We sat down with members of the new OIA Veterans’ Task Force to explore some of the initiatives that members are putting together to support veterans currently in the outdoor industry…
By Austin Parker
Members from the OIA Veterans’ Task Force are working to highlight the value currently transitioning military members bring to companies in the industry. As a result, the OIA Veterans’ Task Force is breaking boundaries to build new relationships with veterans and outdoor recreation…and for good reason.
The fact is, there are more skilled veterans entering the private workforce every day, and many of them bring a love for the outdoors with them.
Veterans’ Day is both a celebration, and a somber event for many of us. Nearly every American has been touched by service members, and whether your experience is seeing your grandfather board an Honor Flight to the WWII Memorial or watching a close friend of family continually deploy to current conflicts around the world, this day is a time to remember their sacrifice.
Consider the experience and skills many veterans are trained for…Who better to lead the charge in bringing new products to market?
Leading the charge in building a network of awareness are people like Tom Boyle, 1st LT US Army and Marketing Team Lead at W.L. Gore; Stacy Bare, CPT US Army and Director of Sierra Club Outdoors; and Dave Petri, Commander US Navy (Retired) and VP of Marketing at Farm to Feet. These three formed the foundation for the Task Force.
Talk with any of them and the excitement for the future is almost tangible. Consider the experience and skills many veterans are trained for. Job experiences range from logistical managers and IT professionals to combat troops, and nearly every vet has served in some form of leadership position. Who better to lead the charge in bringing new products to market and interact with a broadening customer base?
Task Force members are also helping to make HR departments across the industry more aware of veteran hiring. With tools like the GI Bill at their disposal, many veterans are able to not only take advantage of their military training, but bring advanced schooling to the job market as well.
Soon after the new Task Force was announced, other companies began to throw their support and help build momentum. Matthew Griffin, one of the founders of Combat Flip Flops and an Army Ranger, has developed an initiative called the “Veterans Stability Operations” program. Griffin’s program helps veterans develop a sales and distribution network for CFF, while giving them valuable sales training and financing through channels specifically put in place for veteran owned businesses. This program is the first to come out of the industry at large and serves as a great example for future development. Other companies have had firm veterans’ preference hiring in place. Liberty Bottleworks makes all of their award winning bottles in a wholly owned factory in Union Gap, WA. They provide 50+ manufacturing jobs and have always had a policy of hiring transitioning veterans.
Developing jobs is not the only mission of the Task Force. According to Bare some of the Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors programs that are currently on the schedule range from powder workshops in Cooke City, MT, to Rafting the Grand Canyon. Military and veterans trips are playing a big part not just in recreation, but also in post-traumatic stress healing. The Sierra Club has also committed to providing funding for up to 20 veterans to undergo whitewater raft guide training to further foster a relationship in the outdoors and military communities. They are also exploring a new relationship with the Commit Foundation, which provides career mentoring workshops, corporate education programs, and 1-on-1 counseling for veterans entering the private work force.
Griffin’s program helps veterans develop a sales and distribution network for CFF, while giving them valuable sales training and financing.
Regardless of individual goals and industry trends, it seems the Task Force has already created a lasting impact. We’ll be following new developments closely as more OIA members help build awareness for many of the heroes among us.
Transitioning from active duty life can be challenging. When I left the service just before the Holidays in 2010, I didn’t have much direction beyond plans to finish school eventually, and use the upcoming ski season to decompress for a few months. While I was able to harness my experiences in the intelligence and electronic warfare communities to find a well paying job, it was my time spent in the Wasatch and Uinta mountains near Salt Lake City that helped me feel like I had found my home. I knew that I wanted to live and work outside, but I didn’t know what direction to take – companies like Black Diamond and Petzl probably don’t have much use for a intelligence analyst with a background in nuclear engineering and weapons analysis (if you do though, call me!). It wasn’t until a kind editor at Gear Patrol took a chance on my ski bum ideas about backcountry skiing and dirtbagging around Moab that I found my niche. Writing about the industry, as well my favorite gear and trips for SGB, MOTUS, The Manual and others has become my way of staying involved with the industry, as well as helping friends in the veteran community discover new ways to get outdoors. –Austin Parker
Top Photo: Dave Petri, VP of Marketing, Farm to Feet, and one of the key members of the OIA Veteran Task Force.