This Memorial Day week it only seems fitting that we say a few words about veterans, and I believe that one of my favorite “courageous veteran” stories is worth repeating. In April 0f 1942, 80 airmen, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, took off on a mission to bomb Tokyo in retaliation for Pearl Harbor. Five-man crews flew 16 B-25 bombers from the decks of the USS Hornet. This had never been done before, and the planes had to be specially equipped to take off from the carrier. They were not equipped however, to land on a carrier, and they hoped to bomb Tokyo, then get back to a safe landing in China. Unfortunately, the Japanese learned of the possible attack, and it would have to be launched much further away from Tokyo than had been planned. There would not be enough fuel to return to a safe landing. They went anyway.
These 80 brave men, aptly named Doolittle’s Raiders, successfully bombed Tokyo and flew as far as they could. Four planes crash landed, 11 crews bailed out and three died. Eight were captured, three were executed, and one died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp. One crew made it to Russia. 62 men survived and 4 are alive today.
While it is great to remember interesting stories of war and heroes, the supply chain industry is trying to remember veterans in a more tangible way. In May at the Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC) Annual conference, a new program was introduced to encourage the hiring of veterans into supply chain positions. Named VETS TO WERC, and sponsored by Legacy Supply Chain Services, WERC, and DC Velocity, a discussion of the initiative will be a regular feature at the WERC annual conferences. The program was designed “to create awareness of the natural alignment between returning military veterans with supply chain experience and the need for talented professionals in the supply chain industry.” To kick off the program at this year’s conference, presenters from the Joint Chiefs and the U.S. Soldier for Life program discussed how a veteran might fit into your organization, why you should enlist military veterans into your workforce, how to do it, and identified resources to help your company get started. As summarized by the National Organizations Director in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “The supply chain industry is a natural fit for veterans, who have done everything from battlefield logistics planning to transporting cargo, to operating heavy machinery. Providing them with leadership opportunities and career paths in the supply chain field enables companies to effectively leverage their experience in the military environment.”
I don’t believe anyone can legitimately argue that there is not a serious shortage of qualified supply chain personnel, or that the hiring of veterans, wherever possible, is not a worthwhile strategy, particularly if they come out of the military with supply chain knowledge and experience. If you did not attend the WERC conference, spend a few minutes at www.werc.org/vetstowerc. And, if you are an old movie buff, find a copy of the MGM hit “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” and see the Hollywood version of Doolittle’s Raiders.