• On Veterans Day, Lessons From a Life in Service

    November 10th, 2014
    Category: 
Supporting our service members is more than a pledge at NJVC, it's part of our corporate DNA. We are proud to support the USO, TAPS and the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation in their work with veterans of defense and intelligence and their families. We are prouder still that roughly a quarter of staff self-identify as veterans, including many of our executives. And we are proudest in our work each and every day, which helps deliver capabilities to our service members in the homeland and in theater.

But we are a company that not only says thank you to our veterans, but also seeks to learn from them. While many recruiting programs focus on what companies like NJVC might teach a veteran, we believe in asking what lessons we can learn from veterans.

On Veterans Day, we asked four of NJVC's top veteran executives for the most valuable lesson they learned in the military which has helped in their post-service career.

John Herweh, Senior Vice President, Human Resources

The trust factor is critical to success in all areas of life but this point was made abundantly clear as a soldier in the U.S. Army. 

Trust is a key ingredient to teamwork and solid teamwork is what makes the U.S. Army the most effective and successful fighting force in the world. From the smallest tactical team all the way to the Commander in Chief, trust is the foundation for success. If you can’t trust your Battle Buddy or the soldiers around you or your commanders, the mission will suffer and when it comes to combat, failure is not an option. 

From my early days as a cadet, I was selected as the commander for a training mission at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where my team was pitted against other platoon-sized elements. My team came out on top and I am convinced it is because we trusted each other to do what we knew had to be done and my team trusted me to give them orders under fire when there was no time for debate. As a young Lieutenant, I served in a Terminal Transportation Brigade (TTS); we were tasked with a small cell mission (eight soldiers) and I was the leader. I was still wet behind the ears when it came to safely and efficiently loading military equipment onto huge Fast Sealift Ships (FSSs). If I went into that situation with the mindset that, because I had the rank I therefore knew everything, we would have failed. Instead, I trusted my non-commissioned officers and listened to their advice – they had the experience, not me. We got the load, everything from 40-foot containers to M1 tanks and military tractor trailers, done safely and ahead of schedule which saved tens of thousands of dollars in Longshoreman labor costs as well as berthing expenses. 

Fast forward to when I was deployed to Southeast Asia as the Group S1 in support of the 595th TTG – my small team of three soldiers had to handle all personnel actions for everyone that fell under our Command. Without trust, we would not have been able to accomplish everything that we did. Trusting in each other allowed us to stay focused on our areas of expertise and I was confident that when I gave my daily situation report (SITREP) to the Commander, the information was accurate. Mission critical experiences like these grew my understanding and respect for the concept we call trust and it was cemented into my psyche by over 26 years (and counting!) of service in the Army. 

 HOOAH!

 

Tara Newman, Director, Human Resources

Work with urgency and dedication.

Years of supporting intelligence-focused missions in the active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard reinforces in you a strong work ethic, particularly from a team mentality; working with a sense of urgency; dedication to, and pride in the mission supported. In addition, as a member of the military you learn first and foremost, respect for leadership, respect for diversity (military duty definitely the most diverse workforce that you will ever encounter), and professional discipline, which have all certainly translated well into the civilian workplace. And of course, in intel, we were expected to research, build presentations and brief a lot! 

 

Chuck McGaugh, VP Strategy & Development, St. Louis Region

Persistence leads to success.

The most important lesson I learned in the military wasn’t immediately apparent to me when I left the Corps, but was with me from Camp Pendleton on: With enough persistence and enough effort, you can do anything.

I didn’t get that drive in my youth or from my schools. I learned it in the United States Marine Corps. After I retired from the Corps, I joined government service in the Department of Defense and I carried that dedication to mission, whatever it was, with me. 

It isn’t just persistence by itself, though. What the Corps taught me is that persistence must be coupled with discipline. Success isn’t simply a function of doing something, but doing something with a goal, with requirements, with careful management and absolute dedication. It’s self-discipline. The way I manage my time, my family. It’s task discipline, knowing you never leave a task unfinished. Throughout my career in the service, in the government and now at NJVC, persistence is what I’ve been known for. When I retired from government service, one of the speeches given honored me as someone who simply got it done. And for that, I owe the Corps. Once I start something, I always finish it.

Mission success is a study in teamwork, whether it’s in the military or corporate America.

 

Von Gardiner, Director, IC Business Development

I was told early on in my Air Force career – and I still believe it to be true – there is no limit to what you can achieve when you don’t care who gets the credit.

People who have an agenda, who seek personal gratification, who seek only to move themselves up the chain, they get in the way of accomplishing the mission. Whether it’s in the military or at NJVC, the mission is always the objective. Everything else is a byproduct of mission success.

Missions always require a team, whether it’s a major combat operation or a commercial project. In the Air Force, it’s logisticians, systems operators, communicators and a host of others. In industry, it’s pricing, proposal writers, capture and many others. In the Air Force, we think about time to target and time on target; in industry it’s gate reviews, it’s proposal response due date. There are many similarities. You always have to remember, no individual is capable of everything, no one is indispensable, and if they think they are , they’re fooling themselves. Nobody makes it through life by themselves and is successful.

Secondly, always take your work seriously, not yourself.

Whether deployed in theater or delivering work for the military, I take my performance seriously. What I’m working on can directly impact or affect troops in harm’s way, those at the tip of the spear. They’re depending on us to give them capability. But try not to take yourself so seriously. Have a good sense of humor, be able to laugh at yourself and more importantly learn from your weaknesses. Perfection isn’t a job requirement, but being able to improve is. Life is about balance, work hard, play hard and don’t take yourself too seriously.