Why Today's Businesses NEED Veterans More Than Ever to Crush It

Jun 03, 2020

We haven't traveled this road before.

We were told the only way to prevent millions of deaths in the U.S. and tens of millions world-wide was to "flatten the curve." Two weeks of "self-quarantine" or "sheltering-in-place" should be sufficient.

But, no.  Two weeks?  Not long enough.  We needed to

  • Shutter our businesses,
  • Close restaurants,
  • Shelter-in-place,
  • Stay six feet away from anyone we don't know,
  • Wear a mask

Our cities and towns looked like scenes from the Walking Dead.  People looked at strangers with fear and distrust.  Kids were told they couldn't visit Grandma or Grandpa "for their protection."

Start-ups, small businesses, small towns have killed off.  Businesses which could have weathered a two-week "stay-cation" are closed permanently.  

As our economy sputters and jerks to a halt, like a 16-year-old learning to drive a stick, we're finally being "permitted" to begin picking up the pieces of our broken businesses, broken economy, and broken lives.

We've done this to ourselves, and we haven't traveled this road before.

THAT is exactly why the military veteran is needed now, more than ever.

Opportunity is born from crisis.  Dealing with the crisis, seizing the opportunity, and turning it to our advantage is the hallmark of the military veteran. 

There are five specific traits the military veteran brings to the fight:

Creativity - there is never enough time, money, or manpower available to accomplish the mission, do the task, or achieve the goal.  Military Veterans have been forced to figure out ways to creatively employ whatever they have to "get it done." 

I remember when my ship was competing in a "Quick Draw" competition.  When the order "Quick Draw Port" or "Quick Draw Starboard" was given, each ship was to train their main gun 45 degrees to port or starboard, fire five rounds, and return it to the centerline.   Fastest ship wins.  Of the seven ships in the line, we were the oldest.  In fact, we were in line directly behind the newest cruiser in the Navy, AND as a reserve ship, our crew had been reduced by almost 50%.  As a result, we were forced to be creative with our resources and manpower.  When the order "Quick Draw Starboard!" came, I watched as our 5 inch main gun swung to starboard, pumped out five rounds and returned to center in less than 30 seconds.  All this happened before the cruiser's guns even started to move.  

I asked our FC (Fire Control Technician) how he did it.  He explained that he pre-set the two different inputs to the main gun - one at 45 degrees to port the other at 45 degrees to starboard.  When the order came in, all he had to do was flip the barrel switch to the correct input, and the gun would align.

A little creativity on how to use the equipment, helped us win that competition.

Resourcefulness - There will be difficulties in restarting our economy.  It's a big machine.  The Military Vet has spent their time in the military looking for quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.

We were coming into port at St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.  Our ship was assigned a berth at the head of the pier in Charlotte Amalie.  There were no tug boats to guide us in, and we had a big sonar dome (a multi-million dollar piece of equipment) on the bow of our ship.  As we passed the cruise ships already moored at the pier and headed to our berth, we began picking up speed - too much speed.

The Captain ordered full reverse, but it wasn't enough.  We were going to hit the pier and do significant damage to it and to our ship.  At that point, I turned to the Captain and said, "Sir, I'd like to let go the anchor."  "That's a good idea!" he exclaimed.

We did.  It stopped the ship; and we used it to maneuver into our spot.  (The Captain of the cruise liner immediately behind us said it was some of the best ship-handling he had ever seen.  We just smiled.)

It was just a quick and clever way to accomplish our goal.

Urgency - We don't have time to wait; we don't have time for excuses.  We have to get this economy moving, now!  The Military Veteran has been trainer to operate under a time crunch - even one that seems far into the future.

As I inspected the water-tight fittings, I knew it would not pass inspection.  Unfortunately, this was not the first one I'd seen that day.  We had our major Engineering inspection (OPPE - Operational Propulsion Plan Examination) in 9 months.  I had that long to get all of the Damage Control equipment on this aircraft carrier repaired and inspection-ready.  Oh, and I only had two petty officers directly assigned to me; 70 other petty officers were "collaterally assigned."  Collaterally assigned meant they had ANOTHER main job, and were supposed to get the damage control maintenance done around that job.

So, we started a training program - twice a week - specifically on how to do the maintenance most efficiently and effectively.  We also began taking regular inventory of the maintenance materials we had so they didn't have to wait on anything,

9 months later, the lowest score any of our trained petty officers received was 95%.  The carrier passed with flying colors.

Even though "now" was 9 months in the future, we drove a sense of "got to get it done now," which propelled us forward.

See the Outcome and Honor the Struggle - It's about the objective and being willing to accept it's not always easy.  I put these two together because the story covers both.

LCDR "TJ" Tjempka was speaking to the Engineering Department.  "I've done this 6 times already.  I know what we need to do.  It will not be easy, but if you do what I tell you, you will pass this next OPPE.

Two days before, as we limped toward the pier in Newport, Rhode Island, our new Commodore looked at us, turned, and walked away shaking his head.  Two days later, he temporarily assigned the Squadron Maintenance Officer to be our Chief Engineer (CHENG).  We had failed an OPPE, the former CHENG had been fired, and now, this broken ship  had only two months to get ready for another try.  

For the next two months, TJ kept the entire ship focused on that inspection.  He never lost sight of the goal; and he constantly pushed us to excel.  It WAS hard.  We started our WORK days at 0600, and went until midnight, seven days a week.  

Two months later, we sailed through that next OPPE.  And, that success put the ship on a completely different trajectory.  For the next 18 months, we won everything!

I can't guarantee that Military Veterans are the answer to everything; I can't guarantee you will win everything with Military Veterans, but if you need people that bring

  • Creativity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Urgency
  • See the Outcome
  • Honor the Stuggle

If your organization needs to "crush" it in the next 12 months, then you need to hire military veterans.