joined the infantry, and eventually ended up in Vietnam. My entering the military was quite traumatic for my folks as both lost family members during the Second World War. My father was a college student working on his doctorate degree in Poland in 1939 when Hitler threatened his country. As a result, the government drafted everyone into the military - training for a few months before Germany invaded Poland. It was over in three weeks as cavalry soldiers on horseback were no match against tanks and well-trained soldiers. He was captured and spent the next six years in a POW camp in Germany. 

 My mother secretly ushered Jewish families through the underground in Germany and their farm was near the POW camp. Eventually, my parents met one another and were married after the war. Our family immigrated to the US in 1952. Mom lost her first husband to the war and was raising her 3-year-old daughter during that time.


While in Vietnam, my parents contacted the government officials and pleaded their case regarding the suffering they already went through because of the war. I had severely sprained my ankle during my senior year in school and mentioned once in a letter home that it hurt periodically. They tried to claim that I was physically impaired and unfit for military duty in Vietnam. After a complete physical by doctors and shrinks in Vietnam, they found nothing wrong, and their congressional appeal was rejected.


 I felt that I had to prove something to both of my parents. Not clear exactly what that was, but after surviving Vietnam, I felt like I achieved it, took an early out, and went back to civilian life. Both of my parents were relieved and extremely proud of me when I returned home from overseas.


You kept a diary while you were in the service and used that to write a memoir; what made you want to share that with others?


My diary was more of a daily summary of events…much of it mundane and wasn't something that held my innermost thoughts or most guarded secrets. It was used, along with all the letters I sent home from Vietnam, to create an outline for my memoir. It did take several years to flesh out and complete the first-person manuscript. Back then, computers and word processing programs did not exist, and all the work was performed on a manual typewriter with carbon paper. Edits required a complete retype of a chapter, and it wasn't uncommon to see marked-up pages piled two feet high on my office floor. When I finally completed the work, it was mailed to dozens of publishers for consideration. Only one showed an interest, but only if I were to re-write it to a 3rd person point of view and change the title, which was originally, The Ingenuous Soldier.  


It was 30 years between your writing the original manuscript and the publication of the re-write, what was it like for you when the book was done, and you held the first copy in your hand.


First, let me explain why it took so long. While sending the manuscript to publishers, I also gave five copies to my friends and classmates at my 25th high-school reunion and asked them to pass them around. At the time, there was no mention of a re-write, and I was just looking for feedback. A year later, on the advice of a publisher, I began to rework the manuscript. This time, it was a little easier as Atari had recently come out with a word processor program and floppy disks for their game controller. So, before I could begin, I had to retype the entire memoir and save it to diskettes. Editing and re-writes were also a challenge because of the limited amount of available machine memory and disk space. 

After a year, I was halfway through the re-write, the number of completed pages had already exceeded the original 1st person version, and I soon found that that I had very little spare time available to work on the project. At the time, I was working lots of hours, had a young child, and family time was at a premium. So, I finally gave up and stored everything in the garage – promising that I would get back into it sometime in the future. The next several years flew by, and the project collected dust.


At my 35th high-school reunion, former classmates asked about the status of my book. I told them that I was reworking the manuscript and eventually quit because there was no time available. The dozen or so that had read the original were devastated and claimed that the story needed to be told. All volunteered to help me with anything that needed to be done. This reenergized me and gave me the push I needed to get going again. By now, I had an IBM computer, and the work would be much easier (my daughter volunteered to retype both versions and saved them to a stick so I could begin working again).


Almost a year to the day of restarting, my first proof came back from Amazon. I was so thrilled that my grin lasted an entire weekend, we also took tons of pictures. Next to my wedding day and birth of my child – this was #3 on my all-time list of special events and happy, happy days. 


"Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel" went live in April 2010 and then six years later in 2016. "When Can I Stop Running? – A Vietnam War Story" was published. What was the catalyst for the second book?


Between 2010 and 2012, I spent much of my free time converting Cherries to an audiobook. I found the perfect voice, and together we set out to make it happen. Neither of us had ever done this before, so we both spent time learning the trade and editing sound. We completed the work and published it in June 2012. Later that year, one of the network book clubs in which I belonged, awarded Cherries for both literary excellence and for the best audiobook of 2012. 


When Cherries was initially published in 2010, I also created a website to answer questions about the book, added short stories, and provided other information and articles about the war. The feedback was tremendous. Readers enjoyed my stories and writing style and wanted more from me. The second book was a story that wasn't detailed in Cherries, and I decided to pursue that storyline.


Was it easier to write the second book?


I was more confident in my writing and understood the ins and outs of self-publishing. I learned so much from getting my first book to market; it was easier and less stressful experience. I learned how to make book covers and designed my own. I utilized my "friends" on Facebook and solicited feedback – involving them in the decision-making process. Start to finish took less than a year. When Can I Stop Running? Recently won a silver runner-up award in the Rave Reviews Book Club 2019 contest – beating out 147 other entries. 


It was a challenge for many soldiers returning from Vietnam, were there challenges for you moving back into civilian life?


When I returned to my former position as a machine operator in a major automotive supplier after my tour of duty, the HR Director was impressed with my file from the service and of those leadership positions I was in both in Vietnam and in Fort Hood, TX. I was promoted to supervisor, within a week, and spent the next eighteen years at the company in that position until it closed. Afterward, I spent the next thirty years working with several automotive suppliers in various management positions, twenty of them in Plant Manager positions in factories with up to 150 employees. I turned out to be a pretty good leader and became skilled in plant start-ups, closings, and financial turnaround. I finally retired in 2013.


Visit John's website and connect with him.

Website: www.cherrieswriter.com

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/cherriesauthor

Facebook:www.facebook.com/cherriesnovel 

Twitter: pdoggbiker

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Jon Macaskill

By Anthony T. Eaton | January 2020

Jon has served 20+ years s both an enlisted sailor and a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Recently Jon became the Deputy Executive Director (DED) for Veteran’s PATH - a nonprofit helping veterans rediscover meaning, purpose, and joy through mindfulness, meditation and a safe community.


Jon was gracious enough to share some of his experiences with his military background, mindfulness, and leadership.


AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?  


JM: I was a part of a tight-knit group in high school on the cross country team. We worked hard toward a goal, and that hard work bonded us closer together. When I started looking at what I wanted to do when “I grew up,” I knew I wanted to be a part of another tight-knit group working toward something bigger than themselves. The military was the answer. Serving my country was the answer. 


AE: Were there any surprises once you joined, something unexpected?


JM: Of course. Lots of them. The military structure, rules, ranks that all took a lot of getting used to, but on a bigger picture, I was surprised at the amazing bonds that were formed so quickly between people of so many different cultures and backgrounds. Going through tough times together really brought us along more quickly… more tightly. Even though I joined to find this – it surprised me how quickly such tight bonds were formed. 


AE: How did the military change your perception of service and leadership?


JM: Through my time in the Navy, I’ve learned there is definitely a difference in leadership styles and methodologies. Some work. Others don’t. But they can all be learned from – one can learn what to do, or they can learn what NOT to do. I found a lot of both. The bottom line is leaders ARE first on the battlefields, but they put OTHERS’ needs first. They never ask anything of their people they’re not willing to do themselves. They care for their people and treat them with respect, kindness, and empathy. Leaders INSPIRE others to be more than they ever thought they could be. It’s not easy, but it’s sure worth it!


AE: What attracted you to becoming a Navy SEAL?


JM: Honestly, the same things that attracted me to join the military in general. Small, tight-knit group working toward a common goal much greater than themselves… the SEALs were just an even smaller, much more tightly knit group working toward even loftier goals!


AE: When did you become a mindfulness coach, and what led you to that?


JM: I officially got certified last year (2019), but I’ve been teaching friends, family, and colleagues for about 2.5 years informally. I came to find mindfulness after I had my own struggles with depression, anxiety, and stress. A psychologist recommended I try it. At first, I laughed as I had a stereotype in my mind of what a meditator was – and though I have nothing against those who fit that stereotype – that wasn’t me. The psych sat me down and explained the science and benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices – so I decided to give it a try. I gave it two weeks and thought, “This isn’t working.” I went back to the psych and asked if he had anything else. He laughed and said, “Two weeks? That’s like going to the gym for two weeks and thinking you’re going to look like a bodybuilder!” So I gave it two months and then started seeing and feeling changes - I dealt with stress better. My heart rate didn’t sky rocket at the smallest things. My communication abilities improved with friends and family. I started sleeping better. Literally, almost everything in my life improved! I felt I had to share this with others so that’s what led me to this point. 


Watch Jon’s video An Introduction To Mindful Meditation


AE: You recently joined Veterans PATH and serve as a Mindfulness Coach, what drew you to that organization?


JM: They reached out to me after they heard what I was doing, and after I did my research into them, I realized they were exactly what I’d been looking for. Their mission and their values were exactly in line with mine – and it just so happens they’re basing in Colorado Springs – which is where I plan on moving in the next year – so it was an easy connection. 


AE: How does mindfulness help veterans?


JM: The same ways it helps everyone. Mindfulness is being non-judgementally aware of the present moment... being in the here and now. I tell people it’s like being your dog. Your dog isn’t concerned with things they messed up yesterday and isn’t concerned with what’s going to happen tomorrow. Your dog is mostly concerned about the here and now. Mindfulness helps with stress in that it helps to rewire your brain and also physiologically changes your brain. It shrinks the amygdala – which is the part of our brain responsible for the fight or flight response. The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for cognitive thinking - the lining of that is thickened, and the wiring between it and our amygdala is also thickened. Mindfulness helps to keep us focused. A lot of our stress comes from multi-tasking... or, more specifically, the attempts and failures to multi-task. 


Focusing on the present without judging allows us to enjoy each moment and has been shown to greatly reduce the stress hormone cortisol. This allows us to not only stress less, but we sleep for longer, and the sleep we get is more productive - which means we think more clearly the next day... which decreases our stress even more... it’s a positive spiral effect!


Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.


AE: What do you see as the biggest challenge or challenges facing our veterans as they transition out of the service and into civilian life?


JM: I see a lot of transitioning service members stress about a job – sure. But I see, and I felt this myself, was stress about finding who you are — finding your new identity. Your new mission. Finding a job is one thing - but in the military, a large part of our identity comes from the job we do – the mission we serve. We need a MISSION after we get out – not just a JOB. 



“I’ve been blessed to serve with some of the greatest men and women in the world; see places and do things most only read or dream about; and honorably serve my country and defend my fellow Americans.” -John



AE: How has serving in the military prepared you for where you are today? 


JM: It’s provided me structure, commitment, discipline, and also - it’s given me a lot of technical and operational skills. Soft and hard skills. 


AE: What advice would you give to employers who may have a hard time making the connection between the skills you learned in the military to how they apply in civilian life?


JM. I go back to the previous question and answer. We’ve got a LOT of soft skills. We’ve got a LOT of hard skills. We may not have all the hard skills you’re looking for, but I can say confidently that we can normally learn those in a short time. The soft and hard skills we bring to the table take years to learn – if I were an employer, I’d higher for those skills first and teach the others later. 


AE: Has there been anyone in the military that you looked up to as a leader or a mentor?


JM. Absolutely! Several of my bosses… but more often I received what I call reverse mentorship. I learned from those I was in charge of because honestly, in my mind - they’re who I work for!


AE: I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


JM: Courage is resistance to fear – mastery of fear – not absence of fear! Mark Twain



Jon is the founder and owner of Macaskill Consulting, LLC, where he works with high performing teams and individuals to develop or improve productivity, focus, creativity, and ability to handle high-stress environments. 


If you want to learn more about Jon and his mission of helping veterans discover mindfulness, reach out and connect with him.


https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonmacaskill/


jonmacaskill@macaskillconsulting.com

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mitchell west

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By Anthony T. Eaton | October 2019

Mitchell West is a former Paratrooper with 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army, Special Operations and an established advertising professional with over 25 years of planning, buying and selling experience. His last 14 years have been spent in both the digital space and local TV station sales focused on working with leading marketers, agencies, clients and organizations around the country.

AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?


MW: I come from a family of veterans, dating back to my father and uncle, all of my brothers (three in all). It was a right of passage for my family, and it was an honor to serve.


AE: You served for for 4 years as a Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, what was that like?


MW: It was an incredible honor to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division. To be wheels up in 17 hours from notification, was both excited and scary, but worth every minute.


The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, specializing in parachute assault operations. The 82nd Division was first constituted as an infantry division on 5 August 1917 during World War I in the National Army.


AE: Were there any surprises once you joined, anything unexpected?


MW: I had mentally prepared myself since I was in 10 years of age, so I prepared for the worst.  When I got in, passed basic training, it was easier then I expected.  


AE: How did the military change you perception of service and leadership? The military taught me to be a leader.  


MW: To lead by example, don’t expect others to do what you are not willing to do yourself.


AE: In your service you were a broadcast journalist and news director for On Air News Magazine. Is broadcasting in the service different from that in the corporate world? 


MW: Yes, they are quite different in terms of access. The military was fairly restrictive of what we could share versus the Freedom to Information Act.


AE: How did serving prepare you for your career in broadcasting outside of the military?


MW: I was trained by the military to become a journalist so the transition to civilian life it was an easy transition.


The American Forces Network (AFN) is the operational arm of the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). AFN employs military broadcasters as well as Department of Defense civilians and contractors. Service personnel hold broadcasting occupational specialties for their military branch.


AE: Are there any leadership skills you attribute to learning from your time in the military? 


MW: Yes, I have learned that discipline, not desire determines destiny. If you don’t have the discipline to do the small things, you will never reach your goals.


AE: Do you think our service members get the kind of respect and recognition they deserve? This is difficult to answer. 


MW: I think there is an appreciation for the military, but unless you have served, you really don’t quite understand what military personnel go through.  


AE: What advice would you give to others considering enlisting? 


MW: First of all less then 1% of US population actually volunteers to serve.  Joining the military was one of the best decisions in my life.  It gave me a confidence to face the world, and the discipline to face any challenges.


AE: What has been the greatest reward for you as a service member? 


MW: The greatest reward was being able to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division. The greatest honor of my life.


AE: Has there been anyone in the military that you looked up to as a leader or a mentor? 


MW: There are many instructors throughout my years that I looked up to and admired.  I would say my Drill Sargent’s in Basic Training were the most inspirational.


AE: I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?

MW: I am inspired by those that believe in me, but I am fueled by those who do not.


Want to know more about Mitchell, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn


https://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchellwest/

https://twitter.com/thewestway


COMMENTS

david green

By Anthony T. Eaton | September 2019

David is an executive with diverse global experience in supply chain management, fleet, and legal counsel operations. Having served five Expeditionary Combat Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and six short tours in Africa he has been awarded the Combat Action Badge and the Bronze Star Medal.  


AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?


DG: In 1996 at the age of 26, I was a successful manager at IBM in North Carolina.  My wife and I visited friends in Washington D.C. one weekend.  During our tour, we witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.  I wept.  I knew I was missing a key aspect of my life (service to my nation).  I took a leave of absence from my employer and enlisted in the US Army Reserves as Military Police Soldier.  I shipped to basic training a month later.



The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to deceased U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified. On March 4, 1921, the approved the burial of an unidentified American serviceman from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater.



AE: You are a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and have held many positions throughout your career. Is there one that stands out in terms of the leadership skills you have learned?


DG: Having just served a year as the Staff Judge Advocate (General Counsel) for a division level, two star special operations joint task force directly responsible for eliminating the  physical caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, I can assure you I have never had a job that was more demanding of every ounce of my being in order for our coalition to  “win.”  It was one of those rare moments in life where it seems every experience in my life has prepared me for this demanding and arduous role.  I literally used skills obtained over three decades of corporate and military service to provide the best counsel, advice, leadership, determination, and grit to my Commanding General and his staff officers.  And it worked.  On March 23, 2019, ISIS surrendered their physical caliphate of controlled land and the remaining fighters and their families are either detained by Iraqi or Syrian Democratic Forces or they are being security screened through international organizations with many being repatriated to their countries of origin. 


It was the honor of my life to be able to provide a small part of this huge victory for freedom and peace throughout the world.  ISIS will still remain in the dark corners of the shadows, but they no longer control land and openly enslave women and children.


Best job I ever had.


AE: Did the military change your perception of service and leadership?


DG: The military quickly taught me that service to others, service to the unit, service to a cause greater than oneself is the highest level of service there is in terms of sacrifice and worthiness.  Mission over self is the mantra and what is ingrained in every Soldier from day one.  Leadership is the core component of all military service and it involves everyone from every rank.  Chain of Command is important, but it is more important to understand the Commander’s Intent of the mission so everyone has a leadership role to ensure mission success.  I have seen extremely successful corporate leadership at work (and in many regards similar success traits) but the key aspects of pure leadership that I learned at Officer Candidate School and Infantry Officer Basic Course is ironically similar to what I witnessed from successful corporate executives.  Front line leadership is similar in infantry platoons to corporate boardrooms. 



The United States Army's Officer Candidate School (OCS), trains, assesses, and evaluates potential commissioned officers in the U.S. Army, U.S Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. Officer candidates are former enlisted members (E-4 to E-7), Warrant Officers, inter-service transfers, or civilian college graduates who enlist for the "OCS Option" after they complete Basic Combat Training (BCT).



AE: How do you apply your military leadership experience to the corporate world?


DG: I have now served over two decades as a Soldier with over six deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Kuwait as well as many over ten African countries.  I also have been an executive leader in the corporate world for the same period.  I have seen amazing leaders in both facets as well as during extreme crisis and opportunity.  Coupling both “worlds” I have learned that leadership is:


LOYALTY

■ Leader’s recon; boots on ground

■ Pre-combat checks 

■ Surround yourself with smarter and more talented people

■ Engage the enemy in close combat

■ Rehearse everything 


DUTY

■ Commander’s intent

■ Accomplish the mission

■ Hardwork trumps talent when talent refuses to work hard

■ Actions on the objective

■ The main thing is the main thing


RESPECT

■ Ride for the brand

■ Take care of the troops

■ Plays well with others

■ Recognize and Reward; Trust but Verify


SELFLESS SERVICE

■ Priorities of work; eat last

■ Is someone getting the best of you?

■  One Team

■  Build your social network

■  Success is limitless when no one cares about who gets the credit.


HONOR

■  Serve a higher purpose, bounce back, and never leave a fallen comrade.


INTEGRITY

■ Learn from your mistakes…get in the arena. T.Roosevelt

■  What you do is more important than what you say


PERSONAL COURAGE

■ Execute imperfect plans

■ –No help is coming

■ –Leadership is personal

■ –Learn by watching others


MOLON LABE!

■ If someone wants your weapons, make them take them from you


Of course sayings are just words without action.  Each of these maxims I have listed above come with a plethora of stories seeing these leadership traits executed in person and with great success.  


AE: Are there any leadership skills you attribute to learning from your time in the military?


DG: The most important military leadership skills are leaders lead from the front (be visible, vocal, and vibrant) and leaders eat last (take care of those you lead before you take care of yourself).   Everything else usually works out just fine if you focus on those two crucial aspects.


AE: How is leading in the military both different and the same from that of the corporate world.


DG: I mentioned the similarities above so I will focus on the differences.  The main difference I have noticed, especially as of late, is the corporate world is becoming more and more inclusive and collaborative.  The speed of change is also dramatically different in the corporate world and of course the military world is still very much a top down type of order and control.


AE: As with trade-offs and challenges, there are great rewards, what have those been for you?


DG: I am one of the few who actually “grew up” in the Global War on Terrorism.  I was in Officer Candidate School when Kosovo occurred.  I was a First Lieutenant during my first combat tour in Iraq.  I literally have deployed to combat zones in every officer rank I have held (some multiple times).  The rewards are the same; it is the people you serve with and bonds of friendship and service you hold dear.  In every combat deployment I have endured, I have lost a friend.  I have had military friends killed in action and killed in non combat related incidents.  They all haunt me to some level.  But they also make me want to be a better person and know each day I can make this world a better place because people like them paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and way of life.  MAJ Paul Voelke was a dear friend of mine and he was killed in June 2012.  His had a saying that I try my best to live by:  


MAKE EVERY DAY COUNT. 


AE: What do you see as the biggest challenge to our service members transitioning from military service to civilian life?


DG: I am lucky because I have always had an amazing corporate employer to support my deployments and then bring me back to employment once I was released from active duty from the mobilization.  One challenge though I see from others who leave the service and intend to work in the corporate world is they sometimes do not understand how hard it is to get a job and the hard work it takes to keep the job!  Now that I am a senior field grade officer, I have also noticed that peers of mine consistently want to work in corporate America and they really do not have any clear idea “what” they want to do.  My advice is clearly research the companies you want to work for and understand what their needs are and most importantly, what skills you can bring to that employer to solve their needs.  Nothing in life is given to you, especially in a for profit corporate world environment.


AE: How has serving in the military prepared you for where you are today?


DG: I am a much better executive and general counsel because of my military service.  No doubt whatsoever.  In fact, I was a military attorney long before I became corporate counsel.  I was a former VP of Supply Chain and primarily worked in supply chain operations leadership roles.  I was then offered a role as an Associate General Counsel for Information Security and I absolutely love the role. I was pleasantly surprised by smooth transition  and frankly, I underestimated the amazing legal and leadership experiences I obtained in the military from my beloved US Army Judge Advocate General Corps and how these skills readily transferred to corporate counsel roles.


AE: What advice would you give to someone considering enlisting?


DG: Do it!  I was a manager at large computer company and had recently  finished my education at Michigan State and Duke University.  Once I enlisted, we learned my wife was pregnant with our first child!  I came home from basic training and five days later my son was born.  There is never a “perfect” time to enlist.  Just do it.  Don’t be one of those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat because they always say “I was going to join the military but…”



The earliest age at which individuals can enlist in any branch of the U.S. military is age 17, but at this age, they must have parental consent. However, the average age is higher given that some people enlist later. The maximum age for most branches is 35. 



AE: What advice would you give to someone who will be leaving the military and going back to civilian life?


DG; First I would thank them for their service to a grateful nation.  Damn Few.  Second, I would encourage them to find another career they love and put your time and energy into it just like you did the military.  Then you don’t have a “job,” you have another calling.  Good luck!


AE: I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”


~Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)  

Address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.


 COMMENT 

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dave anderson

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By Anthony T. Eaton | July 2019

I have been connected to Dave Anderson for quite some time and when I began this series and started looking for individuals to interview he certainly made the list. Not only does Dave have an impressive military background, but he also has a leadership background beyond that which is just as impressive.


Dave's leadership journey began as a child and continued to develop throughout his years at West Point. With the guidance of his father, General Jim Anderson, Dave grew up with this truth: "Character Counts." 


“My Why is to challenge the leadership status quo so that people become the leaders they are meant to be.” ~Dave Anderson


AE: What was it about the military that made you decide to join?


DA: Looking back, there were three elements that really made me want to join. One was my father was active duty Army as I grew up. He had served two tours in Vietnam. Second, I grew up right at West Point from second grade through the day I entered West Point. The history of some of our nation’s greatest leaders surrounded me. Third, I now realize my favorite movies as a child always included selfless heroes who were willing to give everything for their family, friends, comrades, and people who could not defend themselves. That is what soldiers sign up to do when they enter the military.  I wanted to be part of something like that.


AE: Did it help that your father was in the military when you joined?


DA: Yes, though he never pushed me to join.  He knew that the life of a soldier – officer or enlisted – is not for everyone.  However, my father is my hero.  I am a student of leadership. I’ve read and studied about leadership my entire adult life. The example my father set for me, was better than any book I could have ever read.


AE: How did the military change your perception of service and leadership?


DA: In the military, everyone is expected to be a leader. Leaders develop others. If a leader is not developing people, they are managing not leading. In the military the only person not responsible for developing someone is the private who just graduated from basic training. Once they get that first promotion to Private First Class (PFC), they are responsible for developing the Privates. The Corporals develop the PFC.  The Sergeant develops the Corporal. This continues all the way up to the Chief of Staff. People development is the responsibility of all leaders in the military. It is often a selfless act to develop someone, because you must give them your time and energy.  That type of service to your subordinates is expected in the military. Every leader knows it is their Duty to make the individuals they are called to lead – better. That is why there are leaders at every level in the military.


AE: Everything is a tradeoff, what was the biggest challenge in being a service member?


DA: Military men and women are asked to sacrifice so much. Their sacrifices in times of war are often the obvious and most tragic – death, permanent disability, and traumatic stress disorders. Multiple deployments away from spouses and children put a strain on families as well. In peacetime, soldiers are still away from families for training exercises for weeks at a time. One year, I spent 260 plus nights away from home – during peacetime. Plus, our soldiers are underpaid and asked to do so much more than we have a right to ask them to do. Their sacrifices for us are tremendous.


AE: As with tradeoffs and challenges, there are great rewards, what have those been for you?


DA: The greatest reward of serving in the military has been the relationships I have with the people I served beside. I got out of the military after Operation Desert Storm. Some of my West Point classmates now wear two and three stars on their shoulders. They have led our men and women in the military bravely for over 30 years. These are my closest friends to this day. The bond I have with the men and women I served with is special. If I called on them today, I know they would be there for me and my family. And that goes both ways.


AE: How has serving in the military prepared you for where you are today?


DA: When you have had someone shoot at you, stressful business situations seem a lot less stressful. I gained a much different perspective from those years in the military that allowed me to be steady during turbulent times in my corporate career.  I never forget that there are men and women in life or death situations every day in the military. My problems are small compared to that.


AE: Are there any leadership skills you attribute to learning from your time in the military?


DA: Just because it is not my assigned job does not mean it is not my Duty. I learned quickly, as a cadet at West Point and a young officer, that leaders don’t avoid doing things outside their job description.  If it needs to be done, then a leader steps up and does it.  Your soldiers, your peers and your superiors will not respect you if you shirk your moral obligation to do what needs to be done. That sense of Duty definitely separates veterans from others who are now in the civilian world.


AE: What advice would you give to someone considering enlisting?


DA: There is no other leadership laboratory quite like the military. Everyone is expected to lead wherever they serve and at whatever rank they hold. A diploma does not make you a good leader. There are plenty of people who have multiple degrees, yet still have not learned how to lead well.


The hands on, day in day out experience you gain in the military will set you up to be a leader whether it be in business, in the military, or in your families. Very few business people in their twenties will get anywhere close to the amount of leadership experience you can get in the military as a twenty something soldier.


AE: You wrote the book, Becoming a Leader of Character; how did your military experience influence that?


DA: I learned in the military that there are two types of leaders. There are some leaders who demand obedience because they have more stripes or more bars than others do. These leaders may have a compliant group of soldiers. But compliance is a short-sighted leadership strategy. 


Then there are the leaders who lead with character. They exercise character and inspire a group of soldiers to become a committed team. I asked myself, “Which would I rather lead – a compliant group or a committed team.” When I entered the corporate world, I saw the exact same leadership dynamics at play.


In our book we cover six Habits of Character – Courage, Humility, Integrity, Selflessness, Duty and Positivity. Your character is the sum total of your habits and your habits are formed by your choices.  Each and every day in the military, you are faced with choices to exercise each of these habits. Each time we make a choice, it makes it easier to make that same choice again – whether those are good choices or bad choices. That is how habits are formed – one choice at a time.

We did not write a book on leadership theory for someone to read once and put on a shelf behind their desk. We wrote a book that people would use and could use on a regular basis. The military gave me opportunities to make choices in both peace time and during times of combat. We all have those same opportunities to shape our character through our daily choices in the civilian world as well.


If someone recognizes the choices they face daily shape the leader they are becoming, then we have accomplished our purpose of creating the Leaders of Character our society so desperately needs.


AE: Was it a challenge to transition from service to civilian life?


DA: I don’t know if people outside the military - except maybe law enforcement and fire and rescue - truly understand the level of selflessness involved in doing your Duty.  In our book, Becoming a Leader of Character define Duty as taking action based on our assigned tasks and moral obligations. The biggest challenge to my transition was to see incredibly talented civilians consistently fall short of doing their Duty.  They would often stop at just doing what was assigned for them to do, instead of doing what needed to be done. It can be frustrating for someone coming out of the military, surrounded by people willing to do what needed to be done, and then see so many good people fall short of that expectation in the civilian world.


AE: What advice would you give to employers who may have a hard time making the connection between the skills you learned in the military to how they apply in civilian life?


DA: Too many employers worry about finding people who have the skills and competencies needed to do a particular job. The things they worry about hiring for are trainable skills. In the business world, we hire people based on competencies. We train them on competencies. And then we fire them for lack of integrity, poor work ethic, self-centeredness, or their unwillingness to learn. We fire them for character issues. Look for the character of the individual and then train the skills.


If you want someone with the Courage to do the right thing, the sense of Duty to do what needs to be done to complete a job, the Selflessness to put the team before themselves, and an attitude of learning - hire a veteran.  Then teach them the job specific skills they need to make your company great.


AE: What advice would you give to someone who will be leaving the military and going back to civilian life?


DA: I tell veterans returning to the civilian world to prepare your leadership stories. Veterans need to really spend time thinking through how their unique background makes them a great candidate for a job in the civilian world.  It’s not about what job you held in the military.  It needs to be about how you lead and learn better than other candidates.  You have been there and done that.


As I’ve said, everyone is expected to lead when you are in the military. Tell them about a time you led training. Tell them about a lower ranking soldier you mentored. Tell them about a time you sacrificed your own desires for the good of the team. Tell them about the different skills you learned and the training you participated in and how that makes you a ready learner. Tell them about the tough times you overcame and what it taught you about yourself.


These are the things that will separate a veteran from the rest of the pack.


AE: I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


DA: “Courage is not just one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”  - CS Lewis


In other words, without the Courage to take action, all the books and commentary about Integrity or Selflessness or any other character trait, are just quaint theoretical discussions.  You need to have the Courage to act to become a Leader of Character.


Learn more about Dave, his company, follow him on social media, purchase his book: 


https://www.linkedin.com/in/daveanderson1988/

https://www.becomingaleaderofcharacter.com/

http://www.andersonleadershipsolutions.com/blog/

https://twitter.com/daveanderson88


 COMMENT 

kevin kelly

By Anthony T. Eaton | June 2019

Kevin is an Operations Manager and Military with more than 15 years of experience in the United States Air Force. He has a comprehensive background in operations and personnel management derived from conducting domestic and global operations with extensive knowledge in process improvement, maintenance coordination, training and instruction, and customer service. 



“Learning is never done in the military. You are always learning new skills on     both the job and leadership standpoints.”



AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?


KK: Well it started out to be only for the education benefits but then I ended up enjoying it so much that I stayed in for 20 years.  The military paid for all of my college education which was 2 associate’s degrees, a bachelors and a masters.


AE: How has the military change your perception of service and leadership?


KK: In the military you learn right away that you are going to be a leader or a follower in basic training.  Also you are taught that to be a good leader you must learn to follow.  I didn’t really get the pride of the military until I joined and then the first base I was assigned to I learned about the “military family”.  People from all over with different backgrounds working together to get a mission done.  Also as a person moves up in ranks they are sent to leadership schools where you learn to be a better leader and manager.



In fiscal year 2015, military spending on education was projected to be 70 billion dollars or 6% of budget.



AE: What has been the greatest reward for you serving in the Air Force?


KK: The greatest reward I feel I got out of it was the education benefits and also learning how to be dropped in any situation and able to build/lead/work with a team.  For instance, I was am instructor for four years but during that tour I had to go to Iraq and work outside of the instructor element.  Again, working a new job in a matter of days and learning new skills with new people along the way.  I have used that on the outside in my new job.  I was qualified in it but really had only worked it in theory.  The company gave me a shot and I am doing well in the new job. 


AE: You received your M.B.A. in Human Resources Management/Personnel Administration. What drew you to Human Resources?


KK: Actually I have always liked helping people and in my mind that is all HR is.  You are just helping them in a business type environment.  I really enjoy being able to answer questions or doing research to find the answer.  My favorite words to hear are “Thank you”.  Bottom line would be that being a HR professional is always needed since every company in the world has HR positions so I also used looked at it as a good way to be able to find a job on the outside.



“If people don’t feel comfortable coming to you then you are not a good leader in my eyes.”



AE: How is Human Resources different in the service compared to civilian life?


KK: I really don’t know.  I didn’t get hired to do human resources in my current job.  I went back into education and training working a new program for the United States Air Force.  It’s funny, out of all the resumes I sent out I didn’t get one call for HR.


AE: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about service members when it comes to their skill being transferable to the civilian workforce?


KK: This is a question that really gets to me.  The misconception that drives me crazy is that they think our skills don’t translate into the civilian sector.  For instance, I was in human resource management for 20 years and when I apply for HR positions I never get a call back.  What they don’t realize is that in the military we don’t know everything about our job ever but when we move jobs we are trained to learn and adapt.  If anything I think that would be the main reason to hire separated/retired military members.  What most employers don’t know is that everyone in the military went to a school to learn the job no matter if it is working HR or learning a new language.  Then we grow off of on the job training and continuing education.  Learning is never done in the military.  You are always learning new skills on both the job and leadership standpoints.



In the military, leadership skills are developed in a structured and linear manner that includes not only military training but education through experiential learning. While it is far more time-consuming and expensive than training found in other areas of government or the private sector, the results tend to have exponentially more impact.



AE: What are the biggest leadership skills you attribute to learning from your time in the military?


KK: The biggest leadership skills I learned is respect is a two way street and earned not deserved.  I worked with many different leadership skills and the skills I took from those leaders was learn to empower people and trust until the trust is broken.  Also people skills are a big part of being a good leader.  If people don’t feel comfortable coming to you then you are not a good leader in my eyes.


AE: What advice would you give to employers who may have a hard time making the connection between the skills learned in the military to how they apply in civilian life?


KK: My advice to employers would be give the member a chance or at least an interview.  We do so much in the typical military job that might not be on the resume.  For instance, we have things called additional duty’s such as managing the government travel card program for a whole unit or being responsible for 100’s of computers over a secure network because in our mind that was not as important as the job but the employer could learn that through an interview.  I didn’t learn that this was important until I was doing mock interviews in classes and the people doing the interview asked why things like that were not on my resume.  I didn’t remember I did that until they asked if I knew anything about computers.  Again, a new job to us would be nothing more than being asked to work in a new section.  


AE: What advice would you give to someone considering enlisting?


KK: My advice would be to do something that you can do in the civilian world.  For example, the Air Force is short staffed in many medical career fields and coming into one of those, get trained and certified will pay off if you decide to get out.  I also it is a great idea for those that may not know what they want to do yet.  Sometimes college is not right for that person coming out of high school but after a couple of years in the military not only do you have the option to stay in but you can also have all of your college paid for.


Each branch of the military has a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) that provides information, tools, and training to ensure Service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life whether pursuing additional education, finding a job in the public or private sector, or starting their own business. However, fewer than half of all eligible service members completed TAP on time—90 days or more before separation in fiscal year 2016 according to a report published by the GAO.


AE: How can those leaving the service prepare for the difference they will find going into civilian life?


KK: The only advice I can say is to look out for number 1 which is yourself.  I’m not saying to stop working but I’ve seen so many not focus on themselves and when it’s time they are so not ready at all.  I would suggest at the year out, start getting yourself ready. Start buying business clothing, work on your resume and interview skills and attend every transition class that is offered by the military.  Some people think it will be an easy change but it is not.  There is not a civilian family like the military and there does not have to be.  What you thought you knew you don’t know anymore because the private sector works much differently than the military sector. Last but not least you are not only competing for a job with the civilians but also other military members getting out so the odds are double stacked against a separating/retiring military member.


AE: I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


          “Be nice, I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal." 

                                            - Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse”


 COMMENT 

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paul mocarski

By Anthony T. Eaton | May 2019

AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?


PM: I had a number of friends that joined the National Guard after high school. They enjoyed hearing their stories about the training they received and the experiences they had through the military. I wanted to have the same type of challenges and experiences.


The National Guard is a unique and essential element of the U.S. military. Founded in 1636 as a citizen force organized to protect families and towns from hostile attacks.


AE: How did the military change your perception of service and leadership?


PM: The military didn’t change my perception of service it provided the foundation for my understanding of service. I am a third-generation Soldier. My father and grandfather both served in the U.S. Army. My grandfather joined the Army in 1917 to fight in World War I and to earn his U.S. citizenship. Two of my uncles served in World War II and my cousin served in Viet Nam. 


I was lucky growing up that I had a number of leadership role models that helped me understand what good leadership looked like. This really helped when I entered basic training and was given leadership opportunities as part of training. However, whatever leadership knowledge I had at this point was only scratching the surface. The U.S. Army is the biggest and most successful leadership academy in the world. Every experience I have had in the military has made me a better leader. The NCO and Officer education programs are outstanding and the opportunities to learn and grow as a leader through experience are exceptional. I have been able to take this knowledge and skill from the military and use it to excel in my civilian career.


AE: I like the way you explain that. Everything is a trade off, what was the biggest challenge in being a service member?


PM: The hardest part of being an active reservist is managing the work-life balance. Most reservist juggle two or more jobs, one of them being the military, along with family and other priorities. There is no magic formula on how to manage these competing priorities and when you figure it out something changes. You get a new role in the military that changes your schedule and requirements or you have another child or you get a new civilian job. Maintaining this balance requires constant attention and care.


AE: We, civilians, forget that our service members face unique challenges. With that said, what have some of the rewards been for you?


PM: I have already mentioned the leadership opportunities and skills I have gained through the military. I would not have been as successful in life without that foundation. In addition, I have made great friends through the years. I have met some of the best men and women in the military and have established lifelong friendships. 


AE: Was it a challenge to transition from service to civilian life?


PM: As a reservist, the biggest challenge is maintaining work-life balance throughout service. The transition challenges are when a Soldier returns from deployment. While the Soldier may have been missed, the family has gotten used to running things on their own. The dynamics have changed a Soldier needs to consider this and understand the best way to reintegrate with the family while minimizing disruptive. 


AE: That is another thing I think we take for granted, that it is not just an adjustment for the service member. How has serving in the military prepared you for where you are today?


PM: I wouldn’t be where I am at today without the military. The challenges and successes I had in the military helped me expand my vision of what was possible. The training and experience gave me skills and confidence that my civilian peers didn’t have. As opposed to being a “part-time” Soldier I like to think of myself as a Soldier that works in the civilian sector. It gives me an edge.

When looking for a job outside of the military you need to be able to translate your military accomplishments, experiences, and skills so they related to the business world.


AE: There are so skills you have to master in service; what are some of those that stand our for you personally?


PM: The mission command concepts of mutual trust, shared understanding, and commander’s intent are very powerful. Civilian organizations talk about “empowering” employees but don’t really understand how to do it. The military has figured it out and mission command gives a framework for making it happen.


AE: What advice would you give to employers who may have a hard time making the connection between the skills you learned in the military to how they apply in civilian life?


PM: Storytelling is a good way to make that connection. As part of this, translate the “military speak” to understandable business turns. As an example, “I was giving a presentation to the Commanding General. You can think of him as the CEO of a company with 10,000 employees.” These comparisons help frame the information so that it is better understood by a civilian audience.


AE: That is great advice, I can certainly see the comparison and had not thought of it in that way. What advice would you give to someone considering enlisting?


PM: I would want to talk to them about their short-term and long-term goals a, and understand what they are, to help them identify the right branch and career field to get into.


AE: What advice would you give to someone who will be leaving the military and going back to civilian life?


PM: Don’t wait until you are 6 months or a year out to plan your transition. You should be thinking of your plan throughout your term of service. However, if you are not that proactive, don’t panic. Leverage all the resources the military gives you to prepare. Get on LinkedIn and start building a network in your target market and career area. Take advantage of the non-profit organizations out there that help veteran’s transition. Also, be willing to adjust your plan as required. Things seldom work out the way you’d like so adjust your goals and strategy as required.


“The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment.”

~Judd Gregg


Paul is a retired Army National Guard Colonel with 31 years of service and is a recipient of two Bronze Star Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, the Ohio Distinguished Service Medal, and four Ohio Commendation Medals. His final assignment was as the Commander of the 147th Regiment (Regional Training Institute). 


Paul is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and earned a Master of Science in Physics and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Cleveland State University. A life-long learner, he has also completed a Master of Strategic Studies degree at the U.S. Army War College and an MBA from the American Military University. He holds over 25 industry standard certifications which include the CISSP-ISSAP, CISSP, CRISC, CASP, and ITIL V3 Foundations certifications.


 COMMENT 

slater waltz

By Anthony T. Eaton | April 2019

AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?


SW: It started with my grandfathers. They both served in WWII. My paternal grandfather served in the Navy and my maternal grandfather served in the Army.


During HS, I attended a military boarding school (Carson Long Military Academy)


After attending college for two years, I was bored and wanted adventure. That led me to join the Marine Corps.


A Pentagon report detailing 2012-2013 recruits shows that 86% of new Air Force airmen had a close relative (parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle or cousin) who had served. The Navy rate was 82%; Army, 79%; and Marines, 77%.


AE: That is very honorable that you followed in the steps of your grandfathers; and being bored can be a motivator. Given that your grandfathers served, did the military change your perception of service and leadership?


SW: I don’t know if my perception of service changed as I always looked up to my grandfather’s and their service. However, leadership in the Marines is different than other services. They believe in and enforce small unit leadership. 

I think the biggest takeaway for me was the ability to lead my friends. We might be friends in the barracks, but that ends the minute we stepped into the field or were at work. The other was putting your mission in front of your personal needs. 


Being able to take care of those under you and the task at hand over what you need. If that is giving up your last MRE or working later so that you can accomplish your mission, whatever it takes.


AE: It is certainly a leadership skill to be able to separate friendship from leading. Caring for those that you lead as you describe is truly an example of servant leadership. For all leaders there is a trade off, what was the biggest challenge in being a service member?


SW: I was older when I joined (21 years old and had went to college for several years). I was not married nor did I have children. I grew up hunting and fishing in PA and had attended a military boarding school. A lot of challenges that many go through: home sick, being out in the cold or discipline was not an issue for me.

The biggest challenge for me was the repetitive “games” that we played on a weekly basis: Police Calls, Working parties, Field Day, being at formation 15 minutes prior to the 15 minutes prior to the 15 minutes prior that you needed to be there. When one gets in trouble, we all suffer!


AE: As with trade offs and challenges, there are great rewards, what have those been for you?


SW: The biggest for me is learning that your body can accept more pain and push through with little sleep.


Mentally you can push yourself way past what you “think” your body can do and this is a great lesson to take with you throughout life. Never quit, keep a positive mindset and know you can move past it has helped my career many times.


Each year, nearly 200,000 Service members transition from the military back to their civilian communities.


AE: Was it a challenge to transition from service to civilian life?


SW: Yes, I transitioned out in ’00 (I went back in after 9/11). At that time there wasn’t a LinkedIn or companies with full blown military outreach programs. 

I went back to college to finish my degree, but lacked the mentoring that is available to transitioning veterans now.


There is a wealth of information, online courses and career mentoring available through simple Google searches that I encourage all veterans to take advantage of as they move throughout their career.


AE: We forget and take for granted the advances in technology and how they have made it easier on our service members transitioning out. How has serving in the military prepared you for where you are today?


SW: My position directly relates to my military experience, but the path that led me here was supported by my military experience. I started out in sales. 

I think veterans have the drive and independence, along with the work ethic, to push through all the “No’s” and succeed in sales. 


This helped me break into the HR field through staffing sales. I built upon that which led me to where I am today building enterprise military programs.


AE: I can see that connection, the structure and the discipline that it takes being in sales is very similar to what it takes to be a successful sales person. Beside the discipline, are there any leadership skills you attribute to learning from your time in the military?


SW: I was told by a SSgt in the Marines “Cpl Waltz, you get more bees with honey”. Getting past that bees produce the honey, I didn’t understand at first. 

I am an NCO, why can’t I yell at my Marines. It was a great lesson that I learned as a JR Marine. 


You do not have to yell to motivate your people. Find out what makes them tick and run with that. You have to be a chameleon as a leader. A one size fits all approach does not always work. 


AE: That is a great leadership lesson. I think we all have an image of a Marine leader getting in the face of his soldiers. This is a great example of where leaders don’t always see the connection between their actions and the results and is a great segway to my next question. What advice would you give to employers who may have a hard time making the connection between the skills you learned in the military to how they apply in civilian life?


SW: If you do not have a dedicated resource for military recruiting, seek out a veteran(s) in your company and have them help you screen applicants, decipher resumes and prepare engaging questions.


Use open ended questions and be patient with the answer.


I had a long-time college friend that went on to retire as a LtCol in the Army explain it to me when he started applying to positions in the private sector:

“I went to college, I received my commission and I worked my way up in the Army over a 20-year career. I have handled global logistics issues for two theaters of war, but I have NEVER applied to a JOB before in the private sector”

Do not assume, no matter what the rank/responsibility was in the military that they have done this before. Exercise patience and help understand the process from the veteran’s perspective!


Each year, more than 150,000 people enlist in the U.S. military.


AE: What advice would you give to someone considering enlisting?

SW: Speak to multiple branches!


I spoke to the Army, took the initial ASVAB and physical for the Air Force and wound up joining the Marines…and then went Open Contract (mistake on the contract part by me).


Approach it like you would applying to college. Speak to all of them, ask great questions, reach out to current military members and veterans. 


I would highly encourage anyone going to college to join the National Guard or Reserves. Experience the enlisted side before making a decision to become an officer.


Then make your decision after you have done your research! 


In 2017 there was1,281,900 service members, with an additional 801,200 people in the seven reserve components.


AE: What advice would you give to someone who will be leaving the military and going back to civilian life?


SW: If you are waiting until the last 6 months to start looking for a job, you might have a rough landing!


You need to research what certifications you need, degrees you want at least 2 years prior to your transition. 


Build your professional network!


Utilize Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to research companies and connect with professionals in the private sector. Reach out to former military colleagues that have already transitioned and leverage their network.


Transitioning takes years of planning. Which means if you are only doing four years, you need to start at your 2 year mark!


**Read the “Two Hour Job Search”. This will help you a lot. Join the “Veteran Mentor Network” on LinkedIn.**


The 2-Hour Job Search shows job-seekers how to work smarter (and faster) to secure first interviews. 


AE: I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


SW: “We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem!”-Chesty Puller


Slater is an Award-winning enterprise military outreach program manager and Marine veteran having served eight years. Today Slater is a Veteran Recruiting Program Manager creating, building and implementing military outreach programs.


 COMMENT 

Adam Braatz

By Anthony T. Eaton | April 2019

AE: What was it about the military that attracted you to join?


AB: I was always drawn to military service. My Dad served, my Uncle served, my Grandfather served. I was the black sheep that went to the Air Force (the rest of my family was Army). Like many, I was looking for a stable career, and some direction.


A little more than a quarter of new recruits indicate they have a parent that served in the military.


AE: So you carried on the family tradition as many do, yet you still went your own way. How did the military change your perception of service and leadership?


AB: Simply put, I was an immature and self-centered teenager. In fact, I was largely that way into my early twenties. The military helped me to grow up on the quick. Truth be told, I needed it. I started to understand to true meaning and value of service. General leadership has always been an innate ability of mine, but the military helped to cultivate in me an understanding of supervision, development, and group dynamics.


AE: Sometimes structure is required; you clearly made a sound decision. What did you find was the biggest challenge in being a service member?


AB: The biggest challenge for me was the time away from my family, which ultimately led to my decision to separate.


AE: Not having been in the service I can only imagine that it is hard especially if you have a close-knit family. As with tradeoffs and challenges, there are great rewards, what have those been for you?


AB: I met and worked with some of the greatest professionals in the nation, helped people in communities all over the world, and helped to train the next generation of warrior Airmen. It was an honor to serve.


It’s estimated that more than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year.


AE: Was it a challenge to transition from service to civilian life?


AB: I had perceptions about post-service employment that were incorrect. It took some time to come to terms with the salary conditions of my first civilian job. Underemployment is an epidemic that faces veterans in the civilian workforce. Additionally, like many vets I had a hard time feeling like I had value. After working in an elite, fast-paced environment with hundreds of young enlisted Airmen relying on me for direction, working in an office was a blow to the ego.


AE: I have read and heard that, there is certainly a gap that can be filled to help soldiers and employers with that transition. How has serving in the military prepared you for where you are today?


AB: I look back to my professional military education as my foundation. At the time, PME can sometimes be arduous, but in hindsight each experience was transformative. In particular, the training I received as a Military Training Instructor prepared me like nothing else could.


When service members become veterans, they exit an institution which trained them in very specific skills, behaviors, and values.


AE: It is most often once we have some distance from something that we can see and appreciate it’s value and use to us. Are there any leadership skills you attribute to learning from your time in the military?


AB: Being able to deliberate and take decisive action on the quick. Alternately, understanding when to ask questions to seek clarification before taking corrective measures.


AE: Those skills are useful and transferable everywhere. What advice would you give to employers who may have a hard time making the connection between the skills you learned in the military to how they apply in civilian life?


AB: You will never find an employee that will fit the need for your posted position perfectly. They will not fulfill every single bullet. Every new employee will need training and time to adapt to their new position. Veterans are no exception, however, they come from a system that cultivates adaptability, trainability, and accountability. Veterans, generally speaking, will show up on time, in uniform, with a good attitude. Focus on these things and throw away any preconceptions or prejudices you may have towards someone that has served. They’ll be the best employees you have ever had.


Soft skills are extremely valuable to employers and are some of the most sought-after qualities interviewers look for in potential hires.


AE: Those are exceptional qualities. Sometimes employers need to remember that or they miss out on great talent. What advice would you give to someone considering enlisting?


AB: Do research. Do not use your enlisted recruiter as a sole source of information.


AE: What advice would you give to someone who will be leaving the military and going back to civilian life?


AB: Start networking, like, yesterday. Network online and in person. Start and develop a LinkedIn presence. Every job I’ve gotten since I left the military has been from a personal connection, not a resume – and I have sent out hundreds.


AE: That is excellent advice, more and more it is about relationships and knowing someone. I like to end my interviews with a quote, do you have a favorite?


AB: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

A 7+ year Air Force service man Adam has dedicated his career to mentoring, educating, connecting, and supporting those in need, namely at-risk youth and fellow military veterans.

Adam is the Director of Communications for Green Up Solutions, LLC — a veteran owned and operated business committed to empowering veterans through meaningful employment, serving our community, and protecting the environment.

Additionally, he is the author and founder of www.postmilitarypro.com, a professional resource for veterans that focuses on the transition to civilian life.


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