If I told you I had a candidate who, at age 25, had led 50+ people in very demanding situations with extremely high stress levels and was directly responsible for millions of dollars of budget, what would you think? My guess is you would say you were very interested in having that person as a leader in your company. That person is a military veteran.
We are about to enter unprecedented times. Businesses will have access to some of the best and brightest people our nation has to offer as they wind down their military tours of duty and seek to enter the civilian marketplace. The best businesses in the country will see this as a huge opportunity and will capitalize on it. Businesses that buy into the negative military stereotype will not seek this talent and will be, ultimately, less competitive because of their ignorance.
Logistics and supply chain companies will especially benefit from this transition because so much of what the military does is just that: logistics and supply chain. I once interviewed a former Army soldier who was in during the first Gulf War. When I asked him to give me an example of a tough problem he had to solve he proceeded to explain how he had to deploy, on little notice, to Saudi Arabia, set up a “city” ready to receive over 10,000 soldiers and do this in less than 1 month. He was going to a country he had never been to, whose citizens spoke a language he did not know, and he was essentially establishing a small town, complete with food, required personal items, sewer and water, and so on. Does that sound like a great problem solver? Does that sound like a person who can deal with stress? Does that sound like a great logistician? Absolutely it does!
The professional practice of logistics and supply chain was born in the military. It was started as a function of the military when the military realized it could not survive by foraging off the land. In the Greek and Roman times there were soldiers called ‘Logistikas’ who had responsibility for supplying the great needs of an Army (Remember, back then, they had to feed and care not only for the soldiers, but their animals too). This tradition carries on today, and of course, we all know the great work LTG Gus Pagonis did in the Gulf War (He wrote a book called “Moving Mountains” about the experience).
While it has become “fashionable” to say “hire a vet” as a thank you for their service (and I do not disagree with this) I am asking you to think about it a different way. Think about it as a capitalist working in your self interest. These are the best, brightest, and most innovative thinkers to whom you will have ready access. The greatest companies will avail themselves of this once-in-a-generation opportunity (as did great companies after WWII).
So, before you run off to the business school to hire that freshly minted MBA, think about the MBA received through experience in the real world. The American Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine, whether officer or enlisted, should be your first recruiting stop.
Kevin O’Meara is a 20 year veteran of supply chain operations with both 3PLs and Fortune 100 companies. He also served for 10 years in the supply chain management of the United States Army. Kevin was inspired to write this article after attending the retirement ceremony of his brother, Dennis, who served 30 years in the United States Navy. The need for incredible talent in the supply chain industry has never been bigger than it is today and, luckily, there will be a lot of highly trained and skilled veterans available to fill this need.