Many security company employees say they first learned about opportunities in the field through other employees The nation’s security companies are increasingly turning to U.S. military veterans to fill the ranks of both uniformed guards and management personnel. Getting the best former soldiers, airmen and sailors into the civilian workforce requires recruiting, and some of the best recruiters are other veterans. A wide variety of current security company employees say they first learned about opportunities in the field through other employees. Larger companies have well established connections with military organisations and send recruiters to bases to meet with service personnel who are getting ready to end their military service. “We can’t hire veterans only, but we definitely do promote the hiring of veterans whenever we can,” says Bob Williams, president, Briscoe Protective Systems Inc. in Centereach, New York. On a recent weekday, Williams was getting ready to interview a veteran who he met through the company that handled maintenance work on his pool. “I didn’t realise he was a veteran, but I could see with his character and the way he worked with the guys that he was team player,” says Williams. “After the end of the (summer) season he was laid off, and I wanted to give him an opportunity to work with us.” The ex-soldier also told Williams about another veteran who was interested in getting into the security industry. Veterans tend to be exceptional employees who require less training (and hand-holding) than other employees “We get them through word of mouth from other veterans more than anything else,” he explains. Few people appreciate the value of veterans more than veterans themselves. Kateri Nelson, who until recently served as a recruiter for AlliedBarton Security Services in Colorado, notes that she was able to bring a number of veterans into the company. “One of the best parts of the job was being able to help veterans to find employment and get them started on a career path with AlliedBarton,” she says. “I was fortunate to be in that position.” Nelson was herself first told about opportunities in the company by a company employee who was serving in her unit in the Colorado National Guard. Veterans tend to be exceptional employees who require less training (and hand-holding) than other employees. In addition, most company managers see them as less prone to turnover. They also face some unique challenges as they integrate back into the civilian workforce. While they may be called on use many of the same skills they used in the service, veterans often face a very different world. As one security company executive noted, managing civilians can very different than soldiers. “The consequences for failing to carry out an order can be very different in the military than in a civilian workplace,” he observes. They have to get used to other workers who may not always have the same level of discipline as they do. Freshly minted civilians also face a shock when they see the wages paid by civilian companies. “When people are getting out of the military their expectations in regards to what they should be getting paid is significantly higher than the reality of today’s world,” says Dennis Lejeck, president of Black Knight Security in Pittsburgh. In an industry in which the typical guard may be making $9 an hour, veterans are “just shocked when you say that’s your starting pay and is that a wage that’s acceptable to you”, says Dennis Lejeck, president of Black Knight Security In an industry in which the typical guard may be making $9 an hour, veterans are “just shocked when you say that’s your starting pay and is that a wage that’s acceptable to you.” After spending years in the military many veterans are unfamiliar with the pay scales common in the industry. “When they wrap their heads around, this is what it’s going to be at least until I can finish my college, then it seems to go okay” he notes. “Some of them we lose because they had higher expectations and then they don’t end up coming on board with us.” Once veterans get out and start looking for a job, it can also be difficult to translate the skills they acquired in the military and make them understandable to an employer. “I was enlisted (in the Army) and then got out at age 23,” recalls Lejeck. “I was in the infantry, so it’s really hard to translate what I did as a member of the infantry and put on a professional resume.” Security companies tend to be more aware of the difficulties presented by trying to match up skills gained in the military with a civilian position. “A good way to approach that is we hire the person not the resume,” says Dan Williams, president of Cloverton Security. “We look at the person and the history they have and what people say about them in their references.” Cloverton wants employees who understand and are committed to their unique security niche – cannabis dispensaries. Security companies put veterans through the same background and evaluations as any employee would face before hire. Many realise that they also need to be aware of the stresses that veterans – particularly combat veterans – have experienced and may still carry with them. “It’s obviously a big change going from a high-risk danger zone to coming back to a place like Denver,” says Williams. “With that you could have certain effects from it in terms of the intensity level involved, but we try to monitor that very carefully.” Cloverton, like other companies, requires random drug testing, full physicals and is developing a full psychological review for its employees. It also provides health benefits for its staff, according to Williams.
You can identify the military veterans among private security guards by the way they wear their uniforms, according to one security company executive. Each veteran looks comfortable in the uniform and exudes a confidence you don’t often see among those without a military background. It comes as no surprise that security companies like to hire veterans – more than practically any other industry. With a growing population of U.S. men and women coming out of the service after tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of highly trained service personnel represents an opportunity for the nation’s security industry. Many veterans are trained with skills that translate readily into a private security position. These include uniformed guard positions, and also many management and technical jobs including human resources, sales and intelligence. Many companies – particularly those run by veterans – are motivated by a desire to help employ former military personnel, but that’s clearly not the primary rationale. A theme that comes through in conversations with a variety of security companies, CEOs, human resource leaders and managers is that veterans are simply more likely to do a good job. “Why we go so hard after veterans,” says Drew Levine, President of G4S Secure Solutions, North America. “is because we don’t have to ‘hope’ they will be able to do the job. You take that out of the equation because (veterans) have already performed admirably, they understand the rule of law, they understand an order, they understand there are procedures for a reason. We have found over 50 years (of company history) veterans are one segment of the population that typically works the best at all levels in our company.” A variety of security companies feel that veterans are simply more likely to do a good job G4S Secure Solutions is a good example of a company that has put its employment money into action. The firm currently employs more than 9,000 military veterans, translating into 22 percent of its workforce. A number of major firms say they have filled out a quarter to a third of their workforce with veterans. Denver-based Cloverton Security actively recruits veterans with the emphasis on former soldiers with Special Forces training. The company, a division of Cana Security, caters to the growing marijuana dispensary industry. The company provides armoured car and guard service for the transportation of both money (there’s a lot of that) and product (which tends to be valuable). “One particular trait that we like is if they have a background in urban assault training and procedures,” says company founder Dan Williams. “Since the cannabis industry is very new and unique, we’re writing the book on those procedures daily. In order to do that it really helps if we have people who have urban assault and urban warfare training instead of the old out-of-the-box secure armed transport.” His clients need and demand a higher level of security to protect large amounts of cash common to these businesses. Since few banks will provide business accounts for the dispensaries, they tend to generate large amounts of cash that have to be transported between locations. With strict state and federal regulations, the companies have to be very careful how they monitor and track product as well. Cloverton director of training is former military and has written training procedures for SWAT teams around the country. “In this instance he’s rewriting all the procedures for pick up and drop off for cannabis and cash considering it’s high risk,” says Williams. Many veterans like Dennis Lejeck got their start in the business as an entry level security guard. Today, he’s running his own company – Black Knight Security in Pittsburgh. “The majority of veterans bring leadership skills to the job,” he explains. “If early on they demonstrate leadership skills those are the people we are looking to promote.” As a result, his company has site superintendents, account managers and other non-guard positions filled by veterans. The security market is starting to attract an increasing number of woman veterans as well Veterans make good employees because they are “responsible people who listen, that follow rules, and are used to making sure that what’s in front of them happens,” says Deborah Brantley, Vice President, Human Resources and Talent at AlliedBarton Security Services. “Military folks manage people or they manage things, so they bring those skills with them. They take training seriously. So even if they don’t have exactly the right skills that we need, they are usually open to learning how to do something they don’t yet have training for.” While the majority of uniformed guards tend to be male, the security market is starting to attract an increasing number of woman veterans as well. One of them is Kateri Nelson, who serves as Capture Management Support Representative with AlliedBarton Security Services in Lakewood, Colo. After leaving the military in 2011, she joined the company’s human resources department as an assistant and then a recruiter. With training in linguistic skills and information gathering, she was a natural for recruiting new security officers. As more veterans exit the military at the end of tours and as units are decommissioned to meet federal budget constraints, an increasing number will likely be turning to security firms for employment. Many will find an open door. “I don’t know that the rest of the world has the same view that we do, and it’s a shame because they’re missing out on some top drawer talent that’s coming out of the military,” says Levine. “They have brought such value to our company that I have enormous respect of their performance and their patriotism, but the work they do in the private sector post military is under-applauded. They’re a special breed of individuals.