Nov 11, 2011 • By

How a year in Iraq led to corporate success

For some of us, Veterans Day comes and goes without much thought. It might mean a day off of work or school. It might mean a good deal on a sofa or car.

Ask one of the more than 20 million veterans in the United States about his or her military experience, however, and you’ll likely feel a deeper appreciation for this national holiday and the men and women it honors.

Alex Schildmeyer served in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division from January 2005 through January 2006. Once he fulfilled his duty, he pursued a career in corporate America. Alex currently helps identify and then lead business process improvement initiatives for General Mills, at our headquarters.

Here’s his story, as well as the perspective you may have been looking for this Veterans Day.

What motivated you to join the military?

Schildmeyer: I wanted to gain valuable experience at a very young age coming out of college and try to separate myself from my peers in terms of experience and leadership. Still, the real origin of me joining the military goes back to me serving the country in some capacity.

Tell us about your deployment.

Schildmeyer: I typically summarize it as the best year of my life I never want to do again. It was quite interesting for me. I grew up very quick, I will say that. I was 24 years old, leading soldiers in combat, and I very much had to learn on-the-fly. One of the many skills you learn in the military that is really applicable at any job is adaptability.

There are few key things I really hold on to: focus, discipline, adaptability and fear and desire. I mean, not only the fear of your surroundings, but also your fear of failure, combined with the desire to do well and serve your soldiers, putting them in the best positions to effectively complete the mission. All of those things, I think, translate very well to corporate America.

Overall, my year in Iraq was life changing. I was very lucky to have the group that I served with, and we were very lucky that everyone came home intact. It was a great experience, but as you might imagine, it was filled with long days, quick weeks, terrifying moments.

What are you doing this Veterans Day?

Schildmeyer: At this point of my life, Veterans Day is a day of reflection, a day for thought.

I just give thanks to all soldiers, all airmen, all sailors, all Marines – past, present and future.

Editor’s note: To help military veterans make the transition to careers in business, General Mills has become the latest corporate partner of American Corporate Partners – and the first in Minnesota.

ACP provides free career counseling and mentoring to recently returned veterans by professionals from corporations and universities across the U.S. General Mills employees will serve as mentors to returning veterans.

ACP currently offers in-person mentoring in 16 cities across the U.S. It also offers an extensive E-mentoring program to meet the needs of veteran applicants who may live anywhere in the country,

You can learn more about ACP on its website, and in articles in The Wall Street Journal and Fortune.