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Things You Can Expect From Vets in the Workforce

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

By Robert Brescia
November 13, 2015


It’s great to be able to talk about veterans and what they can do for employers in both the public and private sectors. Vets have developed a strong sense of values from their service to our country. Their actions and behaviors as employees and managers are guided by those values. After I retired from military service, I had many occasions to both hire and work with vets. Here’s what you can expect from them:


Vets are generally good at making decisions. They understand clearly what goes into being able to make a decision that affects a whole lot of people. They know the prerequisite time taken in gathering information, transforming that information into organized intelligence and then assessing the probabilities related to any one course of action.


Training comes naturally to a military service member and we don’t forget it when we leave our uniforms behind. In fact, a lot of military training takes place in the most arduous conditions possible. Military leaders are assured that if they can perform the necessary tasks under those conditions, they will easily be able to do it under any circumstances. Military members used to joke, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin!” and “If it ain’t snowin’, we ain’t goin’!”

Vets understand organizational churn because they move a lot themselves. It is absolutely necessary to have standard operating procedures and routine training done so people can step into the roles of those who have stepped out of them. This ensures continuity of operations. Want great training in your company? Consider putting a vet in charge of it.


Veterans are usually very ethical people. Vets understand what’s right and what’s wrong. Concerned about your corporate image or about your level of confidentiality in your company? In the Pentagon, we used to say there were at least three types of offenses that one does not come back from: 1) Money mishandling, 2) Security breaches and 3) “Zipper” offenses—those related to sexual misconduct. Hire a vet where high reliability and corporate image are high on the priorities list.

Servant leadership.

It can be disturbing to vets when someone labels a person a “hero” who has simply done some routine thing that did not involve someone else’s benefit. To many vets, heroes are those who sacrifice their own well-being for that of someone else. In some cases, they give their lives so that others may live. How about the case of Delta Force Sergeant Joshua Wheeler? He “ran to the sound of the guns,” according to a news article, in an effort to save others—fully aware of the risk to himself. Don’t buy into the hype that a vet will run around barking orders at everyone. Exactly the opposite is true. They are reasonable and caring. They are true servant leaders.

Change management.

Vets have a lot of experience with change management. They are besieged with countless initiatives during their military service time. Many military members joke about these organizational initiatives, saying, “Here comes a new Commanding Officer—trash all the current initiatives and drag out the old stuff so when he makes us change again, we can drag out the stuff we’ve already been working on!” Of course, joking and humor are a big part of leadership and help greatly when trying to keep a team engaged.

Hard work.

Vets aren’t afraid of it—at all. In fact, they expect to work hard. They generally can’t abide slouches because they know they just make it harder on everyone else. They dive right in, facing dangers like the opportunities they really are. A vet will be respectful to a boss who is a hard worker because they know hard work is what you do after you show up. They will be present and visible within your companies. They will seek challenges and professional development. They are movers and shakers. They make things happen.


Vets are all about recognizing the achievements of individuals working in teams. Navy Seal Team 3 sniper Chris Kyle was from our hometown, Odessa, Texas. Chris was an example of a vet who tried to help other vets experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His unselfish actions resulted in his unfortunate and untimely death. Here in Odessa, a monument site will be located adjacent to the Veterans’ Clinic on the property of Medical Center Hospital. It will actually be three plazas, interlinked, with a sculpture of Chris in the central plaza. He will be flanked on each side by individual plazas that represent his unmentioned team members and all of those other unnamed SEALS that gave their lives for our country.

Let us afford vets the opportunity to continue serving in their “new life.” We vets know you won’t be disappointed.

Author: Bob Brescia serves as the executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, Odessa, Texas. He has a doctoral degree with distinction in executive leadership from The George Washington University. His experience includes top leadership team roles in education, business, government and defense sectors. Bob’s passion is to teach young people about leadership, ethics and public service. Please contact him at [email protected]

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