Veterans Working With Veterans
Nobody understand another veteran quite like someone who has filled the same boots. We recently talked to James E. – a former Navy instructor turned Walmart Field Project Manager – who helps his new veteran associates transition back to civilian life.
What does your job at Walmart involve?
I work on remodels and open new stores oversees. It involves everything from planning the stores, to fixture-ing, merchandising and training new associates. Not only am I teaching the associates, but I am also teaching my team what they’re supposed to be doing in the store planning aspect.
I’m responsible for a team of five project supervisors and all of them are veterans. I’ve been in this position for about four years, and just about every year I’ve had a new team – and a majority of each team has been veterans. Because I have a similar mindset, I understand what the veterans are going through and can help them transition from military to civilian life, and then to Walmart life.
What’s the biggest struggle for veterans?
I’ve worked with everyone – from a retired coast guard officer of 27 years, down to a veteran who was a cook and parachute packer. For most, I think it’s just getting familiar with the changes in chain of command. Not necessarily just from the change in leadership, but also understanding how Walmart operates.
There are also the differences in the mental process – how one person understands their job is going to be different compared to another. It’s something that has to be discovered for everyone, individually.
Do the veterans you work with seem to transition easily?
For the most part. I think it takes a little more training to get them to understand that they are not just this worker bee. For instance, we hire them in store planning to supervise what’s going on. In the military (even from my perspective as an E7), I issued an order and the order was carried out. But from the civilian or Walmart side of the house, you’re not issuing orders – you’re making requests, assigning tasks and following up with those tasks.
You have to get things done and mold your team from a civilian perspective rather than a military perspective.
How do you manage veterans best?
I was fortunate that one of my jobs in the military was as a Navy instructor. I got a chance to look at the different methods, and master the ways people learn. Some people learn by repetition, some by doing and some have to read the books. I had to learn how to look at what each person’s style of learning was and develop them around that. That way, you can make sure everyone gets the same information from whatever perspective they have.
What are you working on now?
I’m actually remodeling a store down the street from the first store I opened in Clermont, Florida. I’m also working with a Senior Human Resources Manager to create a training package to help veterans who are transitioning into the store planning field. It will encompass how to help people who may have PTSD, provide helpful contacts and give supervisors ways to handle certain situations specific to veterans.