From the battlefield to the boardroom

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Leaving the military ranks for a civilian job is the career change of a lifetime, now more corporations are giving service personnel the chance to jump from wardroom to boardroom.
by Kathleen Hays

Officers are using their years of experience leading and motivating troops to give them a boost in corporations such as General Electric, Pfizer, Home Depot and Sprint.

“You cannot get this at a university…I think the army provides opportunities every single day to build and develop your leadership skills,” Al Ahuja said.

He led the U.S. army’s 101st airborne division in Mosul, Iraq as a Lieutenant Colonel back in 2003 and is now leaving the armed forces after 20 years of service.

For Al Ahuja, his family has been one of the motivating factors for leaving the army. “I have a three year old daughter and I have not been here for her first two birthdays,” he says.

According to GI Jobs Magazine an estimated 250,000 people leave the U.S. military each year and about 15 percent of these are officers.

One firm that specializes in placing military personnel in the private sector says their skills are on par with those of senior executives at top corporations.

“They are great at team building, disciplined, highly educated, very well trained and they have been managing people, resources and equipment for years,” says Alex Powers, CEO of Military Alliance and Associates…

     

U.S. Air Force veteran Susan Kratch has worked at General Electric (GE) for 25 years. She believes former military officers have helped GE cut costs, boost quality and open new markets around the globe.

“Where other people have failed before [ex-military personnel] seem to be able to conquer the mission and achieve the objectives,” explains Kratch.

But she believes ex-military personnel were not always welcome in the corporate world.

“When I got out of the Vietnam experience and left the military we were told not tell anyone we were in the military,” she says.

Al Ahuja is now looking for a job in retail distribution, in the belief that his management and motivation skills make him a perfect candidate for this sector.

He is frustrated that some companies will not look past his lack of industry experience, but he is convinced that he has what it takes.

“I am new, full of fire and I want to bring some energy to an organization and I know I can do well so give me a chance,” says Al Ahuja.

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