May 07, 2012 • By

Mentors for veterans

It’s hard to put into words what veterans experience when they are deployed. It’s just as difficult to describe what they go through when they return home and enter the workforce.

“A 22- or 23-year-old person is driving a multimillion dollar tank, dealing with stressful situations – even life and death. Then they find a job that’s not nearly as exhilarating,” says Brad Gregory, a global network planner at General Mills and veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Brad served as a flight engineer on C-5 cargo aircraft and traveled extensively from 1986-1993. When he returned and looked for a regular job, he felt let down.

“Employers couldn’t comprehend what I had been through.”

Joel Stamp, a transportation analyst at General Mills, is currently serving in the National Guard and commands a transportation unit of 160 personnel. He was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 2008, more than a year after being hired. He’s one of more than 800 veterans who work for General Mills.

“I experienced a time where little feeling or emotion was derived from my everyday work, after spending an entire year with no breaks or days off and consistently on high stress,” Joel says.

To help military veterans make the transition to careers in business, Brad, Joel and more than 60 other General Mills employees are volunteering as mentors to post-9/11 vets. Some are matched locally, others are in long-distance mentoring relationships.

The mentoring program is run by American Corporate Partners (ACP), an organization General Mills joined about six months ago. ACP provides free career counseling and mentoring to recently returned veterans by professionals from corporations and universities across the U.S.

“The program helps veterans who struggle quantifying their skills to something that can easily relate to a civilian role, as well as finding a career niche that is right for them,” Joel explains. “Mentors help veterans better understand what good fits might exist and can help them overcome many of these skill translations.”

In this video, Jeffrey Marone, a General Mills senior finance manager and one of the organizers of the mentoring program, talks about how it works.

(General Mills employees and retirees can contact Jeff for information on how to volunteer as a mentor.)

The group recently held a networking event where Brad met his protégé, Lauren Huppler, for the first time.

Lauren is an aviation operations specialist who has not yet been deployed. She currently works at Medtronic, fielding computer questions from employees.

As you might expect, both of them are benefiting from the program, but in very different ways.

“Brad obviously has a lot of experience,” Lauren remarks, “So I’d like to pick his brain every now and then, to be able to apply that to my life.”

“I wanted to become a mentor because I wanted to give something back,” says Brad. “I have been very fortunate in my career, and I wanted to share my experiences with others.”