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Veterans are an integral part of advocating and working for legal cannabis.
Veterans are an integral part of advocating and working for legal cannabis.
Thinkstock

Op Ed: Military Veterans Are a Huge Asset to Legal Cannabis

Hiring veterans, I believe, is one of the best investments an employer in any industry can make.

I’m biased as a veteran myself, but in the company I founded, veterans are the core of our staffing, our business, our everything. At Iron Protection Group, we’ve built a model that utilizes the skills and strengths veterans acquired during their military service. We give veterans a meaningful opportunity in which to apply them, providing essential security services for tightly regulated cannabis businesses.

Over the past four years we have hired and trained more than 250 veterans in Colorado and California, and helped them transition back into civilian life.

For our cannabis security business operations, the “transferable skills” of those who have served in the military are valuable assets. The job requires loyalty, integrity and the training to safely carry and use a weapon — if need be. It requires the ability to de-escalate a potentially harmful situation and the fortitude to see a mission through to completion, no matter what external circumstances may arise.

A veteran’s military training and service dives deep into character-building experiences, most of which directly translates into a business setting. Here are five reasons why:

  • We are disciplined. We can operate in extreme conditions and under great stress. We look for solutions, not excuses. We don’t give up; we stick with a project until it’s “mission complete.”
  • We know how to make the most of limited time and resources. We understand priorities and are able to discern which parts of a project are “mission critical.”
  • We have learned to be leaders ourselves, of people, operations and projects. Working as a team is literally what we were trained to do. Conversely, veterans are able, independent workers. We have the ability to make quality decisions without immediate guidance. We make great project managers and colleagues.
  • We also value the power of collaboration and the efforts of each team member. Veterans fundamentally understand that everyone on a team plays a vital role in accomplishing a mission. We want to connect with others. We leave no person behind.
  • We are willing to be coached. We are primed for whatever training is thrown at us and know the importance of gaining experience in the field. During our service, we learned how to use the most modern technology, from advanced computers to communications equipment.

An Alternative to the Me-First Mentality

Veterans bring another key quality to the table: A task-oriented mentality. There’s an informative book written by Pete Blaber, a former special-ops leader, called The Mission, The Men and Me, which is a phrase that deeply resonates with me.

What it means is that we are trained to focus on accomplishing the mission — or business objective, in the civilian world — regardless of complications, challenges or costs. We’re not going to complain or make excuses about why we can’t get something done. Secondly, we focus on the people who are integral in helping accomplish the mission. Only as a last thought do we focus on our individual needs.

From what I’ve observed and heard from other business owners, this is an outrageously rare outlook in today’s workforce. So many modern employees are more me-first than mission-first. They complain they can’t do their job because they don’t enjoy the work enough, or they don’t enjoy the people they’re working with. Or they make a list of demands of things they need before they can get to work.

Veterans are basically groomed to think the exact opposite: How can I get things done even if I don’t have all the resources I would like, and in spite of the fact I am not getting a lot of personal pleasure out of this activity?

Iron Protection Group founder Hunter Garth.
Iron Protection Group founder Hunter Garth.
Courtesy of Grasslands

Jobs for Veterans Will Foster Loyalty

Despite the many advantages veterans bring to the workplace, there is a disconnect on the job front. According to government estimates, in 2017 there were at least 370,000 unemployed veterans, 60 percent of whom are aged 25 to 54. The nonprofit National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and shockingly, another 1.4 million additional veterans are considered “at risk” to become homeless due to living below the poverty line, not having a support network or living in a substandard housing situation.

There is no good reason for this disparity. If given a chance, veterans are the embodiment of loyalty. If you show that you support them and want to help them succeed, they will have your back.

At Iron Protection Group, we take extra steps to support our employees, including making sure they have the flexibility in their schedules to go to important Veterans Affairs appointments or attend classes to further their education.

In return, our employees show us dedication and loyalty, and the cycle continues as we advance our employees. Our entire management team is made up of people who started at the entry-level position of cannabis security provider and worked their way up through the ranks.

Instituting a dedicated hiring program for veterans would benefit any business, not to mention offer new purpose and fulfillment to the veterans you employ. The strategy we embrace at Iron Protection Group and the hundreds of veterans who have joined our team are proof-positive this really works.

Hunter Garth is founder and managing director of cannabis security firm Iron Protection Group. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of nineteen and participated in more than 175 combat missions in Afghanistan before being honorably discharged in 2012.

Westword occasionally runs opinion pieces on matters of interest to residents of metro Denver. Have one you'd like to share? Email editorial@westword.com.

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