Milwaukee veterans in the workplace

Veterans in the Workplace

Roberts
Simi
Simi

Bob Simi
Executive director, Milwaukee Regional Medical Center
Military branch: U.S. Marine Corps
Rank: Lieutenant colonel
Years served: 1984 – 2003

Describe your military experience:

“After four years of the U.S. Naval Academy, I took a commission in the Marine Corps as an engineer officer. I had two deployments to the Mediterranean during the first Gulf War. After my eight years on active duty, I continued with an additional seven years in high-level leadership and command positions in the reserves.”

How has your military service influenced how you approach your career today?

“During my military career, the officers whom I had the most respect for demonstrated the concept of servant leadership, where the commanding officer took an almost subservient role to his subordinates. This is contrary to most people’s perception of military leadership, which is historically perceived more as a top-down, command and control approach. The concept of servant leadership is vital in my current role working for five health care CEOs and the county executive in manifesting their vision for the future of the MRMC campus.”


Roberts
Roberts

Andrew Roberts
Executive program manager, GE Healthcare
Branch: U.S. Air Force Reserve
Rank: Lieutenant colonel
Years served: 1993 – present

Describe your responsibilities and experiences:

“I started my career as an aircraft maintenance officer supporting global taskings/missions, then spent several years in a development system office fielding fighter engines for F-15s and F-16s, then transitioned to acquisitions supporting a variety of platforms from black ops to life support systems and am currently in an HQ Air Force unit working on implementing repair network integration across the Air Force maintenance network.”

How has your military service influenced how you approach your career today?

“The military was/is a phenomenal proving ground that helped hone my leadership skills and allow me to become comfortable operating in high-stress environments with tough missions and defined resources. That background has allowed me to take on ambiguous and/or challenging roles that I probably wouldn’t have without the confidence I gained in my military experience. It sounds cliché, but it truly gave me the tools to understand that the battle is won before it’s fought and plans do not typically survive the first encounter; that teamwork, preparation and flexibility are key to overcoming obstacles and achieving results; and that leaders and individuals can’t do it alone.”


Sibson
Sibson

John Sibson
Vice president of corporate development, Johnson Controls Inc.
Branch: U.S. Navy (Commissioned through an NROTC Scholarship to Duke)
Rank: Lieutenant
Years served: 1984 – 1989 on active duty; 1989 – 1990 in the reserves

Describe your responsibilities and experiences:

“(My) first job was the main propulsion assistant (No. 2 engineer) on a Spruance-class destroyer out of Charleston, S.C. At age 22, I had nearly 50 gas turbine specialists reporting to me to take care of the ship’s four large propulsion gas turbines and three smaller power generation gas turbines. The ship (USS Moosbrugger DD-980) had a special anti-submarine warfare system and I spent nearly three years aboard chasing Russian submarines all over the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. I became the ship’s navigator for the last year aboard. I was then transferred to the Surface Warfare Officers School Command’s gas turbine school in Newport, R.I., where I served as an instructor for various levels of Naval officer (O-1 thru O-6) training programs before leaving the U.S. Navy to attend business school.”

How has your service influenced how you approach your career today?

“I’ve always been blown away by the quality of our all-volunteer force in all branches of the service. The responsibility and confidence we put in very young men and women right out of high school is truly incredible. That experience helped me realize the importance of developing and trusting your people. I became much more at ease with delegating, but also learned the importance of individual recognition and acknowledging the efforts of those who were really doing the ‘heavy lifting.’ Everyone on the system was a vital cog in completing our mission no matter what grade or level. Organizations really are ‘all about the people.’ Convey confidence in them, set high expectations, hold them accountable and recognize their successes and the organization will drive success.”


Debbink
Debbink

Dirk Debbink
Chairman and CEO, MSI General Corp.
Branch: U.S. Navy
Rank: Vice admiral
Years served: 1977 – 2012

Describe your responsibilities and experiences:

“(I was a) surface Navy sailor throughout my career. (My) initial assignment (was) to a frigate as main propulsion assistant and then navigator; ( I) served on Navy staffs at all levels, culminating in service at the Pentagon on the staff of the chief of Naval operations as the chief of Navy Reserve, representing 64,000 Navy Reserve sailors.”

How has your service influenced how you approach your career today? 

“Military service provides lifelong opportunities to exercise leadership in complex and difficult assignments, and the lessons learned apply to business and personal life as well. There is no better place to learn a true ‘sense of service’ to others than by serving in the U.S. Military.”


Peck
Peck

Curtiss S. Peck
Executive director, Fisher House Wisconsin
Founder and president, ASI Consulting Group LLC
Branch: U.S. Air Force
Rank: Technical sergeant
Years served:  1966 – 70 active; 1970 – 80 Air National Guard

Describe your military experiences:

“I served as security police. I put in for service in Vietnam, but was sent to the Azores Islands, located about 500 miles off the coast of Portugal, where I spent 18 months. After my service, I again put in for service in Vietnam, but was sent to Bitburg, Germany for 25 months.

“At the time, I was very angry I was not sent to Vietnam; I felt it was my duty to go there to serve my country. But in retrospect, I feel fortunate I did not go.”

How has your military service influenced how you approach your career today?

“The military teaches you discipline, leadership and organizational skills. It teaches you to be clear in your mission and to execute it. And it also allows you to be able to analyze how the mission went when it is over so you can do it better the next time. Teamwork is also key, and not something that is seen a lot in civilian occupations. In the military, you look to your right, you look to your left and those are the people you are depending on for your life.”


Starkel
Starkel

Russell Staerkel
President and chief executive officer, Wisconsin Center District
Branch: U.S. Air Force
Rank: Technical sergeant and captain
Years served:  August 1973 – June 1995

Describe your military experience:

“I was responsible for safety and security for five separate Air Force bases and assigned national assets. During my military career, I served as the executive officer and chief of staff for two Air Force major generals. I was also responsible for all space launch operations from the eastern united space launch facilities located at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I also served as a command-level Air Force security police officer and police chief with experience in personal and budget management for five separate military police departments.

  • “Managed acquisition of a $48 million security alarm system which included over 2,300 alarm points, 150 closed circuit cameras and the first-time use of biometric (retina scan) to secure a Department of Defense military satellite tracking facility.
  • “Facilitated the management of two major federal security contracts involving space launch security compliance and operations.
  • “Created the $500,000 Range Technical Services Security Contract for the military presence for the islands of Antigua and Ascension.
  • “Secured United States national defense assets both in the United States and foreign countries.
  • “Served in Desert Storm.”

How has your military service influenced how you approach your career today?

  1. “I believe a big takeaway from the military to my current role is leading by example: I try to instill this concept in all my senior leaders. For example: If the workday begins at 8 a.m. (and) you expect your staff to be at their work site at 8 a.m., then you should be at your work site by 7:30 a.m.” 
  2. “During my military career both as an enlisted and an officer, I was taught that leadership is all about people and getting the most out of them. Leadership is about conveying a sense of purpose and creating conditions of trust. I also believe and carry forward to my current position that I must know how to reward those who succeed and know when to retrain, move or fire ineffective staff. I have always stated that you manage money and time and lead and mentor employees.
  3. “I try to instill in my senior people to always look outside the box. Everyone has heard the slogan ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’ This is a slogan of a complacent or scared manager. I try to instill on our senior management team that this sort of thought process will not allow us to find and keep people who proactively take steps to solve problems – it instills complacency and that just will not work in today’s work environment.
  4. “Communication is the key to a successful company. I ask my staff to always give their opinions, thoughts and ideas, regardless of how strange they may think it is. I have attempted to instruct my managers at all levels that when their team members stop coming to them with issues, concerns and the occasional problem, then they have lost their employees’ confidence or the employee thinks you don’t care. You have to keep the lines of communication open by keeping yourself accessible and available. 
  5. “I also believe that when something positive happens, it is the team that made it happen and when things don’t exactly go as planned, then it is my sole responsibility. Being at the top is lonely and the responsibility for the outcome of our organization is great.”
  6. “Last but not least is integrity. I try to stand up for what is right and I protect the employees that are working for our organization. I use this term quite often, especially when I am addressing our new employees during their initial orientation: Integrity is defined in many ways; However, I would like to define it as ‘Doing what is right, even when no one is looking.’”

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