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Behind civilian lines: From veteran to fellow veteran

Veterans serve advice to comrades facing the civilian workforce transition

November 11, 2019

min read

Eighty-three percent of military career fields align with current positions at Koch companies. Additionally, veterans’ values, leadership and dedication mirror the principles that guide Koch employees. Yet, like many companies in America, attracting, hiring and retaining veteran talent can be a challenge. The culprit? A cultural and communication gap between hiring managers, business leaders and veterans, themselves.

At Koch, we're working hard to bridge this gap, and this Veterans Day, we asked our fellow veteran employees to share their best advice to help soldiers transitioning into the civilian world. 


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Michael Novello

Director, North America Operations, INVISTA
Army, 7 years served

“I had to overcome the fear that my knowledge and skills weren’t relevant to the business world. Companies want the leadership, decision making and critical thinking skills the military instills in us.”


Yannick Lobe

Process Improvement Manager, Georgia-Pacific
Marine Corps, 8 years served

“Your soft skills are your primary asset. Most organizations will be able to supplement your technical skills, but no civilian organization has the infrastructure to develop soft skills like the military does. Trust your training.”



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Stephanie Young

IT Strategy and Planning Lead, Koch Business Solutions
Marine Corps, 8 years served

“Eight years in the Corps left me unprepared to speak “business.” It’s not that we didn't have the same concepts, but we certainly talked about them differently. Something that really helped me was taking a general, 100-level business class at the local community college to learn how to translate military jargon into business speak. This was valuable during interviews to help my interviewer with connecting my skills to what they were looking for.”


Andrew Mathis

Forester, Georgia-Pacific
Army, 6 years served

“Many veterans separate from the military with very little literacy in how to navigate the corporate world, and that problem is only compounded by our lack of network in any space we may want to transition to. Civilian hiring managers often do not understand the relevance of military leadership and the ability veterans have to utilize those skills in their workspace.”   



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Nathaniel Price

Operations Technology Systems Analyst, Koch Ag & Energy Solutions 
Marine Corps, 12 years served

“I have a lot of friends who struggled with the lack of camaraderie in the civilian world. Those who have not served in the military will likely never understand the kind of bonds that are formed with your fellow service members. Find local veteran organizations and build relationships outside of work, even better if your employer has some internal organizations for veterans to join.”


Sean Ott

Maintenance Manager, Koch Agronomic Services
Navy, 20 years served

“Remember regardless of your rank or experience, you are stepping into a new world, and as such you must earn trust and respect, not expect it because of your rank or position. Take care of and listen to your team and they will in turn take care of you.”



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Rachael Rustick

Assistant Team Lead, KBX Logistics
Navy, 8 years served

“It took me about two years to get a good handle on the transition and to find where I belong. Be patient with yourself. It is a bigger transition than you’re probably expecting.”


David O’Hara

Production & Quality Administration Manager, Guardian Industries 
Air Force, 30 years served

“Something I learned that helped me to make a better transition was to first recognize my performance gaps with this environment. It took a bit of humility, but eventually I got there. Understanding your gaps and capabilities can go a long way in helping transition from military to civilian. The environment may not be the same, but you have bosses who care and want you to succeed. Pay attention to their guidance, leverage the opportunities made available to you and success will follow.”



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Anthony Meschke

Project Manager, Flint Hills Resources
Marine Corps, 4 years served

“You have changed more than your old friends have. Don’t be scared to find new friends that are more aligned with your current situation in life. Get a job, sign up for school, travel or volunteer. This will help you transition faster. A big hurdle to new jobs will be getting through the resume screening process. There are a lot of resources that can help you translate your service into civilian jobs. Seek help from the VA or other programs to update your resume and don’t be scared to ask a recruiter for help in filling out forms or job applications.”


Stephen O'Kresik

Plant Director, Georgia-Pacific
Navy, 24 years served

“Make your transition with confidence. Understand your strengths and apply your ability to excel in changing environments, high level of personal accountability and success working in a team.”



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Christopher Payne

Human Resources Director, Georgia-Pacific
Army, 6 years served

“Don’t go it alone. Find a mentor, both from your peer group and a leader, and stay connected to that person.”


Tyson Trunkhill

Inventory & Sourcing Specialist, Flint HIlls Resources
Army National Guard, 20 years served

“Taking care of your own well-being is critical. Seek out and use available resources – there are so many of them! And do not be afraid to ask for assistance, whether it’s finding a job or supporting your physical and mental health.”



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Chuck LaPorte

Vice President & General Manager, Georgia-Pacific
Navy, 7 years served 

“Be who you are. Military folks bring a lot more to the table than may be evident at first. Just as you did in the military, focus on caring about the success of others while developing your skills and you will be fine.”


Koch companies take an active role in supporting U.S. veterans’ transition to the civilian workforce through mentorship, on-the-job training, online resources and other support like the employee knowledge sharing here. If you’re a transitioning member of the military or preparing to do so, we invite you to reference and inquire about these resources and search our open jobs.