Vets Understand Responsibility
In most veterans you will see a strong vein of personal integrity. It isn’t that they are better people than anyone else, far to the point. Many are socially unacceptable misfits by most people’s terms. It is that integrity is driven to such a degree that it is presented as a matter of life or death. Ethics and standards of behavior are codified, their policed, and a part of life to the point that it is a standard which will follow an individual. In the civilian world, that doesn’t go away. It creates employees with a proven track record of trustworthiness that are often assets to the organizations they join after they leaving military service.
I don’t mean to imply that civilians have no integrity. To contrary, there are many who are the most reliable people I have ever met, but in my experience, it can be hit or miss. In one job I had, by the time I had worked there for no more than a month nearly the entire staff had called out sick at least once, people wouldn’t show up for work, complained incessantly, and generally, would do anything to avoid work. It wasn’t legitimate sickness. It was dishonesty and an inability to be relied upon. The worst part… corporate wouldn’t even let me fire them! I know that I said that the Marines and the military in general can’t be fired and that makes vets good leaders, but firing people is a tool and needs to be used when you have it. Let’s face it, because of lawyers and HR reps afraid of wrongful termination lawsuits, people can get away with murder without being let go far too often. This blows the minds of some vets.
In the military there are no sick days. I am not exaggerating. You absolutely must come to work and then must go to Sick Call before they will ever acknowledge that there might be something wrong with you. And if it is a PT day you will run three miles before you get to go.
When on deployment we also work every day. Every single day. There are no holidays, no weekends, no birthdays. It is the same thing every day. If you show up late, even by five minutes, or so, you will be running for miles or end up digging a massive fighting hole and 300 sandbags in an effort to make the base more secure. (It’s not really about making the base more secure.) So you learn how not to get punished. In the civilian world they don’t reward this behavior, but they also don’t punish the latter.
“Why should I reward them for doing their jobs?” some might say.
“Because you won’t punish them for not doing it.” I’d reply.
People like us show up early, stay late and if you ask them to do something they work hard to see that it is done. In the worst case scenario, they will be responsible enough to tell you when they need help. There is a point I made in the last section that I would like to take the opportunity to repeat for emphasis.
By the time I was 22 I was a Sergeant in charge of a team of 13 other Marines. We were all occupying very technical jobs in the computer networking field and responsible for overseeing the maintenance and distribution of over $3 million dollars of Marine Corps property.
Most organizations wouldn’t consider this type of thing a wise decision, but in the military it is common for very young people to be given a great deal of responsibility, relative to civilian counterparts. You wonder how. This might help. Image you give an 18-year-old a rifle and tell him that it is only thing that will protect his life for next seven months. Follow this up with a few months of proof and little else but living with the constant reminder of this fact and I promise you that rifle will not be lost, broken, damaged and will come back to you polished and good as new. I promise. Military people get responsibility because when they were very young, there were serious consequences to the decisions they made. Civilians don’t go through this kind of trial by fire and training and many of them don’t make good decisions because of it. The military has given young men and women real life and death responsibility and choices before a regular civilian would have graduated college.
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