By Scott A. Cullerton Nov 10, 2017

With Veterans Day in the U.S. this week, my mind wandered back to a cloud-covered night in the summer of 2001 on the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California. My unit was conducting fast-rope training: rocketing down a thick rope suspended from a helicopter hovering 100 feet above the ground with nothing but leather-gloved hands holding one to the line. Fast-roping is a quick team insertion technique. The moment you touch the ground, you run to the side because a teammate is screaming down the rope right behind you. Your teammate will land on top of you if you don’t move out of the way quickly. Performed correctly, the whole exercise looks like a carefully executed ballet with each team member seemingly flowing from the rope to the ground in rapid succession.

That night, as I gripped the rope in the helicopter and readied for my descent, there were two men already rapidly sliding down the line beneath me. I stepped through the helicopter’s hellhole and gravity did the rest. Before I knew it, I was on the ground and running to clear the landing area for the next person.

This evening of fast-roping might seem like one isolated training event, but it is bigger and more powerful than that for me – it is one of many examples that highlight what my time in the U.S. Navy meant to me. This exercise, and my four years in the Navy, demonstrate how an integrated unit needs to work together seamlessly in order to achieve goals. I was a member of a small Naval unit in which everyone had to pull his or her own weight, and there was nowhere to hide. As such, everyone was dependent on each other and we lived with a strong sense of cohesiveness.

Our unit was not alone as this sense of collaboration ran deep in the military. While this feeling of belonging to a closely-knit team was acute, so was the connection to a broader mission. We were united by a force that was bigger than us and as we strove towards accomplishing each objective, we did so with the shared values of patriotism, loyalty, and service to country.

When I decided to transition out of the military, I sought to find an opportunity in the private sector that paralleled this experience in the Navy. I am fortunate to have found that at KKR. When working on potential investment opportunities, I work on small deal teams where we are all in the trenches together. As with my experiences in the Navy, there is no place to hide as everyone needs to play his or her role for the team to be successful. Not only does this strong sense of teamwork and collaboration resonate at KKR, but so also does the draw of working towards a broader mission. We work to create value for our fund investors, stakeholders, and the companies in which we invest, while keeping true to our core values.

It is because of this mirrored experience between my service in the Navy and my work at KKR that I am passionate about our KKR Vets@Work effort. Since the program’s launch in 2011, I have worked with my colleagues to enhance the veterans hiring and retention initiatives of dozens of portfolio companies. We seek to provide support and resources to our portfolio companies so that in turn, they can hire, provide training, and spur career growth for veterans and military spouses.

Earlier this week, we hosted our fifth Vets@Work in-person annual event and brought nearly 40 human resource leaders together from 16 portfolio companies in Washington, D.C. These leaders engaged in dialogue with each other and expert panelists from the government, private sector, and nonprofit community. The companies also participated in a Hiring Our Heroes Military Hiring Fair at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling during which they met and conversed with nearly 250 job seekers from the military community. Infusing talent from the military community into their companies’ workforces is a powerful tool for us as these individuals bring an extensive range of skills, drive and leadership abilities to the private sector.

Looking forward, we will continue engaging with our portfolio companies as they seek to provide meaningful career opportunities for veterans. I am passionate about continuing to move the needle so that my fellow veterans can share the same experience and fulfilment from their corporate sector pursuits that that I have enjoyed.


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