Face of Defense: Employer Partnership Helps Convoy Commander
By Army Lt. Col. Matt Leonard
Office of the Chief, U.S. Army Reserve
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2012 “I don't know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.”
Fleet Adm. E.J. King’s famous remark during World War II demonstrates the importance of logistics to wartime success. It’s also no trade secret that logistics also is vitally important to business success. For many companies such as Con-way, logistics and transportation expertise is responsible for their success and that of their customers.
Con-way is a $5 billion publicly traded company that strives to create competitive advantage for its customers. The company is an industry leader with more than 28,000 employees, one of whom is Army National Guardsman Capt. Luke Sanders.
Sanders is no stranger to transportation operations. He spent four years on active duty as a quartermaster officer and was deployed during 2008 and 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s been a battalion staff officer and a transportation platoon leader, coordinating supply missions and leading convoys in a war zone.
In 2010, Sanders separated from the active Army and rejoined the Army National Guard to focus more on raising his family and to re-start a civilian career. However, landing a good civilian career opportunity proved elusive.
“I applied to numerous positions in the transportation field, but I received very little feedback from the companies,” he recalled. “After four months of applying for jobs and doing whatever odd jobs I could find in the meantime, I started working in the insurance industry. I enjoyed the work, but the commissions were not able to sustain my family, and I was losing what was left of my savings.”
Things changed early in 2011 when Sanders heard about the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces program. He quickly registered and built his resume in the program’s career portal at http://www.EmployerPartnership.org. Dan Pence, one of EPAF’s local program support managers, noticed the resume and realized Luke’s skills and experience made him a good hiring candidate for EPAF partner Con-way Freight and its field management trainee program. So Pence immediately reached out to his contact at the company.
The normal prerequisite for FMT program consideration is a four-year college degree. But Conway Freight officials can waive the degree requirement for candidates with four years of relevant military experience, because the company’s leadership understands the value that military veterans can bring to their operation.
“Almost every single candidate we recruit from the military has the discipline and leadership traits we are looking for,” said Ted Peace, Con-way Freight’s senior manager for operations learning and development. “The [field management trainees who] come from the military are used to high energy, high-stress situations, and they are adept at time management. They are able to make what we call ‘time-speed decisions’-- they are great at that.”
So with the help of his program support manager, less than a week after building his resume in EPAF’s career portal, Luke had an interview with Con-way Freight. Soon afterward, he was offered a seat in the 13-week FMT program.
“It’s a really good program,” he said. “You learn the ins and outs of company operations by doing.”
A two-week block of the training takes place at Con-way Freight’s corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich. There, candidates start with the foundations of supervision, learning company procedures and legal issues, and finish in a computer lab performing the electronic records management required to run operations at one of the company’s regional service centers.
The remaining 11 weeks are spent in the field at a service center, where the trainees learn the “Con-way circle of life”. They follow the freight on a 24-hour clock and learn every aspect of operations.
“It’s as good as any training I’ve had at any job,” Luke said. “I feel like I have a good idea of what’s going on at every stage of the operation.”
Upon completing the training program, Luke had several options. He selected a position as the inbound freight operations supervisor at the Con-way Freight Service Center in Mundelein, Ill.
“Luke is doing very well,” said Rich Pierce, the service center’s manager. “He took on one of the more difficult positions at our service center in September and literally walked into the position as if he's been here for some length of time.”
Luke credits his military leadership experience with helping in his success. As a young lieutenant, he said, he was among the youngest members of the platoon he was tasked to lead. He found the same was true at the service center.
“Most of the guys I supervise in my shift are in their 40s or 50s,” the 28-year-old Luke said. “But when they heard I had a military background, they welcomed me. Some were also veterans and others shared that their kids were serving. That’s credibility and acceptance I wouldn’t have had coming straight from college.”
As a graduate of the company’s field management trainee program, Luke has the opportunity to continue taking on positions of greater responsibility. Possibilities include one day becoming a freight operations manager or a service center manager.
“He's disciplined to the process,” Pierce said. “Luke is the employee you only have to show him how to do something once and he's got it. He gets things done. These are qualities that are all too often lacking in today's prospective candidates.”
The Employer Partnership program began in 2008 and was expanded to assist service members of all branches, as well as family members and veterans, in 2010. It’s free to job seekers and employers. Program officials say it is the only career resource that provides both geographically deployed local support and automatic posting of jobs at no charge to employers.