Given the nature of the Kansas City National Security Campus’ (KCNSC) National Security mission, military veterans are prime candidates to work in all areas of the organization. More than 13 percent of the workforce is comprised of those with military backgrounds, however in the the Environmental Test Lab (E-Lab) ,one in four team members have served or is currently serving in the military.
This group, numbering at 13 veterans within the 45-member team, have over 145 combined years of military service, and take on a wide variety of duties in the E-Lab which holds an essential role in the work done at the KCNSC. The E-Lab performs dynamic, climatic, and pressure tests on samples from miniature components to large electrical and mechanical assemblies. Test operations, investigative studies, and failure analysis are coordinated by a highly trained staff of engineers and technologists, several of whom performed similar functions during their time in the military, making them perfect additions to the E-Lab team.
Steve Cullum, an Engineering Technologist III, and 20-year veteran of the Navy, believes that one of the biggest assets their military diversity creates is the group’s ability to problem solve.
“The benefits of working within a group of varied military experience can be seen in problem solving situations,” Cullum explained. “While specific challenges and problems are quite different from the ones we had in our time serving, the viewpoints and methods used in approaching and overcoming problems and obstacles can still be applied.”
Don Sink, who joined the KCNSC in 2017 after 10 years in the Air Force, agrees that there are countless benefits to having the many branches represented in one area, but the most noticeable are the values that veterans from each branch have learned during their service.
“The military instills core values that show across all branches, so the comradery is there no matter what background you have,” said Sink, who serves as an Environmental Tech Specialist in the E-Lab. “It absolutely brings benefits to both the veterans and the lab itself by having so many people with military backgrounds, many of which are on the nuclear side already.”
An appreciation for the quality level and essential areas of the work they do is an obvious benefit for this group of veterans, but it’s also their connection to the mission as to why they feel their team is so successful in executing their duties. This connection has in turn aided them in their transition from military to civilian life. Josie Riojas, who came to the E-Lab team in November of 2017 after a serving for four years, says that the chance to contribute to the nation’s security while also working side-by-side with so many military brothers and sisters made her move to civilian life almost seamless. Sink also mentioned that the opportunity to serve such a critical mission made his move to the KCNSC an attractive one, as did the large veteran support system within the E-Lab team and at Honeywell as a whole.
“The Veterans (Employee Resource Group) is very helpful in planning events and building support when needed at or away from KCNSC,” said Sink. “Knowing that I’m still able to support the nuclear deterrent while wearing normal clothes is a huge plus too.”
While having nearly a century-and-a-half of military experience within one team has countless advantages, Riojas believes the strength of her team lies within one important trait - comradery.
“I think the overall benefit of having such a large group of former and current military personnel is the instant bond between your coworkers and the ability to connect with so many people that I work with on a daily basis,” Riojas concluded. “Although we all come from different military backgrounds, we have a lot of shared experiences and appreciation for one another.”