The Construction Veteran Podcast

Building a Safer Future: Tim Welcher's Journey from Special Forces to Construction Safety Leader

February 26, 2024 The Construction Veteran
The Construction Veteran Podcast
Building a Safer Future: Tim Welcher's Journey from Special Forces to Construction Safety Leader
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Join us as we sit side by side with Tim Welcher, a former Special Forces soldier who bravely navigated the world of military conflicts and has now carved out a significant niche as a safety savant in the construction industry. His story is not just about the change of uniform but a profound transformation of purpose, harnessing discipline and leadership developed in the trenches to elevate safety standards on the job site. We traverse his military journey—from the Army Reserves to the rigorous life of an airborne Ranger and the demanding role of a Special Forces combatant—and discuss how these experiences have seamlessly translated into his civilian role, particularly emphasizing leadership and safety within the frame of construction.

Imagine building a base on a mountain top in Afghanistan under fire—now that's an operational challenge that demands more than just a hard hat. In today's episode, we unpack how the unique construction experience of Special Forces personnel, like Tim, translates into the civilian sphere, where leadership in high-risk environments becomes an asset in ensuring safety and efficiency. We delve into the importance of Lean Six Sigma in the construction industry, Tim's role in promoting operational excellence at EDA Contractors, and how military precision parallels the meticulous nature of safety management. We also discuss the importance of programs like Helmets to Hardhats and SkillBridge, which assist veterans in making the formidable leap into the construction industry, and the educational steps that can bridge military service with fulfilling civilian careers.

Wrapping up our conversation, we extend an open call to the brave men and women who have swapped their military boots for steel-toed shoes, as well as the professionals who stand with them. If you've got a story to tell or insights to share about the journey from military life to a construction career, we want to hear from you. This episode is more than just a narrative; it's an invitation to a community that recognizes the invaluable skills and perspectives that veterans bring to our industry. So, if you're a vet in the construction world or know one who's making a difference, connect with us. Together, let's continue to forge a path where honor, service, and hard work build more than just structures—they build futures.

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Speaker 1:

I know that they're willing to like work hard and give it their all. Like I can train you how to shoot, I can train you how to like where to stand, where to point. The rest, you can't teach hard.

Speaker 2:

This is the Construction Veteran Podcast. Construction Veteran Podcast Connecting and celebrating veterans in construction. Now here's your host, scott Friend. Welcome back to the Construction Veteran Podcast. I'm Scott Friend. Today I'm excited to bring to you guys Tim Welcher, a former Special Forces soldier who now leads the way in the industry in safety. Let's dig into it.

Speaker 1:

Hey Tim, what's going on man? Hi Scott, how are? You doing?

Speaker 2:

I'm good. So Tim and I haven't had the pleasure of meeting in person yet, but we do have a good mutual acquaintance in Adam Hoots who's real big in the lean construction side of the industry, and we'll talk about that here in a little bit. But I did a podcast episode with the lean builder which Adam hosts, and Adam teamed Tim and I up together thought it'd be a good idea to meet. So glad to finally get you on here, man.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. We've been going back and forth. We're going to finally make the connection.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, man, it's every guest I have. I have to keep kicking the can down the road because you know I don't do this full time, not going wood yet. But yeah, things are busy in the industry, which is good. Things are booming. So, tim, let's talk about you. Know this, being the Construction Veteran. Let's talk about your service background, what you did, where you're from and what you did throughout your career.

Speaker 1:

Sure, obviously you got a minute, so let's go. I joined the Army Reserves in 1997. And I never knew anybody in the military. I just kind of thought it would be a fun thing to do but wasn't ready to jump right in. And sure enough, I found out I loved it. So as soon as I got through like basic and AIT, it's like sign me up, I want to go active duty, I want to be an airborne Ranger. And that took several years to finally break the contract. But about four years in I was able to go active duty and my wish is airborne Ranger contract. And I went back to basic training in August of 2001. And obviously, if you do the math from the next month, september 11th happened and we were in, we were on the machine gun range in basic training. 9-11 happened and you know, basically an airborne school of recruiters came by and said, hey, if you have a Ranger contract you can trap for special forces. So I raised my hands and signed me up and went on to the Q-course, graduated with the Q-course, went to third special forces group.

Speaker 1:

I started off as a 18 Charlie, which is a special forces engineer sergeant, basically responsible for, you know, light construction and demolitions, did three combat deployments to Afghanistan during that time.

Speaker 1:

Then I became an instructor at the NCO Academy non-commissioned officers academy, and special forces has their own academy there at Camp McCall where we combined. Well then it was PLDC and BNOC, our primary leadership development course basic non-commissioned officers course, I think, then the change to a warrior leaders course and advanced leaders course. Regardless, I was a NCO Academy instructor for three years. Then I made the rank of E-8, master sergeant and was able to be in charge of a freefall team, better known as a halo team. I've done a couple of deployments then and then, after my team sergeant time, I was blessed with the opportunity to do my hobby inside of the Army. So I ran the third special forces group combatives program where I got trained grim, braised Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, muay Thai and a lot of you know CQB tactics and how to have a better force, continue them using their hands instead of just always, you know, going to the gun. Then I retired about two years ago and now I'm in the construction industry.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so it's funny. So I haven't talked about this on episodes yet. I posted it on my social media. But I recently got into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Did not know you did that, which was kind of funny and you reached out. So we've been kind of nerden out together and chit-chatting about the journey and I believe your son got involved. You got to promote him to Brown Belt, is that correct?

Speaker 1:

No, no, no, I'm a Brown Belt. My son is a gray and white belt. Gotcha, he's a wrestler. Now we're in Pennsylvania and it's okay. He's a freshman in high school. I'm like you are going to wrestle, you can hit the pause button on Jiu Jitsu. That'll always be there for you, but be a wrestler. That's smart.

Speaker 2:

I want to ask so the combatives you got to teach Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai? You said, yeah, I mean there's some in the combatives program.

Speaker 1:

So basically, army has the modern Army combatives program which incorporates a lot of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, ground fighting techniques and it also has a lot of Muay Thai as far as fighting from a clench, knees, elbows, punches, kicks et cetera and that bleeds over into the Special Operations Embattance Program where we do a lot of the similar things.

Speaker 1:

But we also incorporated fighting with weapon systems, both rifle and pistol, from kit and a lot of it's focused around clearing rooms and how to deal with compliant personnel in the rooms or even non-compliant. So that's a big aspect of it. When you look into, like CQB is room clearing right, everybody thinks of putting the targets up and you just go in all sexy, blow the door down, just take out the targets. But in reality there are a lot of people that are innocent, hands are up, women, children et cetera and you just have to be able to manage all this. Sometimes you can have somebody with their hands up and he turns out as you're trying to move them to the center of the room. You have to become combative and be able to deal with that without unnecessarily taking somebody's life.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that's wise, Using it as kind of a non-lethal way to subdue them. Well, man, if we're ever in the same area, it'd be an honor to roll with you. I'm still a lowly little white belt, but I could learn a lot from you.

Speaker 1:

Oh, that's the best time is grabbing a white belt, especially when that's motivated, knows that they want to learn and don't think they know everything yet. Yeah, it'd be my pleasure.

Speaker 2:

I wouldn't say I got humbled real quick. I came in at knowing. You know, hey, I'm a lot older than most of these guys, the dudes in their young 20s that are just ready to get after it. I got to be careful, you know. I was in a motorcycle wreck and I don't want to hurt myself too bad. I did tweak my back a little bit, not terrible, but yeah, I'm just taking it easy, taking slow, really enjoying the journey and learning as much as I can.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's a smart tap, early tap off. And I had my neck fused when I was a white belt, like so my first year training jujitsu not necessarily a jujitsu injury, it could have been from jumping out of planes with night vision goggles on and all that type of stuff running around a turret. So I'm sure there was a lot of wear and tear already. But my neck was fused as a white belt and the the doctor told me I'd never be able to do jujitsu again. And here I am, 15, 15 years later, still training.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, man, I was talking about humbling, let me tell you.

Speaker 1:

Since you brought up the humble story, let me tell you about my first day of jujitsu, knowing that I was about to be an instructor and the special forces cute course. I knew I was going to be home for about three years, so I've always wanted to try this. Let me, let me give it a try. So I go in and they pair me up. You know I'll get a couple people for practice and then I go against this other, this kid and I have three common deployments. I was an E seven green beret, like I was. You know, I was a stunt.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, You're like I'm going to destroy this guy.

Speaker 1:

Hey, granny, didn't I like striking him or anything but this. This 17 year old kid submitted me and I had to go home. And they're like man, babe, I got submitted by the 17 year old kid. You tapped me out like three times in five minutes. And then I go back for my next class a couple of classes later and then I come back and tell her like hey, that 17 year old that tapped me out and I'm like, oh, wow, so I'm like you know what. There's a magic to this. I am never quitting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's really cool to me to see guys like there was a dude, I want to say he's a purple belt at our school and, man, I probably outweigh this guy by at least 50 pounds. I mean I'm 220 and I'm not like jacked, but I'm a pretty bigger guy and he just tossed me around like a rag doll and it was humbling for sure. And then I also saw we had a guy a few weeks ago that he had to have been his late 60s, early 70s, coming in and it was like his second class and it was really cool to see that Starting at that age is just really cool to see, a very humbling experience. And I said, hey, don't take this the wrong way. I mean I'm really honored to see you here. I look up to you, man, I mean that's neat, okay.

Speaker 1:

No, I mean, that's what one of the beauties of Jujitsu is is everybody in that room has gone through that same experience. Like I still get humble and it's what you do with it, right? Some people get that taste, that humble, and they say, screw that, I'm never coming back. And others say, all right, I'm never quitting. So I think that, like mindset in that room or that dojo, whatever you call it, we all share a common bond and all my friends do Jujitsu or have them do Jujitsu.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, very cool. I want to ask you a question about your service real quick. Is there any chance you were in Afghanistan like late 2009 to early 2010?

Speaker 1:

No 2008 to 2011, I was an instructor.

Speaker 2:

Man, we just missed each other because third group was out there when we did JSOC support. So I was curious if we ran across each other and didn't even realize it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, if their group doesn't stop, they're always out there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it seems like a man. Yeah, and that's special operations community. It seems like everybody's just go, go, go, and have you seen that slow down a little bit here lately in the last couple years?

Speaker 1:

Well, honestly, like I've been out for two years, so I've been away from it, and the last five years of my career I was in the dojo.

Speaker 2:

So yeah, but everybody was going. That's really cool, man. It sounds like you had a good run. So what are you doing now in the industry?

Speaker 1:

So in the construction industry right now I work for a company called EDA Contractors where I'm the director of safety and operational excellence. I know it's a bit of a mouthful, but it's an awesome job. I gotta say I love it.

Speaker 2:

Well, so we know what safety is. Talk to me about operational excellence. What does that mean at your company?

Speaker 1:

Sure. So it's interesting. How I got into this company was based off of my Lean Six Sigma Black background. I have a Lean Six Sigma Black belt and it was always a passion of mine. I think it ties to the special forces training or even jiu-jitsu, where you're looking for efficient, effective processes.

Speaker 1:

I worked for Amazon as an operation manager for a year and it was a little rough. You know, two o'clock in the morning till noon we're in a site, at a delivery station, and I was like, okay, I'm retired, let me look for something else. And I saw this post on Indeed that was looking for Lean Six Sigma. They wanted to do Lean training in this construction company and at EDA we're a subcontractor level or a trade partner, and to me it just sounded really cool because Lean is primarily targeted for the manufacturing industry and you can recognize improvements really fast, whether it's like an Amazon packages or a Toyota factory, right, but construction, that's a challenge. So I hopped right in, even though I'm not, like, a complete expert. I'm just school trained as far as Lean Six Sigma, so not a ton of real world experience being shortly retired from the Army, unfortunately.

Speaker 1:

At EDA, at DeAngeles the owner, he's got a great vision and at a subcontractor level to support it the way he does. I think this is going to be good for my company, good to reach that next level. I was bought in. So basically all I really try and do is help improve their processes if I can, and I think there's a lot of bleed over from the military to the construction industry. I see it every day, with just the volatility or the uncertainty on the different job sites, all the different situations that guys have to deal with. It's not the same as a factory where it's every day moving this package, where you can shave seconds off. There's always some new problem. And if I could help by either bringing a Lean principle or something from my experience in the military, where it's leadership or just organizational skills, anything I could do for these guys is a benefit.

Speaker 2:

So you mentioned it's used typically in manufacturing. So for those folks who don't really know what Lean is, what would you say a Lean practitioner does in the construction industry?

Speaker 1:

So that's an interesting question, right, because there's different layers in the construction industry. You said with Adam Hoots, right, and the Lean builder, it seems like a lot of it is really focused on the general contractor's perspective of Lean, where you're doing pool planning and trying to do the train of trades and make sure everybody's all meeting the commitments and you're removing some of the ways to making sure that people are finishing on time so the next trade can, and it's a whole scheduling exercise. For a subcontractor level it's a little different because we're kind of impacted by those GCs. If the GC doesn't want to do that, obviously that impacts us. Or if there's a GC or general contractor that does, we have to follow suit there. So how do we do it on our own and our focus? We just want to be the leader, we want to make sure that we're the best subcontractor out there. So if we're already doing our daily huddles and we're already planning the certain way, we're making sure that we could be on the front of these daily huddles or the pool planning exercises and activities and basically lead by example for the other trades, then maybe it'll be even more successful.

Speaker 1:

There's little things. So we also kind of basically manufacture some of the panels. The EDA handles the whole exterior facade, whether it's metal panel facade or roofing or masonry. So in our shop, though, we make the panels or deliver them out to the sites, and basically what's called hubs and spokes. So you have our main hub, we have all the supplies, materials, and you get to deliver that to all the different job sites. So if we could shave off some of the time there, make sure that's an effective, efficient process, we could impact more of our sites, make sure they get the deliveries on time, in the right quantity, et cetera.

Speaker 2:

I'd say there's another layer to it. Also, what do you think from the personnel and the people side? Has lean had an impact on our industry with?

Speaker 1:

So the lean journey for the subcontractor level is still kind of new. You could see it a lot in the general contractor level, where they're kind of bought in. They understand the respect for people and they understand that people make the processes work. So I could see a lot of benefits in there.

Speaker 1:

I think there's a misconception with the word lean. When people hear it they think it's a reduction in manpower and I think it's not the case. I think if you respect the people and you do a thing called a Gemba like a Gemba walk is where you go see where the work happens. So the vice presidents in the company, the superintendents, and make sure they go out to the site to hear from the foreman and the journeyman out there. They want to see what they're experiencing in the field and by showing that level of respect they're able to gain some of the knowledge. Instead of just that, oh, bosses here, make sure it looks good, or oh, safety's here, put your gloves and glasses on, they actually feel more connected and it's a better culture and it aids in the improvement of processes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, very well put. So I want to back up too. So you first got out, you went to work for Amazon. How did you stumble upon what you're doing now?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that was again basically just off of a LinkedIn ad or an Indeed ad, I think it was both from the company. I didn't really wasn't like, hey, I really want to work for a construction company. It didn't cross my mind as far as that was the goal. Honestly, the initial goal was to get out of Amazon, as bad as that sounds.

Speaker 1:

But, having a tiny bit of construction experience as a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant, it was an easy transition because I understood some of the projects. So, for example, in Afghanistan, one of the main construction projects we ran was about five to $7 million, if I remember correctly, and we had to negotiate for a mountain top. So, speaking with the district governor and the chief of police and all the different village elders in the tribe, negotiated for a mountain. We brought in a lot of heavy equipment, shaved the top of the mountain off, pushed it out and created a base on top of the mountain and on that base we had a restroom, a fuel point, helicopter pad, kitchen, gym, enough space to have 77 people and that was a big thing and that was a bit of a construction effort, considering we've been rocketed in the middle of trying to build it and in firefights and etc.

Speaker 1:

So it's funny to say yeah it's just an engineer Sergeant or just some of the Special Forces team. But yeah, there's some construction experience involved with that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah for sure. Yeah, I had a guy come on. He was man. You would have been my first engineer if I'd gotten you on earlier, but I did a show with another 18 Charlie series guy that retired out and it's really neat to see all the different things that you guys get to learn.

Speaker 2:

I mean, obviously there's demolition involved, but then you have the skills basically to build a house, which is kind of like the CBs. You know, you learn the basics of the trade. So there is that opportunity to get out and get involved in the industry. But given your experience of leadership, you had that awesome opportunity to kind of step into a leadership role.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was very fortunate and, honestly, had the timing been different, maybe if I got out at the year 10 mark instead of doing 24 years of service, I could have been a different state, different mental state or experience level. And they have great programs out. I don't know if it's in your area. As far as the helmets to hard hats, have you ever heard of that? Yeah, yeah, very familiar with that? Yep, yeah, like I know, we have a former Marine. That's one of our second hands on a crew and that's how he got in and it sounds like an amazing program. But I think that would have been a great route and I recommend it to any service member getting out trying to go into construction and if they haven't considered construction, I strongly recommend them considering it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the tough thing about helmets to hard hats. It's a union company and so it's not going to be available everywhere Like here in Texas we're not very, we don't have too many unions, we do have some, but I would say definitely up kind of northeast where you're at, pennsylvania.

Speaker 1:

So we have all stays for sure. Yeah, exactly, so we only use union.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. And then they've got a really heavy Canadian presence as well. How much the hard hat does? I do have some listeners in Canada, so that's really cool. So if you guys are up there, check that out. And there's other programs that are newer. I'm sure they were there when you got out the skill bridge.

Speaker 1:

So skill bridge is a huge one, so construction.

Speaker 2:

They. So skill bridge they they're, to the best of my knowledge. I mean they'll welcome any kind of companies, and I have had some companies down here that have started to get involved in it. I don't know the ins and outs of it. We do have a company down here called Forge now which was started by a couple West Point guys, so don't hold that against them, but that was started by two former Army officers and they take folks out and teach them the trade and they're one of the few schools I don't know if that's this is just locally or us why but they're one of the few schools that you can use your GI bill to learn that trade. And they just started teaming up skill bridge and they actually provide a facilities manager class too. So there's certainly options out there through the bridge.

Speaker 2:

The company here is called Forge, now Nice, and they're based here in Dallas Trying to team up with them on some stuff. It's just really cool to see guys out and they have this opportunity to step into a trade that could pay pretty well. So I know they do electrical. I want to say they do HVAC. I'm not sure if they do plumbing, but they just started a facilities manager class, which I have not heard of somebody doing that before, and that's a pretty good career path for someone.

Speaker 1:

That's phenomenal, I tell you. Skill bridge, or where I was in special forces, we had the connection to the SOCOMS Care Coalition and they actually provided me with a they called it a fellowship, I believe where I did in three months with Campbell soup. So you know, again, they didn't have it already set up, I had a coordinated make it all happen. But Campbell soup factory is located nearby Fort Bragg right now I think it's called Fort Liberty, but coordinated for that fellowship I did three months with Campbell soup is in the continuous improvement section. Again, that kind of helped focus my lean background a bit. But anytime any soldier getting out has an opportunity to take a skill bridge opportunity or fellowship, internship, work with swords now do it. There's so many benefits out there that are designed to help people in that transitioning phase which is difficult for a lot of people. And then there's a lot of people that just don't, you know, take any of the help. That's often sad to see.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and sometimes so. One of my former guests, trevor Murray. He was a 10th group guy. He basically had to create his own skill bridge, as he called it. So sometimes you have to go down that path if it's not readily available to find a company you want to work for. I just did another interview where we talked about shadowing people if that's an opportunity. So I think the hardest part is just taking the first step and we really have no excuse now, with the whole world at our fingertips, to find an opportunity. And if you're a young soldier getting out, you've got an even better opportunity. If you don't, you know, let's say you don't have a family, you know you're not married, you don't have kids, you really have the opportunity to go anywhere. Or if you want to go home, there might be something back there, but there's really. You know not to sound harsh or anything, but there's not an excuse for you not to find something that's available.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and that's not harsh at all, it's reality.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So let's talk about and this is going to be broad how is your service specifically in the SF path? How do you think that that is best trained you to do what you're doing now or in this, the industry as a whole?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's definitely a very broad question, right? There's so many different lessons learned throughout the military career. You get 24 years of service and try to narrow down just a couple lessons. Let's see. Let's focus on the part of safety right now. So I recently took over the safety department.

Speaker 1:

I don't have a safety background per se, I don't have the certifications yet, but when you jump out of planes for a living and you know several hundred combat missions into your belt, you tend to have an eye for it. You tend to understand what a risk assessment is and how to identify hazards. You know, implement the controls. So I would say, if anybody's like in that in the military, where they maybe airborne or maybe they do high-risk events like, look into that safety role. It's a very easy transition because you understand it. Whether you're running a range or you're running a double missions range, jumping out of planes, like you have to have extreme attention to detail and be meticulous with people's lives. Lives are at stake. So I would definitely say that those experiences and understanding what risk really is and understanding where danger lies and how, how fast, something bad could happen, right, even when you're doing everything right, bad things happen sometimes but you have to have your primary, alternate, contingency and emergency plans. Get it all together and that's a I think that's probably a huge benefit that service members can bring over to the construction industry. Is that keen eyesight?

Speaker 1:

Now, when it comes to the operational excellence side of things, trying to look for efficiencies, trying to look for you know how to better that process, that's something that we we do all the time, right? I usually equate it to transitioning from the rifle to your pistol. Right, if your rifle goes down, you have to transition, draw your secondary and your pistol out. So fractions of a second is what you need to shave off in order to be successful in that engagement, right? So, minimizing the waste of motion, right, cutting out all the waste out and I will see guys spend so much time configuring their kit or drilling, you know, dropping the rifle, drawing the pistol, like just drilling it over and over and over again.

Speaker 1:

It's like, wow, that's that's what we do, right? Like, okay, let's analyze this, let's define what the problem is. It's kind of all right, here we are. Where do we need to be? We need to be this fast. This is my gap. Do you need assessment and then execute? Right, and that's the same thing in Jiu-Jitsu. So it's not just alone in military, like I'm sure I know you only have a little bit of Jiu-Jitsu, but you're gonna find it's like, oh man, I was using a lot of muscle using that technique and some people are just, you know, smiling their face, choking you out effortlessly. You'll get there, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of dedication and I think that the military kind of brings that that level of dedication and effort into making things better. Even if it is just a fraction of a second, it matters.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and that's not something you picked up right away. So the humility, whether it's in Jiu-Jitsu or in the service, it took you a while to get to that point right. So I keep seeing a lot of these memes lately of guys looking up to like green berets and oh, I could never be that. But you know these guys, like yourself, didn't start out as a green beret. You started out as a kid that decided to join up and had an opportunity and just stuck with it and went with it. It wasn't an overnight success.

Speaker 1:

Definitely not.

Speaker 2:

I want to talk about the safety thing real quick too. I mean, I'll just say I have not met a single veteran that's gotten into that role that doesn't enjoy it on the safety side of things because, like you said, you have these people's lives at stake there in the service and here in this industry as well. I mean, we're working on I don't care if you're working on a $2 million job, there's going to be something that's unsafe, and then on a $200 million job, obviously there's a lot more hazards there. You're talking cranes, heavy equipment, large panels, like you guys do. I think that fits really well because, especially from like an NCO to senior NCO standpoint, those guys transition really well, in my opinion, because they're already used to taking care of their troops. They're used to watching out for every individual, regardless of what their stance is right.

Speaker 1:

I think that's a very accurate statement. I will say just a little experience that I've had with my company now recently taking over the role of safety. We do a lot of leading edge work on the rooftops and pretty much every building in Philadelphia. We've had our hands on as I'm doing the transition. I asked one of the roofers okay, well, what's your plan if you fall off the edge and you're hanging by your SRL or your self-attracting lifeline or minor excuse me, edit that out too. See, I'm new with safety, so I'm a nomenclature, basically.

Speaker 1:

So I asked one of the guys what happens if you're doing this leading edge work and you fall over the edge and you're suspended there because you're connected, as you're supposed, to your fall arrest system and all that, and now you're in your harness. How do you get back up? What's your plan? Typically, the plan is to call 911. Okay, that makes sense. And then obviously they focus on the orthostatic shock. What we have, the leg straps make sure your arteries are getting cut off and you can sit there, but you're gonna wait for rescue. To me that wasn't an option, so I challenged the guys and we were doing better at it. We actually developed a plan that has sections for if they're conscious or if they're unconscious.

Speaker 1:

Again, like I said, the owner of the company is bought in and purchased new equipment so that we have an actionable plan for worst-case scenario. Somebody fall off the edge. How are we gonna retrieve them? We're gonna be the first responders to help lower that rescue ladder down so they can climb back up or attach a winch to them and reel back in. I think going to that level of detail and having the full support of the company to be the leader in the industry. Make sure that we have all these things and then make sure that we're training the people. That comes at a cost. You're training union tradesmen. Hey, this is how you climb a ladder and you're hanging up the side of the building. We're putting our money where our mouth is and making sure it's happening because we care about our guys.

Speaker 2:

I love that you said you guys are striving to be the best in the industry too at that, and it's so important. Man, I can see a little bit of your background and what you're doing too. You've got that primary, secondary and tertiary plan. If something goes wrong, right. If the guy's unconscious because it's great to think of it one way perfect case scenario. He falls off, he's conscious, you can reach him easily, get him back in. But that's not always going to be the case, right? I love that you're looking at it from all those different angles and poking holes in the plan.

Speaker 2:

Not that the plan was bad, but you're poking holes in it.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. I tell you it's not. The plan was bad, it was definitely. It was adequate and it was made sense. You look at a civilian mindset versus a military and those are the things you have to look at being a static line jump master or a freefall jump master. Well, freefall jump master, you don't typically have a total parachutist, but a static line jump master. If airborne trooper jumps out and he's hanging there, you have to treat him back in. There's simple systems to do that, but the amount of training that goes into it is remarkable. You're always drilling it. You're always. You know, I spent most of my time on a freefall team, but every time, every day we were jumping, we had to read a half hour sustained airborne training to make sure you cover the emergency procedures. So I believe in the detail and I believe in the training.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I'm sneaky. I just got you to answer that other question. You weren't sure how to answer. How about that? Which one is that that's how your services helped you. I think I mean you have this very unique look at how we do things in the industry and I think what I value about getting different veterans into the industry from all different backgrounds is that one. We have so many aspects of this industry that people don't even think of because I mean I knew before I got into it.

Speaker 2:

All I thought of was like a project manager or superintendent, not even thinking of safety as a role, quality control, administration, finance, tech all these different things, yeah, so you got all these different things and yeah, there's so much that people can bring to the industry and they don't necessarily have to have an engineering background.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and you know that was very eye-opening. I know, during the transition process for retirement you do the mandatory briefings and somebody came in and said hey, have you ever thought about manufacturing? I was like no, well, there's other jobs instead of just sitting on the line. They have all the different roles, and so that kind of made me think, and I think that's how I got into Amazon. I wish there were somebody from construction there saying, hey, there's more to it than just this.

Speaker 1:

Now, don't get me wrong, like the trades, that's beautiful I'll get to that in a second but it doesn't necessarily reach out to every soldier. Right, if you could tell everybody in the retiring process. Every MOS is getting out like, hey, there's an HR department here, there's a safety department, there's project managers, there's estimators. There's so many different things. It might open their eyes versus when they look at the trades you look at starting over again. Oh well, in order to do that I have to be trained and I have to get XYZ. In order to get to here, you always have to start at the bottom.

Speaker 1:

I think the military does a disservice by making people think that it just kind of goes along with the nature. But I will say, having moved to the construction industry, one of the I'm trying to word this properly, but one of the best parts about my job is when I look at the guys. Like every time I go out to the field one, it reminds me of being on a deployment just self-constructing equipment walking the gravel and whatnot. It's pretty cool to see. Or even if I get to the top of a high-rise building.

Speaker 1:

I'm like, oh yeah, this feels like I'm under canopy, but working with the crews, they remind me so much of Special Forces Team and I look around to my left and right. I'm like you guys, you make it all worth it. You were the hard-working Americans that I was fighting for and it makes my 24 years of service that service just feel worth it, and I'm so appreciative of what they do and they just don't realize the similarities between the two worlds.

Speaker 2:

I love that, Tim. That's so cool to hear, especially from a guy of your caliber. There are a lot of similarities between the trades folks and guys that served. I think there's a lot of mutual respect there, because typically I'm not going to say everybody, but typically those who served, regardless of role, and people in the trades, regardless of what their trade might be, there's that hard-working, good, moral value type of people that are out there just getting it, getting after it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, there's. I would take so many of them on a deployment, no problem, there's no questions asked. Hop in the truck, let's go. There's so many good people, that's cool. I know that they're willing to like work hard and give it their all. Like I could train you how to shoot. I could train you how to like, where to stand, where to point. The rest you can't teach heart.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, man, when I was an operations manager hiring folks, one thing I used to say was I can't train integrity. I got to have the people at the right mindset and just the heart to do it the skills we can train. It's going to take you time, but I want to make sure I have the right person on my team that's willing to get it done.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I like that. You also kind of shine some light on the support elements. I would say it's similar to like a team so you got the ODA, but then you've got all these folks that are back supporting them. So you have to have a logistics team, you have to get some sort of supplies out there to you guys. You have to have mechanics fixing your vehicles. I would say the meat and potatoes of the construction industry is the trades but at the same time we need people that are making sure these guys get paid, making sure they have health care, all that stuff to support the building efforts. So I think that's where I see the parallel between the veteran community. Specific to you guys, like special operations into construction, is there's the boots on ground, but those boots wouldn't be on ground without somebody supplying those boots.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's interesting and I'm glad that you bring it up because I've seen both sides of it, right, obviously being the main effort being on a team out in the, you know, in Afghanistan or whatever. Like you rely on your support and I could see I've definitely seen a lot of team guys taking it for granted. Someone would get egotistical you know there's a lot of different things or baggage that goes along with it, right, like they should be supporting me, or it's because of us. You know it goes back and forth. And then a supporting element would typically look like well, you need us to get your stuff done, and it's.

Speaker 1:

I see it in the construction industry too, where you know like, oh, we have to put the roof on or we have to hang the panels in order to pay for you. It's like, yeah, but you know we print your paycheck. Like it goes back and forth. So it is kind of funny to see that same, not necessarily like conflict, but just the same points of view from both perspectives.

Speaker 1:

And I think one of the things that made me successful as a Special Forces team sergeant was being able to work that relationship and respect the supporting staff that we had, because if you recognize that you need them and you recognize them for the hard-working people they are and like, hey, you're supporting me, I appreciate it, thank you. They do it even better. They don't feel like they're getting beat up about it or you know, like obviously it has to be genuine. You can't just say, oh, thank you. Like you have to mean it and you have to really believe it. But I see that on both sides it's same for a supporting soldier or a supporting or shared service role within any organization. It's like, yeah, you're a supporting guy, but know your role, know you're there to help them and there to help you. It would make the world a lot better if people kind of just get over their positions. You know, just be a little humble.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's got to be that symbiotic relationship, absolutely. It's super cliche to say, but you know, the change in chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And I've been in those shoes too, was like that. I was the angry superintendent, like man, why aren't they getting the submittals in so I can get my product, but at the same time, not realizing maybe, something that they were dealing with in the office that was inhibiting that from getting done. So why don't I jump in and help so we can all accomplish this as one team? Because, to relate it back to your background, you know if you're just sitting there complaining about the guy you know back in Garrison or whatever, not getting something done, what good are you doing? You're just complaining, you're not helping the situation. And the same thing applies to us in the field.

Speaker 1:

That's a great, great point that you bring up. So at Amazon they have a saying. It says attack the process and engage the people, right. So don't just blame the people's people first, like, okay, you're not getting the supplies that you needed, right? So what's the process? Maybe there's something that you were missing, right. So if you, you know, reach out, say, hey, I'm noticing there's a delay in this process here. Obviously that's a defect. We got waste here, like that's what we're going to get. But let me see it through your lens. Let me you know, let me see what is actually going on in your process and then you could identify oh man, you're getting bogged down here and here and here because a lot of mistakes from the other superintendents in your company, I don't know, just making stuff up. But by attacking their process you could understand how to make it easier for them and then, in turn, it just takes away that choke point.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would relate it to safety. You know, when an incident does happen, you have that report. Let's get to the bottom of what really happened. Are the guys tired? Are they working too many hours Like? Let's talk about really what's going on. It's not just that incident that occurred. What led up to that incident?

Speaker 1:

It's interesting you said that too, because that's where I think operational excellence and safety go hand in hand. You know, root cause analysis is a standard tool, and so the Lean Six Sigma tool they'll do in the five Ys or the fishbone diagram, trying to find out why that happened. Not, oh, you were doing this, or you know, typically people do their root cause analysis and blame it on training, and they just stop right there. Oh, he wasn't trained. It's like well, why wasn't he trained? Why did you not provide him the training? Let's keep on digging further. Like you know what I mean.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. So let me kind of switch gears here. So I'm not trying to like make you regret any of your former decisions, but if you were to go back and maybe tweak some things along your journey to where you got today you don't have to, but is there anything? Maybe you would have changed to kind of become more streamlined, more successful.

Speaker 1:

Yes. So and then with it, hopefully I can give a little advice if anybody's in the same position, right? So, while retiring from the Army, obviously in the transition process, I'm sure you know people talk about how difficult it is to translate your military resume to civilian time. So one of the ways that I got out of that was to try and get a lot of certifications to make sure it made sense. Right so, you know, leading missions, leading airborne operations to me that kind of resonated with project management. So I got the PMP certification. I had a passion for clean, six sigma and process improvement, so I got the green belt. Before retiring I even wanted to make sure I showed that I had an understanding of personnel management. So I got the associate professional and human resources certifications of the APHR. And then I was like, okay, I want to make sure they know that I could translate safety experiences.

Speaker 1:

So I did the OSHA 30 in the general industry. I wish I would have done the construction one though, because I just had to do that one now even though I had the general one. But I think, with the safety, I think there are a lot of areas where you could really focus in on it. I think, like doing, like trying to chase like an ASP, like the associate safety professional, or trying to like get some of those certifications and really lean in onto the safety training that military provided you would have been helpful. I've been the only able to change as far as, like you know, getting those different skill sets. Right now I'm taking a master's degree, doing a master's degree program at Penn State for organization development and change management Probably would have started that sooner if I could have.

Speaker 1:

So you know I've got one more year left, but the education is huge. I was fortunate enough to finish my undergrad, like just a few years before retiring in business management. But I would say to any soldier, like, continue on that civilian education path. I know I gave myself the excuse that I was focusing on life-saving skills and, you know, survivability and lethality skills, like, let me do all of these cool guy schools just to make sure that I'm effective on the battlefield and I can come home. And maybe that's what it took to make sure I came home.

Speaker 1:

But I probably wouldn't have neglected some of those civilian trainings throughout that long period right Like 20 years. Of course I knocked some of it out, but I probably would have done it sooner. And then I guess you know, obviously I was lucky, I was fortunate to go retire all the way through. But, um, had I gotten out sooner, I would have been more open to the construction industry and you know, starting over would have been fine, like doing the apprentice program. Look into the journeyman, the route like it is. It is an impressive field. There's so much opportunity. I wish I would have been more aware of it than to prepare for it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think the education piece of it is a lot more accessible now than it has been.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

In every base or post has some sort of educational assistance that you can go talk to. And, like you know, I said earlier, there's really no excuse not to take the first step. It's a challenging one but and I think from your position it's tough. When you retire out, in my opinion, is like a master sardine to that senior nco level to humble yourself enough to say, hey, you might be your title, might be assistant, your title might be bottom of the barrel, but you're more than likely going to climb that ladder a little quicker than your peers. And yeah, you might be a little older than them, but you bring a lot of skills to the table that these guys don't.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and even if it's a level playing field with skills and or even if they have more education away, you're going to bring a lot of heart in there and a lot of intestinal fortitude.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's like a good way to put it.

Speaker 2:

So I want to take not a dark turn, but the industry is tough, man, and the service is tough. The industry is tough and we have some very similar struggles. Suicide is very prevalent in the service as well as this industry, as is alcoholism, drug abuse. If you've got someone that's just struggling, that is a vet, that's in the industry, because I know firsthand it can really beat you down a lot of the long days and you're not accomplishing the goals you want to. What would you say to try to motivate that individual?

Speaker 1:

No, that's definitely an interesting question, right? So initially my head went to what we do at EDA. Like every year, we have what's called a packed event and basically those struggles that you're talking about manifest in different ways. So I would say that throughout the construction industry, suicide, drug use all the bad things that happen in the army it's prevalent in there. So, again, our owner is a big proponent in making sure people get the help and need the help and care that they need. To the fact that they come up and say, hey, I need help, he'll make sure they have a job afterwards, so they'll get the help and get the services needed, whether it's for depression or narcotic abuse. Whatever the case, they still have a place when they come back. The questions asked, as long as they commit to it, I think that's phenomenal. So when you see people in this industry actually care, that also allows other people to soften up and recognize, see life through a different lens and show empathy and say, oh, it's okay to care for your buddy, it's okay to just be there for somebody.

Speaker 1:

Now, in the military, I've known quite a few people who committed suicide and it's always a case right Like oh, hindsight 2020, like oh, yeah, these signs were there. These signs were there. So being able to recognize the signs sooner is always a help to training is good. As far as helping anybody through any difficult times, like, honestly, I haven't had any calls from any friends saying like, hey, I'm at that point. But what I always typically keep myself open to, obviously that like anybody calls them there, but helping service members transition, it's like hey, if you, I don't need to know who you are. If you're going through the situation, I'm here to help. If somebody is into considering construction or they are dealing with any difficulties, like they can reach out. That's the hardest part, though it's like you said several times in this discussion, like that first steps hard. I don't know if I quite answered that. I know it's such a good topic, but yeah.

Speaker 2:

I don't think there's really ever a perfect or right answer for that, and I think I selfishly asked that question of my guests because there's been times in my career that I need to hear what do I do?

Speaker 2:

And there's been times, I mean I'll be honest, that I've just wanted to give up because it's a tough industry. So, veteran or not, it's a hard industry sometimes. And what I've said earlier episodes is that the I think the beauty of this and I'm not telling everybody to just quit their job, but you have a lot more freedom now on the civilian side than you certainly did being tied into a contract in the service. So if things just aren't working out, it's not the end of the road. I mean, I've switched companies a few times because maybe there was just a difference of opinion or maybe the culture went downhill and it just wasn't a right fit for both of us. So I think that's what I try to get people to focus on is that, look, you're not done yet, there's, there's something there for you, but let's find out what that is.

Speaker 1:

Oh, absolutely, and I think I came across that when I was at an Amazon doing the post retirement and hopping that job where it's it was. It was a grind and I was like I put the little step counter on. I was doing like 15 miles a day and the little safety shoes on the concrete floors, from two in the morning, you know, noon, sometimes even two in the afternoon, and I was like, ok, it's a little bit much and it was a great paying job. It was hard to leave but I found a home with EDA, just one to the, the culture and the values that they actually have and the people that are there.

Speaker 1:

And I see a lot of other. You know some contractors out there. I see some of the general contractors and you can see big name general contractors or you know, and some people would probably say, oh, wow, this is, this is the name, you go to their huge brand. But I would highly advise people to consider that family business, right. So EDA is a family run business and they have a family run feel to it and you're part of that family and it's pretty cool to see I probably you know the whole Amazon that the big name captured me trying to get out.

Speaker 1:

You're trying to tie yourself to something bigger than you are. But I thought, ok, I'm going to be a part of this mission, part of this and as a you know a good thing like get the packages delivered, that helps out so many people, especially during COVID, and like life was pregnant, like, oh good, I don't have to worry about this. So that's kind of a good thing to tie yourself to. But I'll tell you, there's nothing like the family business and it's pretty amazing to see what they do and the level of care that they give to their guys, and I don't see that everywhere.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I would agree and I've worked with some pretty big companies that maybe at the top they're really good at it, but when it gets down to the mid level leadership, maybe that changes. I think the company I work for now we've been around 136 years I think and it's been tweaked over that long time and we've got a small team here in Dallas that it still kind of has that family feel here locally. But it boils down to the team you're working with. Like you said earlier, you walk out in the field and you're like man, these are like guys that I had downrange with me, that were on my team. So I think it really does boil down to that.

Speaker 2:

But I would agree with you on the family run company aspect. I had the wrong mindset. I'm thinking, man, I want to work for this massive company, huge firm that has a gorgeous office and all that and I have worked at some companies that were great, that did have that. But does that really mean they're going to treat you right? Does that really mean that they're going to really care for you and your family like a member of their family? So look at a company that does that, regardless of size.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Don't write it out just because it doesn't have a huge name.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Well, let me ask this what the big issue we're having right now in the industry is people and just getting people in the industry, and that's why I started this whole thing. So if you've got folks that are listening, that are about to transition out or they're preparing to get out and they're looking for something to do in kind of the world's their oyster, what would you say to them to try to convince them to join the construction industry?

Speaker 1:

Well, you know, Scott, this, Tony, this is, believe it or not, actually a very hard thing for me to do is a podcast like this. This is a first for me. I've been asked several times to be on other people's podcasts and I was like no, no, can't do it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, suckers, I got him.

Speaker 1:

Right, even at work we do a, so our mascot is Ernie the duck right. So we have the whole exterior facade and everything is waterproof, so that's where the duck comes from Watertight. We do this thing called a documentary right, where it's essentially a documentary or a simple few questions. Just write a little bit about yourself and the company shares it. It's been almost two years and the marketing team is like hey, tim, will you do it? I'm like, yeah, I'll get to it.

Speaker 1:

It's literally the hardest thing for me to do, for whatever reason. And same with this. You said that you pushed me off or like your schedules, but I kind of neglected it a bit. But to answer your question, like this whole um and every year, if you're with this whole podcast, I think the reason behind it is to try and get those you know people that are, you know, transitioning from the military to consider construction and you know that to me maybe suck it up and just get over it because it's worth it. And sharing this on LinkedIn, sharing it with people that are in that stage of their life, hopefully it'll help them at least expose them to other opportunities or have them talk to other people. Maybe they recognize another individual who might benefit from it. So hopefully something that I've said in this hour long discussion might resonate with somebody and help improve their life.

Speaker 2:

Tim, I appreciate your time, man, and I'm really glad that we finally got to link up and I don't think this is the last of our long distance relationship, if you will and we'll have to figure out a time, if you're down here, to roll together here in Texas, or I'll find an excuse to go back up Northman. So I really appreciate your insight and I love getting to talk to guys from your community that have transitioned into the industry. If folks want to get a hold of you, what's the best way to do that?

Speaker 1:

I would say LinkedIn is probably the best way. It's just Tim Welcher on LinkedIn. I don't have a huge presence on there, obviously, but that's an easier way to kind of let people Well one. I want to encourage military people to get on that platform because it does work. That's how I found you is LinkedIn through with Adam, so it's effective. I'm not going to give them a phone number right off the bat when I got on the podcast, but I'm pretty call-so. And then if they're in the area like EDA contractors is the company I work with. They want to join the team, happy to take a resume, talk to them or help them out along the way, or finally, at a jujitsu gym. There you go See what they're really made of. After this podcast is over, we can stop and hop on and we'll talk to you. Jitsu, all you want, all right.

Speaker 2:

I love it All. Right, tim. Thanks again, man.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, scott, it was a pleasure.

Speaker 2:

Yes, sir, 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 scottfriend. Let's share the stories and motivate others.

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