Manufacturing: A Home for Our Heroes by Jeanne Wagner
An article by Jeanne Wagner, US Army Veteran and Missouri Enterprise Chief Financial Officer
A soldier’s view today may look a bit different compared to mine 41 years ago. Like everything else, technology has resulted in significant advancements to weaponry, logistics, communications, etc. But even though the landscape has changed as have the faces, thanks to a growing interest from females to serve our country, there are certain values that will forever remain the core of those who step into an American uniform and make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
I served in the U.S. Army for three years, and would have served even longer if I could. Initially joining the Army felt like my best option, as I was not ready for college. However, during basic training we all learned what it means to serve and that we each have a patriotic duty– to serve this country. It was also a means to see the world, meet folks from other walks of life, and become part of something bigger than myself.
After basic training, I quickly realized that my needs and desires were put aside for the greater good of the team. Everyone had a specific job to do and we were expected to do it well. If one person failed, the entire team failed. I also learned never to question authority and to understand that despite how insignificant my job felt at times, that it was crucial to the overall operations. My tour of duty was during peace time in Germany. Even during that time, I gained a new understanding of what “Freedom” really means, and how fortunate we are to be Americans.
Many of these soft skills that a person in uniform possesses are not ones that can be taught, or rather ingrained, in a workforce quite like they are in the military. Now, I do not want to paint an untrue or exaggerated picture of those in the military. Like all workplaces, the armed forces are not immune to unpopular or inappropriate characters. But on principle and for the most part, a soldier understands the importance of authority and protocol. They’ve acquired time management skills and are punctual, almost to a fault. They understand and follow the chain of command.
Military men and women are trained to work as one team, one unit. They have a high level of integrity, tolerance and respect for diversity. And they’ve learned technical skills necessary to operate technology and machinery. Above all things, they are loyal, patriotic and believe in this country and the products that come with it (you won’t find a group of people prouder to drive, wear, or consume American-made goods than veterans!). And these men and women are eager to join the civilian workforce and put their mission-focused mindsets to work at your company.
According to the Department of Defense, an estimated 230,000-245,000 enlisted service members separate from the military each year. That means for a guaranteed pipeline of workers ready to fill open positions at your business. And the State of Missouri makes it easy for you to connect with those transitioning to civilian work. At the more than 30 career centers located statewide, a local veterans’ representative has a system full of pre-screened veterans residing in your community or surrounding area.
How can you show your patriotism AND grow your business?
If you are looking to instill leadership in your workplace, institute a sense of teamwork, and improve professionalism, consider onboarding a veteran. Manufacturing can be the perfect home for our heroes. Because of their military training, their learning curve is often low and their performance high.
And do not mistake this suggestion as an act of charity but rather about it being a good business decision for your bottom line. Thousands of companies throughout the country testify to the value and impact they’ve experienced by hiring veterans. Today, the flag has an entirely new meaning to me. When I look at it, I not only think of the millions of brave men and women that served our country in the past and the hundreds of thousands of others that are still serving today.
But I also think about all the men and women still serving their families, communities and companies after they took the uniform off. I salute them and the many businesses out there, including my employer Missouri Enterprise, that continue to see the potential, professionalism, performance and power that veterans bring to the table.