In the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment there is an expectation that every Ranger who enters the organization is developed to lead. From training exercises that place junior enlisted Rangers in positions of increased responsibility, to the Ranger Regiment's expectation for all of its Rangers to attend and graduate from the US Army Ranger School, the 75th Ranger Regiment core commodity is leadership.
But what happens when Rangers are removed from the military environment? Rangers like Justin Norris revert back to their training, and lead.
After four years of service with 1st Ranger Battalion that included four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Norris decided to transition back to civilian life in central Ohio. A Ranger School graduate and Ranger noncommissioned officer, Norris was not short on confidence as he went through the Army's Alumni Career Program, now restructured as the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program.
"At 23 years of age and with a sense of accomplishment from service in a Ranger Battalion, I was certain that I would be successful in my transition." Norris reported.
After departing 1st Ranger Battalion in 2006, it would take until 2011 for Norris to find employment that he found satisfying.
"Sometimes you do not know, what you do not know." Norris continued. "As I adjusted to my civilian career and developed professionally, I wanted to take the opportunity to share my lessons learned with others and make a positive impact on the veteran community in central Ohio."
Norris' special operations background was an essential part of earning his current position as a manager in the Security Operations and Intelligence Center for Global Security with Cardinal Health. At Cardinal Heath, Norris teamed with fellow 1st Ranger Battalion veteran Michael Fine and retired Marine Corp Gunnery Sergeant Pete Hoeft to introduce their plan for a veterans' professional development platform in 2012.
Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, Cardinal Health is among the top 25 on the Fortune 500 and provides integrated healthcare solutions and products for hospital systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories and physician offices worldwide. Cardinal Health also has a robust veteran and military advocate's employee resource group and was highly receptive to their proposal.
"Cardinal Health has been fantastic. They have allowed us the creative freedom and support to build the Veterans Professional Advancement Course (VPAC). Through VPAC, we deliver coaching in key professional development areas and connect veterans with mentors throughout our organization and others, all of which create career opportunities within the civilian business sector."
Beginning with the pilot program in 2012, the one-day course continues to be offered monthly, Jan. through Nov. In principle, the content is similar to what the Army provides its Soldiers. The key differences are the "insider" perspective, the one-on-one coaching from hiring managers and talent acquisition personnel, the networking opportunities, and the receptiveness of the veteran population.
"We have current and former service members from all branches attending our program and the level of engagement is outstanding," Norris said. "We have been through what they are going through and understand the challenges on a personal level, so we are able to effectively deliver valuable insights."
Norris estimates that 300 service members, veterans, and military spouses have attended Cardinal Health's VPAC since its inception. Organizations who have joined Cardinal Health in this initiative include: Nationwide Insurance and Huntington National Bank.
Looking back, Norris realizes that his desire to give back was shaped by his time at 1st Ranger Battalion.
"As a Ranger, you live by the Creed and the level of commitment you have to your fellow Rangers and to the mission is unparalleled," Norris said. "When I transitioned out of Regiment, that mentality stayed with me and I committed myself to ensuring other service members were successful in their career transitions."
"I think that is the lasting impact that Ranger Regiment will have on my life; I am here to serve and to lead. I am just grateful that I have found a path to do both."