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Skills Sown in Military Service Grow at USDA

Posted by Ken Melton, Staff Sgt., USMC, (Ret.), Public Affairs Specialist, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in Farming
Nov 09, 2017
Ken Melton
Blog author, Ken Melton, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant with 12 years of service as a Mass Communicator. He joined the USDA family in March 2016 and transitioned into a career as a public affairs specialist in the Agricultural Marketing Service.

A rising sun chases away the darkness across the landscape while the hard working men and women start another day to accomplish the tasks that keep America strong. Whether on the battlefield or in the corn field, these dedicated individuals approach life and work in similar ways. That’s why USDA is committed to hiring and retaining military veterans and active military personnel.

The notion of returning veterans working in agriculture might conjure up images of rugged men and women toiling the land or raising livestock in a rustic setting.  But not all service members who make their living in agriculture are on the agricultural front lines working the land.  Many use the skills they developed in the military to continue serving their country by supporting those in the heartland who bring food to American families.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), there are more than 300 employees who have served in the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, or serve in a military reserve component. If you look around AMS, you will find veterans serving as contracting officers, economists, graders, information technology specialists, inspectors, scientists, market news reporters, marketing specialists, public affairs specialists, and veterinarians. Today, their mission is to create opportunities for American farmers and businesses while bearing in mind the words of Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Air Force veterinarian: "Do right and feed everyone.”

I count myself among those who have transitioned from a career in the Marines (Semper Fi!) to a new career at AMS. Our leadership recognized that the skills gained as part of my military service transfers to an agricultural career for a number of reasons.

For example, veterans develop skills like decisiveness, flexibility, and a problem-solving work ethic; skills that are perfected outside the classroom.  In the Marines we call that “Semper Gumby,” named after Gumby, the flexible green character that you may remember from childhood. “Semper Gumby” captures the idea that no matter how prepared we are, the reality is that every plan is subject to the whims of nature and available resources.

Since basic training or boot camp, service members are taught that we thrive and suffer together, and that attitude carries us through civilian life, too. Many vets understand what it means to be a good leader because we were all at one time a good follower. We understand the burden and joy of leadership. We know that some decisions are beyond our control, but we do not let it defeat us. We don't just want to show up every day, we want to show up and grow ourselves and others, and advance the department’s mission every day.

Sure, we may have hung up our uniforms and donned a tie, lab coat, or cowboy hat, but we still want to help our country by ensuring that farmers and ranchers receive the best customer service possible.  I am proud to continue my service to the country as a member of the USDA team.

Visit USDA’s new Veterans website, which serves as a one-stop navigator for Veterans looking to learn more about Employment, Education, and Entrepreneurship on or beyond the farm. USDA also has information online about the transition from military service to a career as a farmer or rancher and jobs opportunities across the country with AMS,

Follow #Vetproud on @USDA_AMS on Twitter and Instagram.

An airman with a backdrop of a group of veterans and a tractor on a farm
The Agricultural Marketing Service with USDA offers many opportunities for veterans looking for their next career and not all of them involve working on a farm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Laura Turner)
Category/Topic: Farming