Tapping talent for the workplace

The job market has always been bright for retiring generals, admirals and other high-ranking officers. In fact, a long list of former military officials are gainfully employed in the private sector, commanding big salaries and even bigger job responsibilities than they had in their military careers.

But what about noncommissioned officers, the sergeants and chief petty officers? Where do the troops who often have the most hands-on experience in the military go when they retire?

Some have trouble finding job pro-spects, and many continue to work for their respective services as civilians.

Others, however, are starting to branch out because they have discovered an untapped niche in the marketplace.

James Herdt, former master chief petty officer of the Navy — the service's

top noncommissioned officer — said

today's senior enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are better educated and have better experience than ever before, and they can offer a unique perspective in the consulting world.

"It really started with [Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern] Clark," said Herdt, who is retired from active duty in Florida but works with other senior enlisted Navy retirees as a consultant. "He began to understand that the people in the force were capable of more than we were expecting of them. When you set an expectation, people tend to deliver, and if the bar is set low, that's what you get."

Speaking last month at the AFCEA West 2004 conference in San Diego, Clark said it is no longer adequate for the rank and file to know what they are expected to do. Now, he said, they need to know why. That gives their missions and jobs a purpose and gets everybody "steaming in the same

direction."

And that, Herdt said, has opened up a new line of business for him and other retired senior noncommissioned officers.

He credits the Navy's Revolution in Training initiative, which includes use of Navy Knowledge Online and other Web portals, with training a finely tuned caliber of enlisted men and women. "Knowledge management is showing that it's important to pass along to the sailors all they need to know," Herdt said. "It drives productivity and, as senior enlisted men, we had more hands-on experience than some of the flag and general officers. Right now, we are working with the Navy" to integrate knowledge management into the service.

Working with four other retired master chief petty officers, Herdt provides workforce consulting. To date, most of the work has been with the Navy. The five men are working with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command's information technology center and the chief of naval personnel to develop a civilian workforce management policy and solution.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Jerry Tuttle, a consultant based in Washington, D.C., said senior enlisted personnel have had decades of hands-on experience, unlike most officers, and because of that "could open doors that are even closed to general and flag

officers."

"Who knows the Navy better than the master chiefs?" Tuttle asked. "They have been into the crucible of their fields and know the organization, the talent and the geography."

"When it comes to the [Navy] master chiefs, the [Army] sergeant majors and the [Air Force] chief master sergeants, they're going to do what you ask of them and they're going to do it right," he said. "For them, reputation is far more valuable than the money they receive."

Featured

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above