Much has changed since Wil Davis, owner of the Gary Jet Center, retired from his reserve career as commanding officer of the DC-9 at Glenview Naval Air Station in Glenview, Ill., in 1987.
Davis, who also served 13 years active duty, said finding a job was extremely hard back then.
“There wasn’t really any type of enthusiasm within the government and there was no support for the people coming home,” Davis said. “It wasn’t until Kuwait that the mindset changed.”
Since founding his company 22 years ago, Davis has consistently hired returning veterans. Four current employees are veterans and National Guard members.
While his employees are on guard duty, often several months at a time, Davis provides full pay and benefits, which recently earned him a 2012 Secretary of Defense Freedom Award.
It’s all about their great attitude, Davis said.
“That is all I ask for – give me the attitude and I will train them in the proficiency,” Davis said. “I trust them. They have already proven themselves in some type of military role so they have that mindset.”
Gary Jet Center 12-year employee Cruz Rosales, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was an avionics technician working on Huey and Cobra helicopters.
Rosales said it is great working for Davis, who gave him on the job training to get the Airframe and Power Plant certification.
Ralph Kokot, CEO of Michigan City’s Vanair, actively recruits veterans through the National Guard, Armed Forces Employee Partnership and Warriors First. Kokot, whose son is in the military, employs 14 veterans.
Kokot finds the veterans “well trained and disciplined.”
“They are definitely dedicated to our customers and well received in the community,” Kokot said. “We appreciate their service to their country.”
Both Davis and Kokot receive no financial aid or incentives from the government for hiring veterans.
Five-year Vanair employee and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert Saum works in the company’s quality department, providing testing and quality assurance.
He finds his bosses friendly and caring.
“They are big on taking care of the people that are taking care of the country,” Saum said.
He said many of his fellow military unit members, with whom he keeps in contact, are struggling in part-time jobs with no future.
“A lot of organizations are apprehensive about hiring vets – I think just because of the PTSD,” Saum said. “I am grateful to have this job. I love it here.”
Fifth Third Bank, with 34 locations in Northwest Indiana, has a comprehensive campaign underway to hire veterans.
“We want to hire veterans because they have the skills and the discipline that really work out well in cultures like banks,” said Greg Zuercher, Fifth Third Bank’s talent acquisition team leader. “We are focused. We all work very hard a lot of hours. Obviously there is a lot of compliance and government protocol that we use or follow, so we feel that the skill set of veterans, especially those returning recently, fit that.”
Zuercher said his company works with veterans to improve their resumes emphasizing their marketable skills, while helping them research companies and hone interview techniques.
Edward Schrank, Fifth Third Bank vice president in business development, said he finds the qualities of critical thinking in a dynamic environment, hard optimism when faced with things going wrong and strong commitment to their employers the outstanding qualities of employees with military backgrounds.
Schrank said in the past few years attitudes towards veterans have grown from appreciating their service to owing them a job to “the idea that your experience in the military brings a level of experience and ability that we can’t get somewhere else, and we want to add it to our company.”