The revival of Dwight Eisenhower’s historic reputation in the publishing and academic worlds is one of the more interesting political developments of the day. My sense is our frustration with many of the presidents that have been elected in his wake has caused a lot of us to take another look at the self-made man from the heartland, and we like what we see.
One of the amazing things about Eisenhower’s rise to supreme allied commander in Europe and then president is the series of mentors he had along the way. During his Army career he was pushed, educated and protected by Blackjack Pershing, Fox Connor, Douglas McArthur, John Marshall and Franklin Roosevelt. That is quite a roster, and quite a chain of command, and you quickly realize that Ike was indeed something special.
The U.S. military in general, and the U.S. Army in particular, has always been good about mentoring young talent and turning them into leaders. When you deal with the life and death stakes of combat, as well as the security of the nation, you can understand why.
Now a group of business leaders and retired military officers have come along to apply this mentoring advantage to the thousands of officers and enlisted personnel who are leaving the military as our wars in the Middle East wind down. Those people are highly trained and well-educated, but they are coming home to a slow-growth economy at a time when, thanks to the end of the draft 41 years ago, the civilian world has less of an understanding of the military, and vice versa.
In response to this, the New York City-based American Corporate Partners has linked up thousands of recently retired military personnel with mentors at some of the best companies in the land, from Boeing to IBM, and Johnson & Johnson to UPS. The idea is not (necessarily) to get these veterans new civilian jobs, but more importantly to get them thinking strategically about their careers, and have a better grasp of the myriad opportunities and industries out in America that could benefit from their rigorous and patriotic training, as well as flag them on the pitfalls of the always tough American marketplace. 1600 veterans are already working with 41 participating companies. And many veterans start their own businesses, so American Corporate Partners gets them plugged in quickly with successful entrepreneurs for ideas, guidance and connections.
The brainchild of Sidney Goodfriend, a retired Merrill Lynch executive, American Corporate Partners is well positioned to respond to the growing wave of former military personnel we will be seeing shoreside as defense budgets decline, and Iraq and Afghanistan fade from our collective memories. The group’s focus is on career planning, not the next job. And the mentors already inside the companies that are participating benefit, perhaps even more than the veterans themselves, from knowing and learning from the selfless men and women coming back from the pointed end of the spear.
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