The Construction Veteran Podcast

From Green Beret to Construction Guru: Lou Gomez's Tale of Transition and Triumph

January 08, 2024 The Construction Veteran
The Construction Veteran Podcast
From Green Beret to Construction Guru: Lou Gomez's Tale of Transition and Triumph
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if you could harness your military training and skills to thrive in a completely different field? Well, our guest for this episode, Lou Gomez, did just that. Lou, a retired Green Beret, regales us with his intriguing journey from being a human resources specialist to a Special Forces engineer and the challenges he faced in his transition to the construction industry as a project manager. 

Lou's story is a testament to the power of family, determination, and resilience. He shares deeply insightful anecdotes about his struggles with the job hunt after retirement and how the support of a friend helped him secure a job in construction. We don't just stop there, we also dive into the unique leadership lessons that Lou picked up from his military experience that have shaped his career in construction. The value of communication, attention to detail, and treating all team members as equals are the keys Lou attributes his current success to.

The conversation takes a serious turn as we discuss the mental health issues faced by veterans transitioning into civilian work. Lou opens up about the importance of seeking help and the need for a change in attitudes towards mental health. We wrap up with a discussion on the massive potential veterans have to excel in the construction industry, with their discipline, positive attitude, and no-fail mentality. Tune in and you'll leave with a better understanding of the unique perspectives and skills that military veterans bring to the construction industry.

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Speaker 1:

Whatever industry you want to get into, see if there's special letters you can put behind your name and that'll go a long way. It shows that you're a professional and that you're committed to this perfect letter in secret.

Speaker 2:

This is the Construction Veteran Podcast, connecting and celebrating veterans in construction. Now here's your host, scott Friend. Welcome back to the Construction Veteran. I'm Scott Friend and I'm excited to bring to you guys Lou Gomez. Lou's a retired green beret who now spends his time as a project manager in the construction industry. Let's dig into it. Hey Lou, how's it going? Man Lou, what are you doing? I'm good. I'm glad to get you on here. You are a very unique circumstance. Lou listened to my episode with Trevor Murray, who I believe they served together or knew each other in the SF Groups, and he reached out to me so bravo to you for that and we got to chatting and I thought it'd be great to get him on. So, lou, let's talk a little bit about what you did in the service.

Speaker 1:

I spent 25 years in the Army, my first 10 years as a human resources specialist and then 15 years in Special Forces as a 18 Charlie Special Forces engineer. And then I got promoted to E8 and it solves that 18 Zulu.

Speaker 2:

Very cool. I am so stoked to finally get a Charlie series of you guys on here. Every SF guy I've talked to him like man, I got to get an engineer on here, so that's great and what a huge shift going from HR to not just SF but SF Engineering too. What took you on that path?

Speaker 1:

To be honest with you, when I joined the military I didn't really know much about the military at all. My mom just kind of strongly encouraged me to join because I was kind of living a dead end life Dropped out of high school, got my GED, so when I went to the MEPs they offered me I scored high enough to do pretty much any job. But I had a bit of a troubled past where I had to get some waivers, like moral waivers, to come in. So it all boiled down to four jobs that they had available that I could take, and one was that human resources job and then three mechanic jobs. And so I was like the recruiter said you know, this HR job is like nine to five weekends off. You work with a bunch of women. So I was like sign me up.

Speaker 2:

Were you a single guy at that time.

Speaker 1:

I was yes, I was 18 years old when I joined.

Speaker 2:

Yes, you're the women part, nothing else, right.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

No, that's cool. So yeah, I guess you were just thinking this is going to be like a one and done type contract thing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, I plan on doing four years and getting out. And then my dream as a child was to be a police officer in San Antonio. So I figured I'll just do four years and I'll be old enough to join the academy afterwards. But you know, as I, once I got to know the military and understand it, my first duty station I was at Fort Lewis, Washington and I pretty immediately noticed how it was different than most of my peers.

Speaker 1:

I was like the PT stud. I was motivated, spit, chime up boots every night, press my BDUs, my uniform. And you know, and I remember working in this personnel services battalion we used to have PSBs back then and these S1s would come and drop off distro, you know, do their distro runs. And I remember seeing guys from 2nd Ranger Bat they had a pat clerk, as they called us, you know, in their battalion. And those guys, those were the guys I looked like and I remember seeing them and I was like man, I look, that's who I look like, and so I. That's when I started, you know, looking on the path of special operations.

Speaker 2:

So did you spend any time in Ranger Bat before SF?

Speaker 1:

Unfortunately no. When I talked to their guy in charge the NCIC, I said, hey, what do I got to do with Ranger? And he was like he was shocked because they don't get a whole lot of people in our West volunteer to do stuff like that. So he filled out my 407, my paperwork and he told me to get signed by my commander. So that I'm sorry, just to backtrack, the 407 is like a military form for like requesting some type of personnel action. So I gave it to my commander and he disapproved it. So I stuck it in my desk drawer at work and just went on with life. And then a couple of weeks later that gentleman came back and said hey, where's that 407? I said I told him my commander denied it and he said I don't care, I just needed him to sign it. That's awesome. I gave it to him. He called me later that day, said, hey, when you want to go to airborne school? And I said I'll go as soon as possible.

Speaker 1:

So in 1999, I think it was February 1999, I went to airborne school and after that I went to the Ranger and Doctoration program and while I was there the the medics were looking at my medical records and I had. I had some paperwork in there from. You know the stuff that I did as a teenager. I was hospitalized for I went to school like a little intoxicated and got into it with a teacher and so they expelled me, they put me in an alcohol treatment program and I finished myself more years in that program. So that was one of the more waivers I had to get. So when they saw that in my paperwork they said, hey, man, you're not going to be able to get security clearance. So they they sent me home and then fast forward.

Speaker 1:

You know, about 10 years down the road I get stationed in Texas, here in San Antonio. My wife and I get stationed in Korea after that. And that's when I told her I said you know, at the time I still wanted to be a Ranger, but I was an even more experienced person. But I was an E5 promoter and, being a soft skill, I'm aware of non combat arms. I was like I don't even know if they'll accept me, there being an NCO that's not tabbed. So I told my wife, hey, I want to travel for Special Forces. And she said, okay, well, if you make it, then I'll get out of the military so I can take care of the kids, because she figured I'd be gone quite a bit.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so she, she served as well.

Speaker 1:

Yes, she was an Army for about seven years cumulatively, and since she got out after Korea she's been working as a GS civilian.

Speaker 2:

Oh cool, that's really neat that she was so supportive of that too, because I know and you've probably heard stories a lot of guys you know they don't have that support network from their spouse and they really want to take that route. So it's either get out or kind of stick it out and whatever you're doing. So I'm glad to hear that. Yes, sir, so you are now in the construction industry, so let's talk about what you're doing now. What is it?

Speaker 1:

Right now I'm a project manager for construction company building my portion of what we do. The companies based out in McAllen, texas, down south in the valley, south Texas, they do apartment buildings, stores, units. They were doing like housing building houses but I think they're starting to pull away from that. But my job out here in the central Texas area is just building their storage units. So I'm glad to hear that.

Speaker 2:

Very cool. So how did you get into that man? Because you went from blowing stuff up to building stuff up. So can you real quick, can you explain to those people that don't know what does an 18 Charlie do? So that's a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant. What does that role typically entail?

Speaker 1:

Well, like you mentioned, the majority of what we do, there's a heavy emphasis in demolitions, explosives, identifying unexploded ordnance. But when I was going through the training to qualify for that MOS, they taught us, they gave us a pretty solid foundation on the wavetops of construction trades. So you know, I poured like a 10 by 10 concrete slab. They taught me I had to calculate how much concrete I needed to order, set up the forms, the batter boards. We build like small CMU walls, just built some trusses, so we did framing, electrical plumbing, so I had a general understanding of the construction trades.

Speaker 2:

Did you have any of that prior to joining the service?

Speaker 1:

Not really. I mean just, you know, learning a little bit of stuff from my grandpa and my uncle. But you know I always enjoyed kind of tinkering with things, playing with tools and whatnot.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so so you're getting out, you're retired out. How did you fall into what you're doing now?

Speaker 1:

Well, I knew there were two career paths I wanted to take, one being doing some type of instructor role, like, like personal development or construction. I wanted to get, you know, start, get a job with the home builders and build houses. Honestly, when I was getting ready to transition from the military, I didn't really focus on networking. I was. I had a pretty arrogant approach because I was like man, 25 years in military, 15 years as a Green Beret you know, I've done this, done that. At the time I was in the MBA program, so I figured people were going to be throwing jobs at me and as soon as I started my terminal leave, I started applying for jobs and was pretty, you know, it was a huge shock that I wasn't getting phone calls for interviews. I remember one job in particular, I think I believe it was on Indeed, where I was a project manager job for a construction company and once I uploaded my resume and all that stuff and I went to submit it, it said that that company required that I take a project management, project management test on Indeed and like, right then and there. And so I was like, oh, I wasn't prepared for this, but we know, if it's required, just do it. So I started that test and I'm going through it, answering the questions, and I'm telling myself like I must be missing something, because this seems these answers seem really easy. And so I was afraid I was messing it up. But I went ahead and just completed it, submitted it and the results came back at an expert level that I was at an expert level for project management. And so I was like, oh man, I'm sure going to get a phone call for this one. And nope, not even a phone call for an interview or anything. So it was pretty disheartening.

Speaker 1:

So with this job that I'm in now, I was very fortunate because of a friend that I served with in seventh group. I've known the guy for 15, 16 years. We're in the same company, been a gas stand together. He knows the owner of this company well, they go hunting together, and so they've known each other for like five, six years. Well, when he retired the company started to grow. So the owner calls him and says, hey, what do you think about moving out here to the valley, to McKellen, and being my director of operations? So he did it. He and his wife moved out there, both working with the company, and once the company was ready to start spreading throughout Texas. They bought like four pieces of land in the Santono and surrounding areas. And that's when my buddy reached out and said hey, what do you think about working in this career field? And I was like, bro, this is exactly what I wanted to do, and so that's how I got my foot in the door. Just bless to have that opportunity for where someone would take a chance on me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome. And there's your network right there, because I'm always trying to encourage people that, even if they're it's uncomfortable, we had a network outside of the military when you first get out. But we've got that network kind of built in. I mean, even if you guys are still active duty, it's hey, my uncle's in this or, you know, my brother-in-law does this. Why don't you talk to him, type thing. I got to ask it. So you retired as a master sergeant, yes, sir, okay. So what's your thought on the mentality of folks that are getting out at that level? I mean, as a senior NCO, do you think it was maybe like a lack of humility? Because you're going out, man, everybody should be knocking on my door. Do you think that's pretty common?

Speaker 1:

Um, I would say at least half the time. A lot of guys that transitioned, that were transitioned at the same time as me, you know they went through. There's some good like non-proper organizations that help translate what a special operations forces operator does. It translates into civilian terminology. I went through one of those programs but again, I didn't take it as serious as I should have, you know in retrospect, um, but I've seen guys, a lot of guys, especially in special forces. They get out and they get some pretty high paying jobs or they go do contracting.

Speaker 1:

Um, me personally, I didn't want to do the contracting role. I didn't want to go that route. For me it was I've been gone for 25 years. I want to come back to San Antonio and I want to reconnect with my family and um. So that that right. There was probably another hindrance, if you will, because I wasn't really willing to relocate. I was like it's, I'm going to work in San Antonio, that's it Now with this company. I do do a little bit of traveling I'm finishing a project in Odessa right now but, um, for the most part I'm home.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, good on you, man. You definitely made the right choice there, and I always get encouraged by guys that decide to get out and really focus on their family. So you, you, you knew you wanted to go into construction. Was it what you did in the teams? Is that what really drove you towards that? Like what? What was it that fired you up about this industry?

Speaker 1:

Well, um, man, I had some amazing experiences in Afghanistan. Uh, you know, not just being on missions and doing the combat action part of it, but being on the fire base in the middle of nowhere, um, where things go wrong, you know, and then, as the H and Charlie as the, as the engineer on the team, there's only two of us, there's a senior and there's a junior. If you're lucky, you know, and, um, if, when things go wrong, the team's looking at you and I always just say the 18, charlie can be the hero or the zero of the team. Because we do the purchase request, we try to, you know, we try to get cool stuff for the team when, when we need, you know, when there's money that we can spend in the same, on that same note, in Afghanistan, if something goes wrong and we can't fix it, then now we're taking away like a, like a luxury, you know something, a creature comfort in in, in the middle of nowhere. I have a like. I have an example.

Speaker 1:

There was um 2012,. We were doing what they called village stability operations. Uh, where we were living amongst, you know, the locals in a village and trying to recruit them to establish their own local police force. So we're trained, these guys up to be their own police then and, you know, be able to take care of their own town. So we're in this village, we're in this one compound and the team that we we, that we replaced, they actually did a good job building it up pretty nicely. There was a big like masonry building with um toilets, showers, hot water, uh, washers and dryers, and so having a luxury like that in the middle of nowhere is, it's huge, you know. And one day, all this dirty black water I call it black water because it's sewage water so it backed up into this whole building.

Speaker 1:

And after our morning meeting my junior, charlie, I tell him, hey, man, let's go see if we can figure out what's going on. And he was like man, I don't know how we're going to find this leak. And I said, well, I mean, we're in Afghanistan, we're surrounded by sand, let's get on the roof and see if we can find a wet spot. It's going to be pretty obvious. Yeah, so we get on the roof and, sure enough, like right there, about a foot away from the side of the building, there's this big wet spot. So I go down there, I get a shovel and I was like, hey, man, let's start digging, start digging, and you know about a foot down I'm starting to get in some slushy poop water and just kept on digging and we uncovered the pipe and it was broke, you know, it cracked and was broken, broken all the way through.

Speaker 1:

And these PVC pipes out there are like it's not American standard. These things were probably about a quarter inch thick, so they're very brittle. Oh, wow, Again, we're in the middle of nowhere, living in a village, in a remote area. So I'm like man, what am I going to do? I don't have any replacement parts. And I look up at my interpreter and I say, hey, man, go to that little store in the village and give me an inner tube for the moped tires. And he looked at me kind of puzzled and I say, hey, man, just go do it, just go get it for me. And so he goes.

Speaker 1:

I tell my junior, my junior Charlie, hey, go give me some of those big heavy duty zip ties. And the turp comes back. I get that inner tube and I cut like a rectangular strip out of it and I put a bunch of gorilla glue around both ends of the pipe and put that inner tube and then zip tie it down with those zip ties and it worked. You know, we started running water and it was running through the pipe with no problems. So you know something like that where, if I wouldn't get that, come up with a solution to fix that. Now guys can't poop in a toilet, now they can't take a hot shower, they can't wash the laundry, and so that's what defines a really good agent. Charlie, you can be the hero or you can be the zero, and I was happy to be able to put a smile on the guy's face, the team's face. You know, that day, yeah, that's really cool.

Speaker 2:

I mean nothing against people who haven't deployed, but I think sometimes we take for granted some of those creature comforts that we have. You know, we have running water, we have electricity, those things that make life easier. And I've told people in the past you know, as a CB, it was so cool to bring guys that the little stuff, the creature comforts of hey, will you build me a nightstand? Or hey, oh my gosh, we have a tent that has running water for a shower. This is amazing and like we definitely take that for granted. But I'm sitting here cheese in ear to ear about that story. That's really cool, man. I mean, osha and building codes don't really exist over there, so you got to do what you got to do to get it done, which that's really cool, man. I'm glad you shared that story. So so, that kind of motivation just to bring this stuff and bring the building environment to people. What is it about that? That really just said, hey, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Speaker 1:

You know, it's just, it's amazing to you know.

Speaker 1:

Let me back up like when I was an instructor.

Speaker 1:

I was a military freefall instructor and I believe that's where I really learned, like how to communicate with people, how to how to speak their individual language, and the most fulfilling part of being instructed was seeing them, those people, develop so, so quickly, see them grow going from week one like being in the wind tunnel, death by PowerPoint on training slides, learn how to pack the parachute, and then that next Monday I'm pushing out a plane at 13,000 feet, you know, and and I'm just right there by their side. And it's the same thing in construction where, just seeing this empty plot of land, and in the matter of you know, eight to 12 months, I've got a two story multi. You know the project I have going on in Cibolo right now, right now in San Antonio, it's 165,000 square feet and we're ahead of schedule. I've got great subcontractors and just seen, no one would have looked like the when it was just raw land to what it looks like right now. It's just, it's just captivating. I love to watch things develop like that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome. It is extremely rewarding to see that. I mean it's. I've talked with other guests in the past.

Speaker 2:

It's tough, man, when you're going through the muck and and nobody ever said that construction is easy I mean for the guys in the field it's. It's laborious, it's sometimes backbreaking work. The stress can get ridiculous sometimes, but it's crazy. I mean, even the worst projects I've been on, you step back at the end of the day like that's awesome, like we're just so glad. It's kind of like I would liken it to for me, like going through training and then you finally make to the end of that training. You look back.

Speaker 2:

I can imagine maybe it was like you for like the cue course. You know you go through that and you're like, oh my gosh, this sucks, this is really hard. But once you're finally done and you get to do to don that green beret, that's got to be extremely rewarding. I'm not just don't get me wrong, I am in no way comparing a project to the cue course, but that feeling of satisfaction, right, exactly, yes. So this is going to be a big open ended question here. With your roles, both in HR and with what you did as a Charlie, what do you think really helped you the most. I mean, we talked about that communication, some of the practical skills, about you know, fixing things real quick, just kind of doing whatever it takes. What have you found in the last few years, since you've been out, that really sticks out to you Like hey, I got that from my time and service.

Speaker 1:

In the HR world and I tell people to this day I was like man, I don't like doing admin stuff, but I'm really good at it. It taught me how to be organized, how to double and triple check paperwork and ensure that I'm submitting a good product. I used to be like a memo Nazi, like I'd look at the spacing, the, you know like, make sure that there's the signature block starts on the fifth space after the last sentence. So you know, it taught me to be very like, like, kind of like being a jump master. You're just, you've got that eagle eye. So it teaches that that precision. And then the same thing as being an 18 Charlie. You know it's an 18 Charlie, you're the team supply guy.

Speaker 1:

So we we had to do our sense of items inventory. So I was in charge of the property book, I was in charge of the team budget, I put in a submitted purchase request and then I mean I was also having to develop a training plan, a training schedule for demolition training, breaching training, whatever, whatever type of training we're doing. So you just get, you learn that attention to detail in the military and whether you're the regular army or you're in special operations, but more so in special operations, I learned a lot about being you know, having that attention to detail, making sure, ensuring that what leaves that team room has your name on it, and so it's got to be as precise and perfect as possible, because that's your reputation, and in special forces they always say your reputation precedes you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I would liken that to leaving your stamp on the project. I mean the quality of the project, the paperwork too, like you said. I mean I've been on some government jobs and it's got to be perfect to a tee, so I think that's cool. You got the AMM background and the practical side of it as well. So do you think, looking back, I think I know the answer to this, but do you think this is the route you would have taken if you could do it all over again?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. I love what I do. And one thing I promised myself after being in the military so long which I mean I loved what I did, but I told myself I don't really have to work if I want to retire, I can just retire. But I'm, first of all, I'm young. I'm only 44. Second of all, I feel like there's still something that I can contribute, and so that was a promise I made to myself whatever job I take, it's going to be where I can contribute and make a positive impact on the people around me, and so that I get that fulfillment in this job.

Speaker 1:

The subs love working with me because they tell me horror stories about superintendents and PMs they've worked with that, you know, say racist things to them and yell at them and cursing them and they're like man, how are you so cool? Cool and calm all the time. And I told myself well, I mean, why am I going to get mad or something? You know it's going to work out. We're going to figure out a way to make this happen. Plus, I'm dealing with guys that I see them as being the same as my teammates on the team. Even when I was a team sergeant, I was the most experienced the highest ranking guy on the team, on the enlist aside, I had guys that were two or three ranks below me, but I was always cognizant of the fact that I'm leading alpha males and if I speak to them in a manner where I'm testing their manhood, like if I'm condescending or I'm aggressive towards them, I fully expect to get punched in the face and right face to them, that's very wise yeah.

Speaker 1:

And so I take that same mentality to the job site. I talk to these all my subcontractors, like they're men or women. I speak to them with respect, I thank them for what they do. I appreciate their time. I mean they love working with me. Because of that, because I don't see them as subordinates, I hate them. I actually hate that word. They're equals to me. We're all team members trying to accomplish the same mission.

Speaker 2:

Yeah 100%, we're all stakeholders.

Speaker 1:

No matter if you're the guy just opening bags of cement mix and dumping it in the mixer or you're the owner of the company that's out there making sure the guys are laying their CMU blocks properly. We all have a stake in that project.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, good on you for doing that too, man. I look forward to the day where somebody comes up to you and said hey, remember when I was that labor and you didn't treat me like dirt. It's a stressful industry, but it's so easy to just treat people with respect, especially these guys that have been in the trades for quite a while and can teach you something.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. I learn a lot from these guys on a daily basis.

Speaker 2:

So take me back. So you're joining the service, you get into the HR role, you go in SF. Is there anything you would say? Maybe, if there's somebody that's listening, that is in that pathway maybe not HR specifically, but maybe they want to take the SF route or they want to get into construction Is there something you personally would do that you think maybe would have been better in that timeline, or something maybe you could change for the better?

Speaker 1:

For someone that's transitioning. I think the best advice I can give is if you know what you want to do, then start making those connections, start reaching out to people, like the podcast you have with Trevor. He mentioned that he created his own skill bridge program. He went and sought out a company that he wanted to work for, said, hey, the Army will let me work for you for free for a few months and then see if you like me and hire me when I get out. And that's something that I would definitely recommend is don't hesitate to get out there and start networking and selling yourself.

Speaker 1:

Because for me, I was looking at the skill bridge program, but the way the Army does it is you have to exhaust all your leave, because the skill bridge program is done on like TTY, temporary duty or permissible TTY, something like that and at the time I had over 100 days of leave saved up because of COVID. So I was like no man, I'm not going to waste three months of free leave where I can start. So my mentality was I'll sign out on terminal leave. I have three months to find a job and, like as we mentioned earlier, it didn't quite work out that way. I had a heck of a job. But yeah, that's the one piece of advice I give is, if you know what you want to do, go find that company and set up your own skill bridge.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that was very smart of Trevor to do that. For sure, there's so many resources out there that I got off active duty in 2011. A ton of these resources were not available. I mean, there weren't things like this podcast, there weren't a skill bridge program, so I kind of had to make my way. But I think guys like us that's rare, but you have to take the first step and find that. I mean, man, it's so easy to go on Google and or LinkedIn and find people and just connect up with them. You know, like you reached out to me, I've had other people that haven't even heard the podcast that reached out to me and I think it's great that people have that now. So really there's no excuse not to try to at least start the path right, right, exactly.

Speaker 1:

And another piece of advice I give is look into what certifications will make you set you apart from the others. If there's, like I got, a project management certification, but if, whatever industry you want to get into, see if there's special letters you could put behind your name and that'll go a long way. It shows that you're a professional and that you're committed to this career field that you're seeking.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, 100%. I even made a video about certifications and if you're in, I mean that's the best time to do it in my opinion, because I did a little bit of college classes while I was in before I got out, and it's free. You use that tuition assistance. I would imagine there's got to be certifications programs that they will give these to free. There's typically on posts or base, there's like an extension of the local college, like community college. There's got to be something available to you that you can go and get that PMP or go and get that first aid, cpr, osha, all like kind of the basics that will you can say, hey, look, I've got this experience and in addition to that, I've got these acronyms behind my name Yep, exactly.

Speaker 2:

So I like to ask people this this industry can get extremely stressful and with a lot of vets that a lot of us do carry some baggage over, I'll say, from time and service, some of that mental, some of that physical. If there's guys that are in the industry or girls that are in the industry right now, that did serve especially like that. First, I'll say one to five years span when you get out, which is it? That's probably the hardest timeframe because you're adjusting and they're just kind of down in the dumps and not really knowing if this is the industry for them. What would you say to them?

Speaker 1:

I would. The first thing I tell them is don't even let that stigma stop you from getting the help you need. Get the help you need, because I've worked with people outside of the military. They're not handling the stress as well as I do and I attribute that to the fact that I went through a really good program that the VA had in Tampa, tampa Florida, called PREP program PREP, and it was a polytrauma program three week inpatient for people suffering from a lot of traumatic brain injuries and that program, those three weeks that I was there, it was just a three week assessment and if they wanted to come back, they'll invite you to come back for like a six week intensive. Unfortunately I didn't have the time because I was running in my transition, but just those three weeks changed my life. They treat you from head to toe physiotherapists, dietitians, everything and they put me on a medicinal regimen that got me straight, got me focused back on life, and I was eventually able to come off of them and I haven't been on any meds for about two years now. That's awesome.

Speaker 1:

The first thing is, if you want to be successful after the military in their next career, get the help that you need before you get out, because one thing I can say that I've learned in the civilian life is medical care isn't as accessible as it was for me in the military and I pay for tricure prime but it takes me weeks just to get into my PM where, you know, back in SF world I could just walk down the hall and tell my dog okay, man, I got a cough, can you give me some cough drops? You know Exactly, and if people that don't get the help that they need, it's really going to be hard to figure out what you want, because you're going to be saying a lot negative thoughts, like I really like to do that but I'm not as qualified as this person or you know they're not going to give me a chance because I'm a veteran, they probably think that I have PTSD, but you know, like you have those negative thoughts when you're not treating the addressing the issue.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I'm going to kind of segue into another subject related. So we were both Liberty University grads, so I assume there's a face background there too.

Speaker 2:

So I think that that is Biblically that there are people that are getting attacked by that and that those are all false. You know that nobody's gonna think negatively of you and I think that's possibly the enemy trying to keep you down. And I am so encouraged, at least over the last decade, to see a major shift not only in the service Towards supporting mental health but also in the construction industry, because there is an outrageous Statistic out there about suicide in the construction industry. And then you couple that with guys that have issues getting out of the service and it just feels like your world is imploding. But to the flip side, what I've seen, that's really cool in my job sites. Quick side story, you know, if you've listened, listen to some of my episodes I thought I was gonna go back to active duty as an army chaplain, so I did a little bit of time in the reserves in that role.

Speaker 2:

But when I talked to the guys in the job site and say, hey, this is, you know what I do, I was bivocational pastoring a church for a little while. And when I tell the guys that it's so neat to see these guys come out of the woodworks and hey, man, I'm dealing with this and that, and and I honestly mean it and I follow up with these guys when I say if you want to come To my office and just talk about this stuff, I'm not gonna judge you. I don't think you're any Worse or better than the next guy. I just want you to have somebody to talk to, period.

Speaker 1:

Right, exactly, you know there was, um, I was no deser earlier than the year and and, um, I went across the parking lot from my hotel, this little steak restaurant steakhouse, to have dinner and a couple beers. And so I'm sitting up at the bar and I get to talk to some guys are there you know most people out there working the old fields and and you know we got to talking. They, I told them I was in the military and you know what I did in the military, how long I was in, and these two guys looked to me. They're like how are you so relaxed and calm? They're like we hired a retired army dude and he's always angry. And so I told myself, well, like, I was like, maybe he, maybe there's some treatment to, some help that he hasn't gotten that he should be getting, or I was like, but I also, you know, grown up in in the world of special forces as a green parade, like it's a very professional environment.

Speaker 1:

I, you know, not to not to digress, but being a special forces, I believe, really set me up for a smoother, a much smoother transition since the building sector, because Most of us aren't first name bases until you become like a sorrow major. We're calling you whatever your first name is. Or, you know, once you become a lieutenant colonel, you know before that we're calling you what your first name is. So it's a very relaxed environment where there's a professional Curse like yeah you're, you all rank me, I'm gonna call you by your first name, but I still know where I stand and on that, on that Total pool, and I'm not gonna cross those boundaries. So, yeah, I think I think that right there helped me answer that question. Those guys at that steakhouse, because I don't have to yell at people to get them to do when I want, you know, to get them to work hard. A matter of fact, I believe yelling at someone is actually gonna get them to work less hard for you. You know they're gonna do a work.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it might get done, but it's certainly not gonna have the same quality or effect, that's for sure my leadership philosophy that I share with people is If you put people first, the mission will come first.

Speaker 1:

And people kind of look me some people look me like with a puzzled look. But I tell them, if the if you're the people that you work with, know that you truly care about them and that you care about what's going on in the personal life was going on in the professional life and that you'll be there for them if they need help, they're gonna work their butts off for you. And I mean and I mean that's from my personal experience. So, yeah, I just wanted to share that, but that's, that's my. That's the way I approach these people. That's the way I treat them is I put them first and by doing so, they put the job first and then providing them awesome results.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, I agree, and I've seen the same. You know I treat these guys with respect. There's obviously there is a pecking order in the construction world, right? So we have to report to a customer and owner. There are subcontractors, for a reason.

Speaker 2:

But I tell my guys when I meet these guys, if it's a, if it's a trade I've never personally worked with before like a company I've never worked with I'll tell the guys look, you know I'm gonna lean on you for advice about everything. I'm not an electrician, I'm not a plumber, I might be a carpenter, but you know I haven't really had to swing a hammer, except for stuff at my house for years. So I'm gonna look to you for that. However, I'm gonna had to be the guy that makes the last call, and it might not be the most popular, but I'm gonna do it with your input in mind, right? So let's, let's go back my kind of last question here, man. I really appreciate your time, lou, and this has been really cool. You got some really neat insights and I'm just so stoked to get a Charlie.

Speaker 2:

I'm so happy to get another guy that's been an engineering that's. That's really cool. So we've got a lot of folks that have been listening to this lately that are actively transitioning. I shared a photo the other day where a guy that's about to retire out of the army Caught wind of the podcast and he said hey, this is, this is impacting my life right now in a good way like this. That was very humbling for me to see. So I know there are people listening that are going through that transition journey and we need people bad. I put out that I think it's about close to 400,000 openings right now in the industry. So we know we need people. You know, maybe I'm a dreamer and I think we can backfill with all the vets that are getting out. But if we have those people, what would you say to them to encourage them to get in and realize it's not all about digging a hole the whole time, like there's more to it?

Speaker 1:

I would say, um, it's extremely fulfilling, it's we? We possess a lot of transferable skills. Whether you're grew up in the regular army or special operations, there are skills that we have that the civilian world Probably don't even know about. You know, and bridging that gap is very important. But don't Unselect yourself. You know, like when I went through special forces selection, you know there are people quitting there like man. You just took yourself out selection process. So don't, don't, don't self select. Give it a shot. It's not.

Speaker 1:

I haven't had a very hard time transitioning. Like my project management skills helped me Give my foot in the door and and get off on the right foot with the company, and it didn't take long for me to start learning the civilian terminology you know, like lugs and brick ledges and all these other, all these other Special language that the subs have. Once I learned that and I was able to, it was like I was finally able to communicate with my subs and they just made the relationship stronger. But you know, reading the plans, I'm fine. It fascinates me to do that. So I took to that really, really quick.

Speaker 1:

But I believe what's made me so successful thus far is those Character traits. You know the all the different transferable skills I learned in the military being like you know the leadership, interpersonal skills. Being a master trainer, you know even yeah, I said I was a freefall instructor, but we're all like master trainers. If you're an NCO especially, you're doing sergeant's time training, you're training your junior, your junior soldiers. That that goes a long way. Having discipline being you know, learning on steep learning curve, having a positive mental attitude, you know, having a no fail mentality can do. Mentality. All those things is All those things are extremely important and you put. You possess that already and that's something that's gonna make you successful, whether you don't think you're qualified for the job or not, because from what I've seen, there's not a lot of I'm not saying there's not a lot of, but in the civilian side, a lot of those values and character traits Don't really exist, or at least they don't possess that many. One person who doesn't possess that many character traits.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it takes a lot to build that and I Always get a kick out of it. When I asked this question because I don't think I've had anybody Really key in on the technical skills it's always those soft skills that we possess that I think we do, as veterans, a really bad job of Like we undersell ourselves in those skills that we have. So you're like I'm just, I was just this, I was just that, I'm a West, I was this, just that job. You know, I don't know anything. But coming out, you know, even after your first enlistment, regardless of what service you were in you're, you're 22 years old if you were enlisted straight at high school and you're coming out with a lot of skills that these kids that you know they're just graduating college or they're just a few years in the working world Just don't possess yet.

Speaker 2:

Yep, exactly so well, very cool, lou man. Again, thank you, this is really awesome. I I gotta applaud you for reaching out and and I I hope to link up someday. Man, you're not too far, I'm up in Dallas, so we'll head to figure a day out to get together, so very cool.

Speaker 1:

It was an honor, it was a true honor to be able to Know, talk to you and you share my story, my experiences. Like I, really enjoyed this.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, man. Hey, and if somebody wants to reach out to you, what's the best way to get a hold of you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, my, my personal email is G mes Lou to a Gmail. So that's golf Mike echo Zulu Lima, oscar uniform and the number two at gmailcom.

Speaker 2:

All right, very cool, lou. Well, thanks again, man.

Speaker 1:

My pleasure, thank you.

Speaker 2:

If you're a military veteran in the construction industry or you're in the construction industry and support our military vets and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast, you can find me at construction vet podcast at gmailcom, or Send me a message on LinkedIn. You can find me there at Scott friend, let's share the stories and motivate others.

From HR to SF Engineering
Transition to Construction Careers
Military Service and Construction Work Lessons
Supporting Veterans' Mental Health and Transition
Leadership and Transitioning Into Civilian Work
Military Veterans in the Construction Industry