Two years ago I posted an article to LinkedIn entitled, “What We Get Wrong!” At the time I didn’t realize how that it would resonate with many people either transitioning out of the military or those that had. So after two years, I decided to write a follow up to it. Once again I asked a few chief pilots and helicopter industry human resource recruiters for their thoughts on what military pilots get right and what they enjoy about them. The following is an overview, in no specific order, of military veterans’ positive attributes.
When given a task they complete it. Former military members are very mission oriented. They understand what needs to be done to get the job done; when tasks are complete they offer assistance and jump in to help others with others tasks, even if it means sweeping the hangar.
When declining a position, they are very courteous and don’t burn bridges. Taking the extra minute to let someone know you have decided to take another job somewhere else in a gracious manner is well received an appreciated. For example, “Thank you for the opportunity to work for your company, but I have found a position with another company that I think I am a better fit for.” That is better received than “I’m not going to work here and found something else that pays better,” or just blowing them off.
They study! During new hire training, those with a military background tend to be well prepared, and anxious to get it right; they do their homework. They put forth a considerable amount of effort to become experts at their new aircraft and position. They take notes and highlight manuals. They learn the aircraft limitations and operating procedures.
They are not afraid to ask questions. A lot of people who have been civilians for several years will show up for a new job, keep quiet and do the minimum to get through training and get to work. Those coming out of the military seem to have no issues with asking questions to ensure they understand what’s expected of them. They prepare off of the information given. These questions help the operator connect with the new employee and create a much more dynamic and effective training situation.
They have a fresh set of eyes. The civilian sector’s operating procedures often become stagnant or outdated. Along with asking questions, pilots fresh out of the military have the unique ability to see operational pitfalls that the rest of us have gotten so accustomed to, we don’t even see them anymore. With fresh eyes, they often offer great solutions that can improve efficiency, which applies to safety as well. Military members are safety orientated. Safety has been intricate to everything they have done during their time in the service. They quickly adapt to a company’s safety management system (SMS) program, and are a great resource to improve it.
They make great recruiters. When a transitioned military member gets a job, it is guaranteed they will be contacted by friends still in the service and those that are out and working as well, asking about their new role. If they enjoy working there whenever there is an opening they will do whatever they can to get their friends and other former military members to work there as well.
A word of caution about making recommendations: Once you recommend someone, you are responsible for them. If your recommendation turns out to be a total dud, then that will reflect on you. If they are a superstar, then it will reflect well on you.
They are networking masters. They tend to stay well connected to their network of friends and colleagues. Although the industry is small, we often become cut off due to company competition reasons or complacency. Their network of former military pilots is strong. Through networking communication, new ideas in safety and operations are transmitted.
About the author: Marc Stanley retired from the U.S. Army in 2015 after 26 years and is now a corporate pilot for MassMutual flying AW139 helicopters. Stanley regularly teaches military-to-civilian transition classes at industry events and volunteers with veterans outreach programs.