Valdosta Daily Times

November 11, 2012

Veterans in business

Using military skills in the civilian world

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The business world requires of its inhabitants a multitude of things. You must be efficient, sharp, intelligent and an overall effective mix of various skills and qualities that will enable an individual and the business.

While some start their journey out of high school and some out of college, there are some particularly dedicated and brave individuals who take it upon themselves to gain what is arguably the best training in the world — the United States military.

Whether it be the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy or Marines, the military offers the most beneficial environment for those wishing to succeed after life in the military.

Veterans are often able to maintain emotional control in stressful situations, focus on the welfare of the team or business as opposed to their own benefit, know their limits and push them without going too far, has no fear of failure, and most of all, has strong ethical convictions.

There are many veterans in business here in Valdosta who embody these qualities and more. Two of them are Jim Galloway, Valdosta-Lowndes County Airport executive director and manager, and Rob Rickert, Lovell Engineering Associates vice president of operations. They are successful, driven and each spent more than 20 years in the Air Force.


Galloway joined the Air Force in 1981.

“I went to college first and then I worked for two years as a corporate pilot,” said Galloway.

While a pilot, Galloway dreamed of being an airline pilot. He spoke with several pilots who were in the Navy, Marines and Air Force and he quickly caught on that all of their resumes included military service.

Galloway found that the Air Force was the right fit for him.

“I went to officer training school and I went to pilot training,” said Galloway.

It was Air Force pilot training that shattered Galloway’s dreams of being an airline pilot. After flying around in F-15s, an airline plane seemed pretty unamusing.

“I have no desire to be one today,” said Galloway with a smile.

Galloway traveled to a number of places during his 29 years in the Air Force. He did an exchange tour in the Royal Air Force in Great Britain, flew in the Gulf War, went to Saudi Arabia, worked at the Pentagon as internal affairs in the Europe NATO division, spent time in Montgomery, Ala., went to Okinawa, Japan, went to London, and even spent time at Moody Air Force Base.

During the two times when Galloway was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, he managed to get a master’s degree in political science and in strategic study.

When Galloway retired in December 2010, the position for an executive director and manager at the airport came open. It was perfect timing and after an interview in November, he got the job and started Jan. 1, 2011.

Like many retirees, Galloway quickly noticed differences between the military and the civilian world.

“People in the military, if they say they will have something to you, you get it,” said Galloway.

For the civilian world, the opposite is almost always true.

“You have to continue to follow up,” said Galloway.

For Galloway, he just deals with it and has learned to not promise anything that he himself doesn’t have complete control over.

“I don’t promise it downstream if I don’t have control over it,” said Galloway.

Life in the military prepared Galloway not just for business, but for his job in particular.

“I had two wonderful command tours that I think really helped with this job,” said Galloway.

The first was when he was a squad commander in Okenow, Japan. He was in charge of air-traffic controllers, air-field operators, weather people and so many similar things that he oversees now.

The second was his command tour at Moody.

“It had 1,400 people in the command, so it wasn’t me physically doing the work,” said Galloway.

At Moody, Galloway learned to delegate tasks. He was also in charge of the overall maintenance of the base.

“It’s ken to being mayor of the base,” said Galloway.

From those two command tours plus his years in service, Galloway had an in-depth knowledge of the operational side of a pilot and the command side of a leader.

Galloway wouldn’t say that working in the military was harder than his job now, but he does say that it is different.

While in the military, Galloway had people. He had a secretary and an executive officer that worked for and with him to execute tasks. At the airport, he does a lot of the stuff himself.

Another tool Galloway picked up in the military that benefits him today is the ability to remain apolitical.

“Today, the recommendations I make, I try to take what’s best for the airport or the organization,” said Galloway.

Despite the differences, Galloway couldn’t be happier.

“I love my job,” said Galloway.

He feels fortunate to be able to be a veteran in business when so many veterans are afforded the opportunity for so many reasons.

“My heart goes out to those folks that are struggling,” said Galloway.

Galloway’s only regret is that he had to retire. But he couldn’t be happier. He’s working with planes and is around really good people.

“To me, this is almost like a Cinderella story,” said Galloway.


Rickert spent more than 21 years in the Air Force before retiring in 2007.

“I went to the Air Force Academy and I got a degree in engineering,” said Rickert.

Despite having been a pilot in the Air Force, Rickert wasn’t interested in flying again.

“Being an airline pilot didn’t really appeal to me,” said Rickert.

He had a wife and a family, and after two decades of service, he was ready to plant his roots somewhere.

Both he and his wife, Anne, are from Georgia, and early on, they made the decision to retire here.

Valdosta was the perfect choice not only because of the town’s hospitality towards the military, but it was the first and last place Rickert was stationed.

One of Rickert’s earliest memories of Valdosta was the Red Carpet program at Ocean Pond. It’s where leaders from all over the community welcome and meet the new airmen at the base.

“That experience really had a big impact on me,” said Rickert.

As with Galloway, timing was everything for Rickert. Just as he was retiring, Jeff Lovell — the owner of Lovell Engineering Associates — was expanding his business.

“He was looking for someone with an engineering background and a military style of leadership,” said Rickert.

The job was a perfect match for Rickert who both spoke the language and had the knowledge for engineering.

“The transition for me was not as hard as I thought it would be,” said Rickert.

Though going from the military to the civilian world did pose some challenges.

While Rickert spoke the language of an engineer, he lacked the language of a civilian. Many civilians aren’t aware, life in the military can seem like another world. They have their own measure for time and speak in terms of multiple acronyms.

“Trying to speak the language of the civilian world was a big challenge,” said Rickert. “I had to learn how to do that.”

After working with Lovell Engineering Associates for more than five years, Rickert is very much aware of the positive impact that the military had on his current career.

Rickert said two of the biggest skills he gained were the hands-on experience of engineering and military leadership.

“I am very familiar with regulations and compliance,” said Rickert.

However, the biggest tool that Rickert uses the most everyday is the skill of multi-tasking.

“You cannot survive in the business world without multi-tasking,” said Rickert. “I probably multi-task more now then when I was in the military.”

Galloway and Rickert are both perfect examples of veterans who have found success in business. Though retired, they still embody the same military values and implement these values throughout their everyday lives.

So this Sunday as you honor veterans in Valdosta and throughout America, give a special thanks to those vets who continue to serve their community and their country in different ways.

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