The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.
This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.
Our twelfth article is by Brigadier General David E. Wood. General Wood serves as the Director of the Joint Staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard. His responsibilities include managing programs and operations for the Pennsylvania Joint Staff and overseeing Domestic Operations for the 19,000 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. General Wood is a Lancaster County native and was commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the University of Notre Dame. He has served as an Army Aviator with duty in Europe, Persian Gulf, Korea and the United States. In the Pennsylvania National Guard, General Wood has held key command and staff assignments within the 28th Infantry Division, Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan, the 213th Regional Support Command, and the Pennsylvania Joint Forces Headquarters.
The Veterans Among Us: The Value They Can Bring To Organizations
By Brigadier General David E. Wood, who serves as the Director of the Joint Staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard.
There are over 850,000 veterans living in the Commonwealth, making it the fourth largest state in terms of veteran population. Military reservists of all service branches also are well represented in Pennsylvania. With nearly 20,000 soldiers and airmen in the Pennsylvania National Guard alone, we have a large source of talented young men and women that seek employment and work in the private sector. As an employer, actively seeking veterans and reservists makes good sense.
Over the years, the value of such employees has grown to be recognized by most business sectors. For our Vietnam veterans, gone are the days of being treated as a second class citizen for fighting in a war that was unpopular at home. Today’s men and women who serve are treated with appreciation and respect throughout our communities. For those veterans that fall through the cracks as a result of drugs, crime and mental health, there are numerous support agencies that stand ready to provide the assistance needed. Veterans Court is one such example. Here, our judicial system takes into account the military service of an offender in determining an alternative solution to criminal justice rather than punishment. VA Hospitals and other volunteer agencies continue to improve their services and provide for our veteran population.
In many ways, our veterans and reservists have overcome the barriers to employment that previous generations have dealt with. Today, perceptions of the military don’t reflect the true diversity and talent of those who serve. While deployments are part of the job for those in the military reserve, organizations like the National Guard work closely with employers to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.
The challenge today is awareness of this cohort of talent, and how to best utilize them as a skilled and ready pool of employees.
Veterans and reservists have a keen sense of work ethic. From the beginning of their military service to the day they leave, they are trained to take responsibility and complete the tasks given in a complex environment. In both the military and the private sector, we know change is inevitable. An organization that is growth-minded and seeks adaptable workers will benefit greatly from such employees. Getting the job completed may take initiative and some“outside the box” thinking that in the military, we call “field-expedient” solutions. Service members understand that their employers may not be able to provide the solutions to every business problem, and they relish the opportunities to adapt and overcome. Veterans and reservists are recipients of government resourced training that focuses on broad sets of skills from firing weapons to building relationships. These skills become highly transferable to the civilian sector with minor adjustments. The same abilities that go into maintaining and operating weapon systems are needed to operate fabrication machinery. Basic infantry tactics start with the same trust and teamwork that a production line requires to be efficient.
Veterans and reservists also understand the advantages of a diverse work place. In the Army we say there is “no color but green.” Service members know the importance of organizational culture and orient to an inclusive view of society. Success is dependent on the team, and the team is dependent on the individuals who work together towards a common goal.
Finally, veterans and reservists have embedded military values that connect well with employers and companies. Duty, leadership, and selfless service are all important characteristics, and they translate well into business terms like productivity, management, and employee care. These values are not unique to the military experience, but for veterans and reservists, they are rooted in the culture of uniformed service. These values should be expected from those who have served, and service members and vets should be held to this standard.
Lancaster County is blessed to have veterans and reservists across our towns and boroughs. Hiring managers should attempt to familiarize themselves with these employee candidates and understand that their military roles and responsibilities may be very similar to the skill sets their company is seeking. Military terms can be hard to understand. Service members have a tendency to speak using acronyms and legacy position titles. A First Sergeant of a HUMVEE Company may not immediately translate into a truck fleet manager. Ultimately, when a candidate indicates on their application that they have military service, take the time to investigate and explore their experiences. It may just be the perfect fit!
Catch up on other articles in the series:
Stay tuned for even more perspectives in the next few weeks, and beyond, as we hear from a variety of local business and community leaders sharing insightful commentary on our society, our community, and our workforce.