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Career Veterans: Underestimated Capital

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Ygnacio “Nash” Flores, Don Mason and Tracy Rickman
October 7, 2021

Veterans make up a significant sector of the labor market. Many companies and organizations have programs that seek veterans to hire. Examples are Northrop Grumman Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Walgreens, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boeing, the Home Depot, City National Bank, Unilever, Intel and several others. These companies understand there can be many benefits to hiring men and women that served in the military.

Despite these hiring programs, there are many that do not recognize or appreciate the skill sets that a veteran can bring to an organization. In many cases, especially organizations that hire veterans, the full potential of a veteran is unused. Especially underestimated are the career veterans that transition from a career in the military to the civilian sector. Hired for a specific skill or the possession of a clearance, the full scope of the veteran’s skills are left unused. Veterans may seek opportunities after serving, yet their talents, at times, go unnoticed. Sometimes, the experience and skillsets of veterans are viewed with distrust or distain because the military experience is not understood by those that dislike the military or have little or no connection to veterans.

A career military service member is eligible for retirement when he or she attains twenty years of service. During this time, the service member will have risen to a commendable rank as a senior enlisted service member as a Senior Sergeant or Chief Petty Officer; or as an officer usually holding the minimum rank of Major or Lieutenant Commander. Reaching these ranks required the service member to become a professional public servant that served many functional roles in his or her journey up to retirement. Retried career veterans are professionals by many definitions posited by organizational and management theories. Their public service is admirable, and many government agencies could utilize such refined talents. Many former military men and women explore opportunities related to their military training that directly link to the civilian sector. Private organizations, for-profit organizations and non-profits can also benefit from such a source of education and experience. A career in military service is often grounded in placing the needs of the community above personal needs. This is a value many life experiences do not provide to others.

While every enlisted service member’s experiences differ, it is safe to say that they all passed rigorous testing regimes that included general military training in addition to the technical requirements of their occupational specialties. Senior enlisted service members serve in various managerial and leadership roles. Additionally, they are counselors, coaches, trainers and managers of budgets. Some learn the logistical systems of their branches of service with skills any logistician would dream of possessing.

Likewise, commissioned officers, as the core of professionalism in the military, serve many roles as they develop strategies, create plans and implement the plans at the strategic, operational and tactical levels of forecasting future events and scenarios. The level of knowledge in these operational areas reflects an officer’s level of advanced technical training and higher education. The military invests a significant portion of an officer’s time in higher education, ensuring the liberal preparation of an officer’s pedagogy parallels the technical instruction.

Higher education is not limited to the officer corps. All services encourage and support enlisted service members attaining bachelor and advanced degrees along with highly sought-after technical certifications. Education throughout the military is also supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Congressional Budget Office reported that the Veterans Benefits Administration spent $65 million on educational benefits for veterans, and their spouses and children. Identifying an organization that spent as much on their employees is elusive.

Wrongly portrayed in the media and minds of many Americans, military service members are not robots working in lockstep. Military duties foster the sought-after soft skills of leadership, cooperation, collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, attention to detail and problem solving. Career veterans, depending on their occupational specialty, can master the hard skills of computer technologies, analytical reasoning, operational analysis, innovation, complex problem solving, accounting and finance and language skills.     

Add to these skills an understanding of holding the special trust and confidence placed in veterans by society while performing their various managerial and leadership roles. This factor can make a retired career veteran a gemstone in any organization.

Organizational administrators should see the value and opportunities when hiring a veteran. They should view each veteran as possessing a unique set of skills that can benefit the organization. Administrators that seek the best should start with what the best has to offer.  Former military personnel have given much, and offer so much more to those willing to see the veteran as a multi-talented and multi-skilled person prepared to do his or her best in the most challenging of environments.


Authors: Dr. Ygnacio “Nash” Flores and Don Mason are faculty at Rio Hondo College. Dr. Tracy Rickman is faculty at Tarleton State University.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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