Dear Employers, before you contemplate hiring military veterans, you must unravel the many venturesome roles servicemen play. Listen to this story straight from the man – unmediated!
Spirit is a force multiplier – reminiscences of a military veteran
My story pertains to my earlier days in the Army. This is when I was posted in a peacetime frontline zone.
A colleague and I (both of us were young captains back then) were camping at a height of 14000 ft.
Our Commanding officer had assigned different tasks to us. I was to construct various types of defense trenches for troops – firing trenches for rifles, light machine guns & mortars, living bunkers for men, etc. My colleague, captain V.K was to develop a mule track for transportation of essentials to troops at still higher heights. We were both given 100 men each at our command for completing the tasks.
It was the month of November and all you could see was snow everywhere. We would work throughout the day and in the evenings would sit around our small fireplaces in our snow tents with bottles of rum and hot fritters.
One day it so happened that snow started building up early in the morning. It kept snowing all through the day. We could not progress much with our work and it became dark soon. We went back to our tents. Our buddies brought usual rum with hot fritters. We sat around the fire cursing the snow and the cold for that unproductive day.
At those heights, it is difficult to breathe, particularly at the night, due to rarefied air.
With nothing much to do, we had early dinner and then we slid into our sleeping bags and went to sleep.
It must be the middle of the night when I suddenly felt tremendous pressure on my chest as if someone were sitting on my chest and thumping. I felt choked. I thought perhaps it was the shortage of oxygen.
Then I heard the crashing voice of captain V.K. I could sense that he was seething in pain. Soon we both came to our senses and then the realization struck!
The entire tent had collapsed under the weight of the heavy snow that must have piled on its roof during the course of the day. The tent with its heavy load was now resting on our chests. We were completely pinned down to the ground on our camp cots.
I asked captain V.K to slide and stay under his cot while I try and wriggle out of the tent.
Studying the immensity of the state, I settled on calling our men for a rescue.
I started crawling. It was challenging to find the door, as that too had collapsed. Moving my way inch by inch, I managed to find the door. I eventually crawled out of the tent.
Outside, snowfall had completely stopped. Sky was clear with a full moon up there shining at its brightest. It was serene; absolute peace all around. The scene was panoramic that could leave anyone mesmerized.
As for me, there was not much time to enjoy nature’s beauty. I was in my woolen sweaters and miserly warm pajamas. That was too inadequate for the cold at those heights. It was freezing.
Tents of our men were some 300 yards away. I shouted for them at the top of my voice but to no avail. They probably were in slumbers.
I then started walking towards their tents. Even walking was hazardous. The snow had covered all pitfalls on the way. My legs would go deep inside the snow to my knees and get stuck. With considerable effort, I was able to cover that distance.
Reaching there, I again called for them at the top of my voice. They woke up with a startle. Seeing their captain in that wind-swept condition, they immediately came into action and ran towards our tent.
They cleared the snow and erected the tent once again. Captain V.K who had taken shelter under the camp-cot, came out safely.
We looked at our watches; it was 3 a.m. Sun would come out in another two-hour time. Going back to sleep did not make much sense.
We called for our bottle of rum & fritters and decided to lit a bonfire, listen to some nice music and carry on till morning. This was to mark that eventful night!
A few years ago, I was at a defense club one evening. There in the bar, unexpectedly, I bumped into V.K (my tentmate from 14000 ft. height!). We were pleasantly surprised on this chance meeting and burst into laughter seeing each other.
We both had retired, were now grey-haired, and had grown old. But the spirit was still high. After all, we were now good old military veterans!
We sat with glasses of scotch in our hands (no more rum). We reminisced about and relived that night under our snow-laden tent and laughed away the evening.
Such are the ways of life in services and beyond!
What Corporates should know about hiring military veterans
Employers pay attention- veterans do not stop being spirited once they retire from services. They are a disciplined and loyal lot that can boost any corporate organization’s business.
Hiring military veterans comes with a host of benefits. Have a look!
1. They take to every new role like fish to water
And why not? One moment you find them in combat mode at the borders and the next you know – they are a part of the international peace-keeping force!
From rescue operations during unmanageable calamities to handling domestic political turmoil, from building emergency constructions to engaging in civilian protective duties, from earning trust to building relationships, you find them moving from role to role.
And when they are not doing any of these, they are busy honing their skills!
They are proven, quick learners. And they get to prove their skills in real-world situations.
So, corporates, for adaptability and zing for learning new skills, look no further than military veterans!
2. They define reality; they manage operations; they lead people
Veterans understand reality. They come up with practical ways to operate.
The kind of decisions they are required to make while in service, has serious consequences. Veterans have passed through trials that people from the civil streets rarely get to experience.
Whether it is following instructions or completing specified tasks, or knowing when to delegate, direct, initiate, and bear responsibility, military veterans lead by example.
And the skills they learn, stay with them for life.
3. They know that teamwork is a responsibility towards one’s colleagues
Teamwork plays a critical role in high stake military operations. To stay safe and accomplish important missions, they have always relied on all of them put together.
Employers today agree that teamwork skills are the most sought-after soft skills in businesses. When you are hiring military veterans, you are bringing in, this all-important ability to your organization.
4. They have a greater appreciation for diversity and inclusion
The nature of their job teaches them early on that race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, economic status, or mental, physical, attitudinal capabilities only add to their strength.
When veterans are hired by multinational organizations, they show their sensitivity by happily working in unison with diverse coworkers.
5. They are at their best when under pressure
Men and women from armed forces are trained on staying with the task until it is done right. They know how to prioritize time & resources and accomplish important missions, on a day-to-day basis.
Tight schedules and limited resources, plus the added pressure of getting the work done right the very first time- you can count on a veteran to hold it all together.
6. They have hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology
Veterans are no stranger to the global trends in technology, thanks to their experience in services.
Talk of high-end communication technology or security of computer networks and hardware, veterans more often than not, come in handy.
7. For them, abiding by a strong code of ethics is a way of life
As for prospective employers, you do not have to worry about their security clearances and background checks!
8. They have high health, safety, and property standards
Veterans give utmost importance to Health and safety protocol. They also inspire others around them to maintain a high level of health and fitness.
This attitude of veterans can be used by employers for spreading awareness and alertness about human and material safety.
9. They are good at taking constructive criticism
AAR (After action reviews) is a tool that corporate organizations have started relying on, for some time now. They use this method to analyze the success and failure of completed/attempted projects.
The origin of this method is of course the military where accomplished and failed missions are introspected upon. Trust me, the military is at its ruthless best, when they are self-scrutinizing!
Veterans bring this receptiveness to criticism into organizations they work for. This helps the teams in fixing gaps and performing better on the next set of assignments.
10. They help reduce the company’s employee turn-over rate
Service personnel do not understand the concept of job-hopping. Once they get commissioned, they commit to serving their country till they retire.
Veterans bring the same level of loyalty to the organization they join. Quite expectedly, this attitude triggers a ripple effect on the rest of the workforce as well.
11. Their communication skills are a powerful resource for any company
Veterans have a ‘cut the crap’ and ‘no nonsense’ mentality that reflects in the way they communicate.
Coming up with a plan of action or solving a complex problem or resolving a conflict– veterans have the skills of putting it all forward, the most effective way.
12. They have the ability to think quickly on their feet
Veterans are quick to identify problems, prompt in addressing them, and swift in coming up with possible solutions.
All thanks to their great deal of problem-solving experience from their time in the military!
13. They are taught to use Intuition as a skill
Making life and death decisions at the miss of a beat requires heavy use of intuition.
Defense forces are trained to intuit and pick the best choice available – a skill that can come in handy, to companies where there is an overdose of information and options.
Most nations even offer tax credits to organizations for hiring wounded warriors and unemployed military men and women. This is another major benefit that corporates can avail of by hiring military veterans.
Why do then military veterans have trouble getting the attention of hiring managers?
I see two reasons here-
a) Veterans perhaps do not think that their experiences and skills are unique. This may be because their temperament, personality traits, and skills are something they have seen in every one in their previous job.
Hence, it becomes a challenge for them to translate their skills onto their CV and show how they can benefit employers.
This, in turn, makes it difficult to sell their profile to potential employers.
b) On the other hand, hiring managers too do not have enough understanding of the roles, servicemen/women play during their careers.
When the CV says Chief warrant officer or Platoon commander, the hiring manager looks lost!
For their part,
- veterans should familiarize themselves with corporate lingo and learn to talk proficiently about their experiences.
- hiring managers too should familiarize themselves with military terms for a clearer picture of the candidate’s abilities.
It would be in the interest of both parties that organizations bring veterans into the hiring process. If the hiring team has veterans, the organizations would know, for example, what a unit CO meant, and what it took to become one.