What do Veterans Bring to Your Party?


What do Veterans Bring to Your Party?

In the November 2019, issue of Parking Today I wrote an article entitled “What Can a Veteran Bring to Your Parking Organization”. In that article I highlighted four important skills that a U.S. military veteran can bring to a parking organization. They were: leadership skills, technical and/or tactical skills, teamwork skills, and organizational skills. I take this opportunity to elaborate on leadership skills of today’s veterans. One quality that all organizations cherish is leadership at all levels. Parking organizations seek young positive leaders at all levels in the organization. 

Most military veterans cherish the opportunity to be a leader and will grow with opportunities. 

During World War II, and in the post-World War II era, many American males spent time in the military because of the Selective Service System, or as it is commonly called, the “Draft”. The military was viewed by many as a dogmatic organization. Whether it was in the movies, on television, or war stories from a veteran, that message was the same. 

The military was a very set in its ways and traditions held sway. The common scene to illustrate the dogmatic nature of military leadership was to depict the example of a war time combat situation. In the common scene, the soldiers’ sergeant or captain gives the order to the private to attack the enemy bunker. The choice for the private was to go to possible death or to be court martialed. The soldier must attack because the leader says so. 

However, the reality is that this situation rarely, if not, ever happened to most veterans. Having been in that situation, fear of punishment never gets soldiers to do things that bring great danger. Soldiers fight and sacrifice for their squad and teammates. Even in the most drastic situation, harsh and dogmatic leadership will not inspire followers to courageous deeds. The military has transformed the approved leadership skills from fear to a respect of individuals and leadership by positive example.

One of the great benefits of military service was the G.I. Bill and the promise of a college education. Some technical skills were transferable to the civilian world without college; however, the biggest benefit to military service was the path to a college education. The U.S. Army was the service that benefited most directly from the “Draft”. Many would volunteer for other services to avoid being “Drafted” into the Army. With the end of the “Draft” in the 1970s, the “Volunteer Army” was born. In the almost 50 years since the birth of the “Volunteer Army” many things have changed. Slowly, the old ways evolved. 

Today’s military is not the military of your parents or grandparents. Starting in the late 1970s, the U.S. Army began to reshape itself as it attempted to appeal to American youth as a viable option upon graduation from high school. The military services recognize the value of leadership training. There are schools and courses dedicated to leadership development. Today’s military veteran is well schooled and rehearsed in leading colleagues to successful accomplishment of organizational missions or goals. 

Leadership in today’s military focuses on the same historical basis as always. That is the accomplishment of the mission and taking care of people. Mission accomplishment and the welfare of people can be in conflict in extreme situations. However, in most instances, those two principles are complimentary to each other. The current military veteran brings to your organization clear focus on mission (or purpose) accomplishment. The military veteran understands and will shine when there are tasks to be accomplished. They will understand the task and the purpose or reason the task is to be done. He or she has the skills and training to prioritize and complete all tasks. 

The hardest task for a veteran is to transcribe the military terms to civilian terms.  However, once a common language is established, turn the veteran loose and let them help grow your organization. 

Most military veterans cherish the opportunity to be a leader and will grow with opportunities. Hire a vet and challenge him or her to be a leader in your organization. In the parking industry there is always a need for leadership. The military veteran brings skills to grow and improve your organization. Hire a veteran and let him or her demonstrate their leadership skills. Hire a Vet!

Bob Harkins is a Retired US Army Colonel and former vice president at the University of Texas. He is CEO of Harkins Consulting LLC. He can be reached at bharkins6@utexas.edu

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Bob Harkins
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