Veterans Day – Veterans at Apollo: In Their Own Words

 

Written and conducted by Nick Curtin

Since 1983, Apollo Professional Solutions has had the pleasure of working along side many of the men and women that serve in the United States military branches. Apollo has not only had veterans that are clients and contractors, but direct staff members have populated our firm as well . For 2014 Veterans Day, we have decided to interview our 5 military veterans:

  • Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 
  • John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager
  • DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator
  • Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter
  • Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

Below are the seven questions, they field today:

1. What branch of service were you apart of and where did you serve? If you were assigned overseas, what are your impressions of the people & culture of where you were stationed?

I served in the US Army and Army Reserves from 1966 to 1973. Left as a grade E-6. – Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

I served 6 years in the Air National Guard from 1971-1977 in the 103rd fighter division located at the Air National Guard base at Bradley field in Windsor Locks CT.  At that time the 103rd had F-100’s. – John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

I lived in the follow places: USAF Biloxi, MS, Clark AB,PI,  and Holloman AFB, NM. My travel to the Philippines was an experience.  Being a married 19 year old with a child. Landing in a foreign country was a life changing experience for us. Stepping off the plane into that heat was a force we were not expecting. In the distance was Mt Ararat a local volcano across the runway. We were excited about our new life on the island. The local people were kind and wonderful. Most liked Americans, but there were those who saw American’s  as people who supported the Marcos family and didn’t like that. So we needed to be careful where we went. We lived off base in a gated community. Using Jenney’s to get around the local city. (They were jeeps converted to open taxies very colorful to see). And trikes motorcycles with two passenger side cars. (No cardio needed after riding with some of the drivers). I traveled to work on my Philippine Harley (a Moped with a straight pipe to get more speed 45MPH). For about 100.00 per month we could live off base in a three bedroom two bath house. with a house maid and a yard boy. The hot water heater was painted black and on the southern exposure. So only hot water in the evening unless you lit a fire of wood under it. Mail took two – four weeks one way and phone calls we ten dollars per min on base to the US. So we were basically cut off from the normal world we knew. Some people had trouble coping with that and were sent home. – DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

Branch of Service – United States Navy. Served in the Gulf on 3 tours on the flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier and was stationed in Puerto Rico. Outside of the United States I visited Guam, Hong King, Singapore, UAE, Baharain, South Korea, Austria, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, British Columbia, Bahamas, and Mazatlan Mexico. Not all cultures accept Americans very well, but Puerto Rico, Austria, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong were by far the best for me. I always wore my uniform when I could to strike up conversation wherever I went. – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

I joined the Army in 2005 as an Infantryman or MOS 11B. After attending Airborne School I was stationed in Fort Bragg, NC with the 82nd Airborne Division. I deployed to Iraq in 2007 and got to travel to several different countries training with coalition forces. The last three years of my Army tenure were spent recruiting tomorrows Soldiers near my home town of Kalamazoo, MI.  – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

2. Why did you join?

I considered joining the army to avoid the draft but they could not guarantee my MOS (military occupational status) unless I went to officer candidate school which required a 3 year commitment. Settled for the reserves when an opportunity opened but my unit was on the short list for activation and deployment to Vietnam. – Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

I joined because President Nixon put a freeze on college student deferment renewals and it was nearing the tail end of the Vietnam War I had number 36 in the draft lottery and I received my letter from the draft government ordering me to report for my physical.  I wanted to continue my education and although it was very difficult at that time to get into the National Guard, my dad had done 9 years between the regular air force and National Guard during the Korean War and was able to assist me in getting into the Air force National Guard. – John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

Need a career Change and scored very high on the battery exam. – DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

I joined to gain an education, to strive to finally achieve something in life and make my family proud. I stayed in after my first term because I loved serving for this country, and being the tip of the spear at sea. I only wished that I could have done more and been able to be on the ground supporting the troops in combat. It was addicting to always want to do more. – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

I joined the Army because I am thankful for the Freedom and Liberties provided to me as an American. I wanted to do my part to ensure that those Freedoms would remain intact. – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

3. What type of work did you perform when you were apart of the military?

I was in the infantry as a weapons platoon specialist. My job was to carry and operate the m60 machine gun and later on the m79 grenade launcher. – Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

I was a Electrical Power Production Specialist and Aircraft Arresting Barrier technician.- John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

Training in NAV aids, air space scheduling, Pilots administrator, cope thunder, 13th AFHQ specialty clerk.- DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

My first job was to repair Nuclear Reactor Systems onboard ships and submarines. When the stress got to high there, I transitioned into aircraft weapon system (Aviation Ordnance) and loading missiles, bombs, rockets. torpedoes, guns, countermeasures, and aircraft egress system ordnance. I also had the please of being an instructor, achieving an Master Training Specialist, which in a runabout way landed me in recruiting in the civilian world. – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

I was an Airborne Infantryman for the 8 years I was in the Army. Most of my career was spent at Fort Bragg, NC. Jumping out of planes was something I wanted to do for as long as I can remember. Once I overcame the initial fear, it was actually quite fun. – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

4. Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences?

Most memorable happening was when I was stationed with the 101st Airborne at Ft. Campbell KY. We were pulled out of our beds one day in November, 1966 and we were sent over to the medics who gave us a series of shots. Then we were trucked over in full combat gear to the airstrip where we sat for 12 hours ready to board planes. We were not told what was going on but later that day we were called back. Later on, we were told that President Nixon had offered up my unit to go over to Africa to help put down the rebellion in the Congo. it was a scary thought to think we were possibly going over to fight the Mau Mau uprising and all I could think about was being captured and put in a big pot of boiling water for someone’s feast. – Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

During one of our monthly drill weekends a approaching F-100 was traveling too low and clipped a power line and was forced to deploy his tail hook and engaged the aircraft-arresting barrier that I was supporting.  Due to the functional operation of the barrier, the pane avoided a crash and we able to avoided any damage to the aircraft while securing the pilots removal from the aircraft.  Had the arresting barrier not functioned properly, we could have lost both the aircraft and the pilot.  – John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

Some of my most memorable I can’t talk about. But I do remember a couple weeks after starting at a new posting at 13th AFHQ, Cope Thunder. The Senior master Sargent. Greeted me with a few officers when I arrived one morning. (thought I was  in trouble) and was presented with an award for the work I had been doing. It was great. But only after sitting at my desk and reading the framed award. Did I read the title “The head goffer award” for the best go for this and go for that…..I was now part of a bigger fraternity. – DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

My most memorable experience was when we launch the Navy Seals in out helicopter to intercept a rogue ship that threatened to shoot us down if we attempted to board it to inspect for oil being smuggle out of Iraq. It didn’t go over so well for the crew of oil tanker as the Seals seized the ship and crew, and we turned the oiler over to NATO Forces. – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

The most memorable experiences are the people that you have a chance to meet. There is a strong sense of brotherhood that comes with serving next to someone. They are your extended family. I have been blessed to share so many good memories with them, and during the tough times, we were always there for each other. A lot of the people I served with will be friends for a lifetime. – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

5. What was your transition like from military life to civilian life for the initial couple weeks?

Because I was possibly being called up I had no idea if I would be sent to Viet Nam during my active duty time. I was injured in training and was sent back to my reserve unit to finish out my military obligation. The first few weeks back from active duty, I re-connected with my old employer who took me back in same position I had left to go on active duty.- Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

This question would not be applicable to me.  – John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

It was easy going back to my old life style. Only after months did I find a part of me missed being Air Force. – DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

t was extremely stressful in the transition, as I had not had to apply for employment in 20 years, and after going through transition assistance, I realized I had to start back at square one in the civilian world. I had to start a new career, as I do not know of too many commercial airliners that want me to put missiles and guns on their aircraft. that and I went through a nasty divorce in the process as well. – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

Culture Shock. Everyone is different but the transition from Soldier to civilian can be a difficult one. For me, it took a conscience effort in order to “de-militarize” myself.  You worry about finding employment, you worry about fitting in with a new company. When you leave the military you also leave a very large support structure that I think a lot of us take for granted while we are in. – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter

6. How has the military prepared you for the civilian/professional world?

While in reserves, I was tasked to the recruiting center where I learned to recruit to fill reserve positions in Maryland. That gave me some insight into recruiting in civilian life. The transition back to a professional career in engineering was smooth and I went back to my job in drafting at Bendix Corporation and several other companies that provided military equipment for the department of defense.- Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

Although my dad was a strict disciplinarian, the military gave me focus and the discipline to continue with my education and the foundational beliefs that you can do or be anything you want to be as long as you stick to it and concentrate on your goals and objectives.  – John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

I always had a great work ethic, but finding adventure and showing up no matter what I was called on to do was now a part of me like breathing. – DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

The military taught me dedication and loyalty, to erase “I can’t” from my dictionary. It has taught me how to deal with stress, and push through it. It taught me to want to always learn more. It also taught me to be proud of all of my work, to do my best. Whether it was performing emergency procedures on aircraft on a flight deck full of jets transitioning back and forth, or polishing a floor (deck), I always wanted to show pride in my work, that I always got the job well done. – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

Most Definitely. The military has provided me with a set of core values that I live by. It has given me the strength and confidence to take on any task. Most importantly I think it has given me perspective. – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

7. Do you have any plans/traditions for Veterans Day?

I fly the flag to honor those who have served. – Ed Bonadio – Vice President of Field Operations 

Only to take a few minutes out of my day to remember and thank those who have served and given their lives in a much larger capacity in the military than I did.  I am thankful to God, my family and the military for providing me the opportunity of serving my country.  – John Kokofski – Northeast Regional Manager

As a civilian, I wish I could afford to have the holiday so I could remember old friends that are gone now. Hard to do in this economy. – DJ Marcotte – IT Administrator

Well, since I got out of the Military, I have had to watch veterans’ day parades from office windows and be attached to a work computer, but I do try to enjoy a free meal from somewhere after work. Many times I go home and watch the stories of troops currently serving, many time tearing up as I appreciate everything they are doing, because there are too many that have sacrificed much more than I have. There are too many that don’t come home, or have been permanently disabled doing what they do best, saving our country. I appreciate all who have served and continue to serve, as they are all brothers and sisters to me.  – Mike Steckley – Technical Recruiter 

I went to Applebee’s and shook hands with some older veterans at lunch. Its pretty cool to reflect on those shared memories with a different generation. This is the first year out of the service for me so I am not really sure what to do. To be totally honest I am going to go home after work and do homework. – Travis Carlton – Technical Recruiter 

 

That concludes our 7 question interview with our 5 military veterans spanning across several generations. We sincerely appreciate the time they have dedicated to this interview, to this company, and most importantly to this amazing country. The United States could not have continued to be the beacon of freedom that is is today without the men and women that make up our  military – shielding us from harm and smiting the evil that would see our light extinguished.. Your service, your sacrifice, and your dedication have not gone unnoticed. Thank you Veterans, Active Duty, and Reserves for all that you have done and will continue to do.

For more information about Apollo you can reach out to our offices, visit our Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

 

Success Story: Veterans Success Story

Apollo Professional Solutions has been ramping up our efforts in order to bring  Apollo success stories on a weekly basis.  Given the national holiday, Veterans Day, occurring this week – we wanted to highlight a veteran who Apollo has helped add another chapter to his success story. Below is the story of Brian Johnson.

1. As a veteran, prior to working with Apollo, what were you looking for in a career in the private sector?

My intent was to find a position that allowed me to demonstrate my skills and experience, while simultaneously challenging me to acquire new ones. I’ve served in the Army, Navy and Air Force. I’ve worked in the IT field in both the military and the private sector. The Government / Defense sector is the perfect place for folks like me to apply their knowledge. My current position demands the professionalism that veterans bring to the workplace, and challenges me to keep up with the newest advances in technology. What’s just as valuable is the satisfaction I get from being part of a team that serves our nation.

2. How did you find out about Apollo?

Actually I didn’t find Apollo- Apollo found me. I had submitted my resume to an Internet site, and that’s where they found it. These days very few people spend their whole career with one employer. Even the best employees can suddenly find themselves unemployed. For that reason I always have a copy of my resume on the Internet. It was a great day when Apollo found me, and an even better day when they made me part of the team.

3. How did your experience with Apollo compare to what you expected or experienced with other staffing firms?

I’ve been working as a contractor or consultant since 1992. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate, because nearly every manager and co-worker I have had over the years has been enjoyable to work with. There is one area in which I give most employers and staffing firms a poor grade however: “Administration.” I’ve noticed that on those occasions when “someone” is making my work difficult, it’s usually someone I’ve never met, or spoken to, or even seen! That’s not the case with Apollo. I’ve never had to ask them to “fix” something they didn’t get right administratively, or provide something I didn’t have. That’s because they seem to get everything right the first time, and anticipate my needs. Having that seamless and transparent support behind me allows me to focus on my primary mission, and deliver uninterrupted productivity to the customer.

4. What excites you most about your current job?

The most exciting aspect of my job is the opportunity to apply skills I learned in graduate school for the first time. While I was studying for my Master’s Degree in Information Technology, I was required to learn JAVA development. I had never been interested in writing code before, but when I learned how to write simple scripts that accomplished valuable tasks for the customer, it was fantastic. When a program that takes you one day to write does a weeks worth of work- that’s rewarding!

5. What is one thing you have learned there that you plan to carry on into the future?

I learned how to write a Master’s Thesis; and the subject of that thesis was Apollo’s customer. I had an extraordinary degree of support and cooperation across three levels of management. I couldn’t have done it without them. My newfound knowledge, skills, and abilities are the most “valuable” asset I take into the future; but the pride I take in past achievements is the most rewarding.

6. What else would you like us to know?

I’m currently at Raytheon. They were number one on the list of employers I wanted to work for. I sent them resumes for ten years, and they never once responded. Apollo found me, and helped me get my foot in the door. My new managers can’t believe I was so well qualified for this position, and yet I spent years “lost in the shuffle.” Contracting has allowed me to travel the world, gain experience in an extraordinary array of skills, and wake up every morning knowing I was going to do something new and different. For me- it’s a great way of life.

Not only was Apollo able to help place Brian Johnson into a field of his expertise, but we were able put him into a company that he has held in high regard for quite sometime. Placing the right people in right jobs is what Apollo does best. We are always excited to witness another flourishing success story within Apollo. If you are looking to add to your success story, check out our current openings or contact one of our offices.

 

Whether people are active duty, veterans, or civilians we are happy to work with them and see what openings we have that fit their body of work. For more job advice and job openings check out our Twitter and Facebook.