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Bricks, Mortar, Steel And Service: Here Are CRE's Veterans, Part 1

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Once a year, we take the opportunity to thank those Americans who have served our country, sacrificing so much to protect those back home. We don't have to look far — the commercial real estate industry is packed with people who began their careers in the Armed Forces.

U.S. veterans, military, American flag

Today in honor of Veterans Day, we have Part 1 in our annual series of CRE pros who traded guns for hammers, military formations for interest rate sheets and tours of duty for building tours. Responses are in the veterans' own words, with light editing for length and clarity.

Darick Edmond, Skanska Vice President of Operations 

Skanska Vice President of Operations Darick Edmond
Skanska Vice President of Operations Darick Edmond

City: Rockville, Maryland (D.C. region)

Branch of Service: U.S. Army Reserves

Years Served: 1988-2010 (22 years)

Final Rank: Major, Army Corps of Engineers

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

The leadership skills learned, the teamwork approach, and caring for people carries over to your civilian career and through life. The military’s “can do” attitude, discipline, and drive to complete a task at hand, regardless of the obstacles, are important traits for any career and for life experiences.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

The same maturity, direction, guidance, discipline, patience and leadership you gain in the military are traits that will make you successful in your civilian life. Skills are transferable.

Jim Greenfield, Greenfield Architects President

Greenfield Architects President Jim Greenfield
Greenfield Architects President Jim Greenfield

City: Denver

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: 1963-1967

Final Rank: E5-Petty Officer 2nd Class, specialty in photographic intelligence

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My service has taught me the importance of teamwork and working with others towards a larger goal. I also learned the value of discipline and how to use that to meet and exceed the goals I’ve set for myself. I’ve continued to grow and evolve as a person having been committed and dedicated to a cause greater than myself.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

First, you must believe in yourself. You have connections, skills and an individual work ethic that uniquely make you the person you are and that in itself makes you valuable. Second, be proud of your accomplishments and leverage your talents. Reach out to colleges, businesses and local agencies with the confidence you earned while serving our country. As you’re doing so, remember there will be a lot of “no’s” before that first “yes.” Knowing that answer will come, don’t give up. Also remember that you have made and continue to make your own lick through how you live and the decisions you make. Lastly, you are back in the world now so be sure to treasure it and make the most of your relationships, career and the little things that make up your life.

Vanessa Brackett, JLL Associate Manager, Projects – PDS, Multisite Retail 

JLL Associate Manager, Projects – PDS, Multisite Retail Vanessa Brackett
JLL Associate Manager, Projects – PDS, Multisite Retail Vanessa Brackett

City: Atlanta

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: Active Duty 1994-1999, Reserves 1999-2001

Final Rank: E-4

How has your military service shaped your life and career?  

I joined the Navy at the age of 17 and left for boot camp two weeks after high school graduation. I was young and as green as they came. When jumping in feet first to the Navy, I had expected that I would be taught how to do my job and do it well, but I was not prepared for the character building that would come with it. I learned so much about the inner workings of my character and what my strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and fears were and how to capitalize on them. I was a Hospital Corpsman who had trained and served with the Marine Corps. The confidence in yourself and your training is crucial to being the best medical support for a combat-ready Marine Corps unit. Knowing that I had people relying on me to save their lives, nurse their injuries and their sicknesses, my margin for error was minute and every experience had to make me better for the next.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?  

Do not limit yourself! You are trained in so many things in the military and that makes you so adaptable, teachable, and pliable. You are more than your assigned rating/[military occupational specialty]. The character that you have developed within is more than what is on the surface. Make a strength analysis part of your world and use it.

Eric Kornfuehrer, Stream Realty Director of Interiors Construction 

Stream Realty Director of Interiors Construction Eric Kornfuehrer
Stream Realty Director of Interiors Construction Eric Kornfuehrer

City: Houston

Branch of Service: Marine Corps

Years Served: 2003-2007

Final Rank: 1st Lieutenant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

In life, the military has helped me realize what is truly important. You may have issues in your life that are difficult or challenging, but some things help you put life in perspective, and the military has a good way of doing this.

The biggest impact that being an officer in the Marine Corps has had on my career is the way I approach leadership. The Marine Corps teaches you to lead by example. The people that work for you are going to follow your example no matter what you tell them to do. Don’t ever expect your team to do anything that you are not willing to do.

Another big lesson I learned from the Marine Corps is integrity, doing the right thing even if no one is watching. It can be easy to be led in the wrong directions in your daily job, but this has always stuck in my mind and been a compass in my daily life.

The Marine Corps teaches you discipline, time management, and how to work independently and autonomously. These are all important in your career, and the military is the best training you can receive in these areas. And being able to do all of the above calmly in difficult and stressful situations has helped me make the right decisions throughout my career.    

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Don’t be afraid to ask other veterans for help. It can be challenging trying to translate your military life to a civilian résumé. The veteran network is very willing to help you find a good career and help transition in general. And never underestimate your military experience. Never think that your experience isn’t valuable in the civilian world. Be proud of your accomplishments and talk about them when interviewing for jobs. You have experience that you cannot duplicate outside of the military.

Compie Newman, CBRE Managing Director

CBRE Managing Director of Charlotte office Compie Newman
CBRE Managing Director of Charlotte office Compie Newman, right

City: Charlotte, North Carolina

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: 1982-1989

Final Rank: Lieutenant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?   

The military helped shape my character, work ethic and provided a great training ground for leadership.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?  

Military veterans entering the civilian workforce should cast a wide net and consider how their military career would translate best into the civilian world. On their résumé, they should make it readable to someone who does not know anything about the military and leave out all the acronyms.

Jason Mount, ATCO Properties & Management Paralegal 

ATCO Properties & Management Paralegal Jason Mount
ATCO Properties & Management Paralegal Jason Mount

City: New York City

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Years Served: 1995-2000

Final Rank: Sergeant 

How has your military service shaped your life and career?  

The great thing about ATCO is that it’s a privately held company, and the influence of ownership’s philosophy and culture have a greater influence than a larger, publicly traded company. You feel that here, and ownership works to engender a sense of camaraderie, tradition, and legacy. I think that is something that is very parallel to someone’s military experience, especially in the Marine Corps. The esprit de corps here runs strong, and I think those are elements that resonate with my experience in the military.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

The military is truly a cross-section of American society, whether it’s culturally, socioeconomically, or otherwise. It is one of those things that every person you meet probably has a perspective, experience, or a resource that you otherwise could not have access to. It’s never too early to start thinking about your future outside of the military, and start thinking of those connections you’re making within the military, because it is the largest network that you’ll be a part of — and tap those resources early. Once you’re out, you’re out, and you may never see these people ever again, so take advantage when you can.

Matthew Henecke, The Neenan Co. Field Engineer 

The Neenan Co. Field Engineer Matthew Henecke
The Neenan Co. Field Engineer Matthew Henecke

City: Fort Collins, Colorado

Branch of Service: U.S. Army/Army Reserves

Years Served: 1998-2004 Active Duty; 2004-2008 Army Reserves

Final Rank: Sergeant 

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

The military allowed me to travel around the world. I was stationed in Germany for my first two years. Then, I was afforded my choice of duty stations and decided on an assignment at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. In short, the military positioned me in Colorado, where I still live and work. Serving our country has also given me a healthy respect for life and different cultures.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

I would advise that a service member utilize his or her military benefits to their fullest extent. Some of the benefits I have utilized include the Post-9/11 GI Bill and VA home loans. These benefits allow you to advance within civilian life, to the benefit of your career trajectory and personal life. I also feel it is important to find a community in which you feel comfortable. After leaving the military, service members are no longer surrounded by those brothers/sisters they served with. Stay in contact with your fellow comrades that you served with, as these are relationships that will last a lifetime. The military will always be part of a veteran’s character, which is something to be proud of.

Joe Porter, Matrix Residential Service Technician 

 Matrix Residential Service Technician Joe Porter
Matrix Residential Service Technician Joe Porter

City: East Point, Georgia 

Branch of Service: Air Force

Years Served: 2011-2015

Final Rank: Senior Airman

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

It taught me discipline and further instilled in me the values of integrity and taking pride in a perfect job.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Plan thoroughly and start applying for jobs! Look for a company that fits your values.

Adam Roman, Stellar Management Chief Operating Officer

Stellar Management Principal and COO, and former Naval officer, Adam Roman and family
Stellar Management Principal and COO, and former Naval officer, Adam Roman and family

City: New York

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: Active Duty 1998-2004, Reserves 2004-2006

Final Rank: Lieutenant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My time in the Navy taught me invaluable lessons about leadership, management, service, and integrity at a young age. These skills are an essential part of the foundation upon which my personal and professional lives are built.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life? 

Some of your specific military training may not be immediately applicable to civilian careers. However, don’t underestimate the value of your intangible soft skills (e.g. attention to detail, follow-through, professionalism, etc.) because they are often more valuable to employers in the medium to long term.

Dakota Porter, Matrix Residential Community Director at The Meridian at Redwine  

Matrix Residential, Community Director at The Meridian at Redwine Dakota Porter
Matrix Residential, Community Director at The Meridian at Redwine Dakota Porter

City: East Point, Georgia

Branch of Service: Army National Guard

Years Served: Full-time Guard, 2010-2018

Final Rank: E-5, Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

The military provided me with a combination of experiences, skills, confidence, and appreciation that I use in everyday life. The discipline and drive that was instilled in me was invaluable, and have allowed me to excel each day at work and home. I am able to remain focused on tasks and overall mission achievement, and have learned the importance of helping others. The best aspect of being in any branch of the military is the variety of skills, people, experiences, and involvement you are blessed with encountering during the journey, along with making lifelong friends. The training I received allowed me to push through my own personal and physical barriers, which opened a type of strength I didn’t realize I had to offer to my comrades, co-workers, employers, friends and family.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

My advice is to stay patient during the lifestyle change and remember how much you have already accomplished: the obstacles you have overcome, the long days/nights, crappy food, the challenging people. Your military family (of any branch) will be your battle partners forever, don’t forget that during your transition. Don’t go through the stressful time alone, and always keep your values.

Monica Castaneda, JLL Office Manager

JLL Office Manager, Silicon Valley Corporate Office Monica Castaneda
JLL Office Manager, Silicon Valley Corporate Office Monica Castaneda

City: Menlo Park, California

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Years Served: Active Duty 1999-2003; Individual Ready Reserve 2003-2007

Final Rank: Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

It’s really been my “core” and a solid foundation on which to build my career. I joined the Marines, serving in one of the first helicopter squadrons to be deployed after 9/11. I’m one of the fortunate ones who made it back safely; this is a reminder to me that nothing is unattainable and nothing should ever be taken for granted. We must take the risks and put our all into everything we do. The Marine Corps rightly has a reputation of being tough, but I feel it’s the “no man left behind” mentality which I regularly reflect back to when it comes to my management decisions. As a team we will always be stronger and go farther together, no matter the task at hand.  

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?  

Remember you’re not alone. Know your strengths, your values, [and] keep that in the forefront with everything you do. There’s an entire community of veteran support out there. All you have to do is take that first step and look. I’m the West Coast lead for JLL’s VetNet Business Network, which creates a “bridge” between vets inside and outside the company as well as resources for spouses, so I say: Lean into the network!  

Chris MacLeod, TruAmerica Multifamily Director of Acquisitions 

TruAmerica Multifamily Director of Acquisitions Chris MacLeod
TruAmerica Multifamily Director of Acquisitions Chris MacLeod on patrol in Sadr City, Iraq

City: Newport Beach, California

Branch of service: U.S. Army

Years Served: United States Military Academy 2000-2004, Active Duty 2004-2009, Operation Iraqi Freedom Deployments (2005, 2008)

Final Rank: Captain

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

Both West Point and the United States Army played major roles in forming the person I am today. Teamwork, selfless service, integrity, and hard work are all core values that I was able to hone while serving our country. This common set of core values that service members have has opened doors for me in my career that would have been otherwise closed. The people I was interviewing with already knew that I could be trusted to execute in a high-pressure situation, either solo or with a team, before I sat down for the interview. 

The closest friends I have are all West Pointers. We went through school together and fought together. The bonds that are formed in these circumstances are some of the strongest that can be made. I turn to them for advice and know that I can trust them wholeheartedly. I met my wife because of these relationships. My military service has added to and continues to influence and shape my personal and professional life.  

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Treat this challenge no different than you would when preparing for a military operation. Gather as much intelligence as you can, trust your fellow veterans who give you advice, and go after your objective with educated tenacity. Service members have a common set of core values and ethics that translate well to business, and veterans are sought after by hiring managers. There are also many organizations available to help you in your job search; take advantage of these assets. People want your skill set, and never underestimate the value of being a veteran.

Kory Geans, Middleburg Real Estate Partners Director of Investments

Middleburg Real Estate Partners, Director of Investments Kory Geans
Middleburg Real Estate Partners, Director of Investments Kory Geans

City: Tysons, Virginia

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Years Served: 2004-2009

Final Rank: Corporal

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

The Marine Corps really taught me how to be a problem-solver and adapt to adversity. There is a saying “Semper Gumby” which translates to “Always Flexible” for the civilians out there. The saying was always used to remind Marines of the need to be able to respond to any problem/issue. This has really stuck with me over the years.  

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

The hardest part of transitioning for me was not having a direct challenge — the Marine Corps was always good at offering challenges. I would tell transitioning vets to challenge themselves more or find a group of people who are willing to push them. Comfortable Marines are unhappy Marines — they need to be pushed even once they are out of service.

Jordan Enger, CBRE Senior Associate 

CBRE Senior Associate Jordan Enger
CBRE Senior Associate Jordan Enger on the left with his brother Jared

City: Houston

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Years Served: Active Duty 2002-2015

Final Rank: Major, Retired

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My 12 years as an officer in the Army were some of the most rewarding and challenging of my life. To be honest if I wasn’t medically retired due to long-standing issues from being injured by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan I’d still be doing it. I loved the camaraderie and tempo of Army life. I loved each of my three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. My last deployment to Iraq after I recuperated from my injury was so much fun. My mentor talked me into staying in and commanding a company in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Almost two years to the day, I walked out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. I took command of a 90-soldier Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop.

The two years as a commander definitely prepared me for my real estate career. It taught me how to be a consensus builder and great listener. Both are key skills to being a great broker in my opinion. Also, whenever I’m having a rough day of cold calling I have to remember my absolute worst day, which was also coincidentally my best day, Feb. 20, 2007, when I was injured in Afghanistan — that if it isn’t a suicide bomber it isn’t a problem. Learning leadership, planning, and resiliency from adverse combat conditions has prepared me well for my career as an industrial real estate broker.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

My advice is to be very kind and gentle with yourself. It is not an easy transition especially if you were in as long as I was. I would tell you it has taken me a good two years to feel normal in my skin as a civilian. Getting into a career as a real estate professional, especially as a 100% commission-based agent, can be very stressful. Additionally, you don’t have the same level of camaraderie, loyalty, and safety net that you may have had in the military. Just keep your head down, keep your expectations realistic, seek out good mentors and get involved with organizations outside work that can keep you connected with other veterans. Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help (either a therapist or psychologist) to help make sense of the transition and adjust to the changes. I’m willing to admit that I sought and still seek out help on a regular basis not only for the transition from the military but also my PTSD.

Frank Stanley, Cushman & Wakefield Manager of Veterans Recruiting and Programs 

Cushman & Wakefield Manager of Veterans Recruiting and Programs Frank Stanley
Cushman & Wakefield Manager of Veterans Recruiting and Programs Frank Stanley while in service in 1985.

City: Houston

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Years Served: 34 years Active/Reserves

Final Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

How has your military service shaped your life and career? 

My military career exposed me to parts of the world that I never imagined I would ever travel to. It opened my eyes to what my father taught me from as long as I can remember, which is always extend your open hand. We are [here] to help people, good or bad, and that is what I have done. Transitioning to the commercial real estate community, it is not that much different. We work with incredible and respected community and business leaders throughout the world to help companies make wise real estate, incentives and facilities decisions.

Thirty-plus years in the military provided me with the leadership training and the knowledge to think outside the box. Life is not a straight line, and we have to adapt to change. Military personnel have to adapt to their environment to provide the mission success. These lifelong lessons will be the core of adapting to the civilian environment out of uniform. Duty, Honor, Country and selfless service doesn’t go away when you take the uniform off. It is ingrained in your DNA. It is who you are, and will always be: Mission First, Men Always.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Transition is a lifelong mission that you do not have to do alone. When I left active duty July 2017, I was provided a blank canvas to develop the Veterans Initiative Program at Cushman & Wakefield. What a great honor it is to help transitioning service members into the community. We have partnered with Hiring our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative, to help pave the way for service members into corporations to begin the process of civilian life. Specifically at Cushman & Wakefield, we have created the Military Transition Road Map, a one-year mentorship program to help newly hired service members to understand and adapt to the building blocks of our company, and network with other seasoned service members that already have transitioned.

Damion Walker, Mortenson Construction Senior Quality Manager 

Mortenson Construction Senior Quality Manager Damion Walker
Mortenson Construction Senior Quality Manager Damion Walker

City: Tacoma, Washington

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Years Served: 8 years, 1997-2006

Final Rank: Sergeant

How has the military shaped your life and career?

First and foremost, the military provided me the opportunity to see the world beyond my hometown. I’ve traveled around the world and met many people who have left a positive impression on me. I’m incredibly appreciative of my service experiences. My love for our country has grown exponentially. Second, the military fully funded my secondary education. Without it, the career opportunities that I have today would not be available to me. Also, my V.A. benefits recently facilitated the purchase of a new wonderful home for my family. Lastly, my experiences in the military made me part of a larger community of people who have served. I’ll forever have a kinship with the people I had the privilege of serving with, as well as all other service members.  

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military life to civilian life?

Don’t despise small beginnings! Job/career options upon discharge from the service can vary greatly depending on your job in the military. It can be difficult and discouraging — and often impossible — to see the path from transition into a prosperous and stable civilian life. Take the opportunities as they come, be faithful and thankful for what comes your way, and keep pressing toward where you want to be. And: USE YOUR G.I. BILL! Education and training are often a gateway to showing employers the worth of a service person. Our character, discipline, and work ethic will enable us to remain, but we must prove to them that we are qualified for the opportunity. Let’s use education as a stepping stone and not a hurdle — besides, it’s free money!