The Iraq War is the first modern era, major conflict fought by the United States in which the draft has not been employed. For the National Guard, this deployment is unusual.
Many units have not been deployed since World War II. The wide use of the reserve component of the armed forces of the United States is a "shift in national thinking" that redefines the reserve from a strategic reserve housed in the continental United States to an "operationally ready and relevant force" to be deployed, as active soldiers, around the world.
Those Americans who have never been in the military must remember that activation is involuntary. Mobilization pulls them from their careers, employers and families from seven to 18 months, depending on branch of service. This activation is also unique in that a significant number of these service members all come from the same community.
They are sent overseas as a unit and return home as a unit. This decision to pull people from their communities can have significant economic impact. Deployment has also become recurring. Some veterans who hold critical Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) have been deployed more then once in a four-year period. All these individuals leave their work and return after their tours of duty with changed insights and views of life.
The Department of Defense works to support deployments through the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). On its web page (www.esgr.net/about.asp), the DOD helps to “gain and maintain active support from all public and private employers for the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve" (mission statement). Generally, the ESGR seeks to make it easy for reservists to serve and employers to support their service.
Interestingly, in preparing this proposal, I found no direct evidence that the ESGR helps both employers and reservists utilize the deployment experience in support of organizational effectiveness.
Considerable numbers of officers (with college degrees) are corporate managers and take up their management jobs upon return from deployment. I also believe that both enlisted and officer women and men possess insights into human behavior unique to their deployment experience. They have been challenged to think differently. They have been forced to confront their own personal strengths and weaknesses in ways that their civilian world employment would never have challenged them.
Most importantly, understanding the nature of insight depth and breadth will yield revised management and leadership processes which should directly affect the organizational bottom line.
I am reaching out to the readers of Small Business Times, the business community of the Milwaukee area. You are stakeholders.
How many of you are dealing with returning reservists who have been deployed as a result of the War in Iraq?
The media has done an excellent job chronicling the negative affects of the war on individuals and their families. What have you read about the positive affects of experience on how veterans think about themselves and their ability to contribute to the society once they return?
I know that all these individuals return after their tours of duty with changed insights and views of life. As a result, I seek sponsorship and volunteer support for a research project that will, upon completion, describe the enhanced skill sets veterans bring to the workplace. It will also define the extent to which employers utilize those skills. The key question that the research addresses is: "To what extent are businesses integrating veteran knowledge into organizational learning?"
I am appealing to the Wisconsin business community to support this research.
I am an adjunct assistant professor in Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Business and Management. My classes reflect the fact that significant numbers of veterans are pursuing degrees in business. They are also supervisors and managers in firms they work for.
I work hard to integrate their veteran experience into class work. I am also a former Marine and Vietnam Era combat veteran. I know that these women and men possess insights into human behavior and organizational effectiveness unique to their deployment experience that if fully utilized will help Wisconsin’s business community.
All who serve are challenged by their service to think differently. They have been forced to confront their own personal strengths and weaknesses in ways that their civilian employment would never have challenged them. Most importantly, their newly acquired knowledge can demonstrably enhance any organization’s bottom line.
A more detailed description of this project is available at: http://www.drtomlifvendahl.com/critical_concern.htm.
I am also happy to talk with any business leader interested in supporting this project. I can be reached at (414) 873-4170 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the end, I look forward to your help in this important endeavor.
Tom Lifvendahl, Ph.D., is an adjunct assistant professor at Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Business and Management in Milwaukee. He is a researcher and a consultant with more than 30 years of experience in management, higher education teaching and administration.