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What Can a Veteran Bring to Your Parking Organization?

November 6, 2019

A War Hero’s Perspective

Bob Harkins

It is no secret that since the end of the military draft, veterans have been ever more isolated from the American public. In the post-WWII era, veterans were very prevalent in most organizations. But since the early 1970s and the end of the draft, the military has been reduced in overall size. It is now commonly announced that our country is being protected by the “1 percent”. The presence of veterans in business organizations has decreased significantly. 


With this reduction and isolation comes a lack of understanding and even fear. It’s compounded by stories of homelessness and PTSD among military veterans. All of this results in a lack of understanding of what veterans can bring to a civilian organization.


I spent 27 years in the U.S. Army and had a variety of leadership opportunities throughout my career, from platoon to brigade. My tenure included three years in combat in Vietnam and the Gulf War. My entry into the wonderful world of parking was indeed a fortunate opportunity. During my interview process, I was asked how I was qualified when I didn’t have a background in parking. I relied on my experience as a military Veteran.


Veterans have many skills and talents, regardless of military occupational specialty or branch of service. The key is to translate those skills into the talents needed by a civilian organization. For example: 


• Leadership Skills: Veterans have tremendous leadership experience that translates to the civilian world - from squad leader to brigade commander. 


• Technical and/or Tactical Skills: Veterans have been trained in a variety of skills that can benefit a business organization.


• Teamwork: All veterans have been part of a team. They understand the value of teamwork, which is critical to all businesses. All veterans understand mission accomplishment and the value of teamwork to accomplish a job
or task. 


• Organizational Skills: Veterans live this every day. A veteran understands “mission accomplishment” and has the ability to articulate a task and purpose and establish objectives that will lead to it
being accomplished.


I successfully addressed the question about my lack of “parking experience.” I knew the position would help establish a new organization and shared that I brought leadership skills, organization development experience, and the ability to build a team. It worked and led to a 25-year career in the parking industry, and still going strong!


Veterans have many skills and talents, regardless of military occupational specialty or
branch of service.


All organizations should consider the incredible experience veterans bring and make a concerted effort to add veterans to their employee candidate pool.


Biography


Dr. Gerald R. Harkins (Bob) retired as the Associate Vice President for Campus Safety and Security for The University of Texas at Austin. He assumed that role in September 2005. He oversaw the University of Texas Police Department, Parking and Transportation Services, Environmental Health and Safety Services, Fire Protection Services, and Emergency Preparedness Services. 


Bob obtained his undergraduate degree from Ohio State University, his Masters from Auburn University and his doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Pittsburgh. He was commissioned as an Infantry Second Lieutenant from Ohio State University. He served in the U.S. Army for 27 years retiring as a Colonel. 


He commanded at all levels from platoon leader and company commander in the 101st Airborne Division Viet Nam to a brigade commander in the Gulf War. He was decorated numerous times for meritorious service and valor in combat. Bob was awarded two Silver Stars as a company commander and two purple hearts among other decorations. After retirement from the Army he started the Department of Parking and Transportation Services at the University of Pittsburgh and held that position for seven years. He also held that position for five years at the University of Texas.



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