July 2017 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Why Aren’t There More Veterans in Logistics?

Tags: Logistics, Careers, Supply Chain

Ken Fong is Senior Global Logistics Manager, Flexport, 415-231-5252

Approximately 200,000 people transition out of the military each year. Reintegrating into the civilian workforce can be a challenging experience. While many of their skills directly apply to a career in logistics, veterans remain a largely untapped resource for this field.

Every position in every branch of the military—from weapons deployment, to combat training, to transportation—deals with logistics on some level. Most service members have firsthand experience with global trade and logistics operations because of wide-ranging roles in the military.

However, LinkedIn's 2016 Veteran Insights Report found that veterans over-index in operations job functions, indicating they overwhelmingly end up in operations-related positions. Why aren't there more veterans in logistics?

Making the Connection

Most veterans don't think about pursuing a career in logistics, even though military work is full of day-to-day logistics operations. During my last deployment for the Marines, I was responsible for the movements of an entire battalion—1,000 people, 52 military working dogs, and all our gear, food, and intelligence.

Military work also requires familiarity with trade and knowledge of different countries' government policies. Today, I work with an ex-Coast Guard service member whose day-to-day duties consisted of navigating trade agreements with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Like most veterans, his job required working in tandem with people from other countries. A job in logistics requires the same.

Many enter the military out of a sense of duty and a desire to help and serve others. Veterans are used to working toward a greater purpose, and it can be difficult to find a civilian job that is similarly fulfilling and stable. My work in the logistics field is rewarding because I leverage my military background to execute shipments.

Diamonds in the Rough

Although all service members are familiar with the operations involved in logistics, it's rarely the defining activity of their military work.

When I left the Marine Corps in 2007, I wasn't sure where I fit in civilian life. This is a problem many veterans face. Older industries are difficult to break into—trade and supply chains are built on generations of relationships. Startups might be easier to join but tend to offer less stability.

Veterans are drawn to order and direction. They default to jobs in the high-stress public sector because they are directly relatable to military experience. In fact, more vets work in IT, defense, and government than the U.S. average.

The most common way veterans find jobs is through personal connections. This is another reason for the scarcity of veterans in the industry—so few of us are currently logistics professionals.

Moving Forward

Veterans can take advantage of countless programs to get closer to a logistics career. In addition to programs through the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, many nonprofit groups and educational organizations including Joining Forces, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and VetsinTech among others, aim to assist veterans' reintegration into civilian life.

Recruiters can reach out to veteran-specific job boards or hiring services such as Shift.org and Hire Heroes USA for top operations talent.

The best way to hire more veterans, though, is to start a company program specifically for veterans. For example, Salesforce offers the VetForce program and I'm part of my company's FlexVets program.

Find a way to show veterans that they are wanted and needed, and you'll be rewarded with unshakable loyalty and impeccable logistics operations.






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