From Iraq to IowaAdapting to civilian life after years of service isn’t easy. There were an estimated 453,000 unemployed veterans in 2016 in the U.S. alone. But since 2011, thousands of servicemen and women have made the leap and joined Siemens to continue their passion for engineering and manufacturing.
Back in 2005, a military convoy was making its way across the hot Iraqi desert. Their operation was to escort a 700 ton generator, nicknamed the ‘MOAG’ (Mother Of All Generators), safely across one of the most hazardous areas in the Middle East.
In such dangerous and unpredictable territory, the risk of attack was high – and the need for security was vital. Across six grueling days, in temperatures as high as 120 degrees, the team managed to safely complete one of the most logistically complex operations of the Iraqi reconstruction effort.
The operation, which was a joint effort between Siemens and the U.S. military, meant Iraq’s electrical grid was increased by 260 additional megawatts. That’s enough to bring a year’s worth of power to hospitals, schools, supermarkets and homes.
Bo Brockett, an ex-Army Specialist, unit armorer and combat engineer from Iowa, was one of the team on the ground in the desert. He knows what it means to come home from service, to a life where nobody quite understands what you’ve seen. Nine years after completing that operation, he’s swapped escorting 700 ton generators for managing wind turbine blades the size of half a football field. He now works at the Siemens Wind Power Blade Manufacturing Facility in Fort Madison, Iowa as an overhead crane operator.
He’s one of 2,500 veterans who have made the jump from the military to Siemens. Among those veterans are former Aviation Mechanics, Navy Engineers and Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers all putting their skills to use in new ways. They bring with them a host of transferable skills, ideas and approaches which translate into a range of roles, from leadership to project management, field service and manufacturing. For former colonels, their experience of leading teams through tough missions makes them natural leaders at work. Transferring these skills into new work helps veterans find purpose again, but adapting to civilian life is still tough; in the U.S. 50,000 veterans are homeless and sleeping on the streets every night, and unable to reintegrate back into society even after serving in conflict zones.
“We veterans are a special group of people,” Brockett said. “It can be a long, tough transition from soldier to civilian, depending on our experiences, our character and our expectations.” Applying what he learned in the military to his work, he says, has helped him to integrate back into life in Iowa. The mantra he’s lived by? “Be patient, and drive on.”
Making the transition
Over the next five years at least 2,500 more military veterans are expected to join Siemens as part of a partnership with the White House which was formed in 2011. They’ll be joining a vibrant veteran community at Siemens, where mentoring and job training helps veterans to reintegrate back into work smoothly across industries including automotive, aerospace, energy, high-tech electronics and machinery.
Siemens was also named a Top Veteran-Friendly Company by U.S. Veterans Magazine, but it’s the camaraderie within the community that speaks for itself, continuing the team bond that’s present in the forces. One member of our team even created the Siemens Wall of Heroes, a Facebook page that shares the stories of some of the former service people working with us. Photographs show them now and then, standing proud in uniform on overseas deployment sit alongside portraits of them today with their teams in any number of states across the country. It’s a reminder of some of the amazing stories our colleagues have to tell, and of all the veterans working across the organization today who’ve made the journey from soldier to civilian.