Leveraging the strength of the Veteran network

Rockwell Collins’ Director of Navy Programs in the Washington Operations office, Jeff "JD" Davis, is a recently retired Naval Aviator who served our country for 29 years.  Davis flew over 200 combat missions in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, achieving 4,500 hours and 1,000 arrested landings in carrier-based aircraft including the A-6E, F-14, E-2C/D, and the F-18D, F/G. 

Davis began his career as a Naval intelligence officer in the collection process. His first intelligence tour was in a squadron and soon he transitioned to flying jets including flying off nine different aircraft carriers in aircraft that had Rockwell Collins com/nav/surveillance equipment on-board.

“Flying on and off an aircraft carrier is probably the most exciting thing anyone can do,” said Davis. “I think it also demonstrates that every vet brings with them a set of unique experiences to the civilian business sector.  In this case, it’s the ability to make decisions, understand the criticality of timelines, accurately evaluate dynamic environments, and look at things through a lens of acute attention to detail--all forged while operating under the extreme pressure of Carrier Aviation.”

While Davis’ combat experience was certainly memorable and provided leadership skills he still uses today, it was a humanitarian mission that was one of the highlights of his career.  When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Davis commanded an E-2 squadron and was given orders to move the squadron down to Pensacola, Florida, within 24 hours to restore the FAA’s Air Traffic Control infrastructure that was destroyed in the storm. His E-2 “Hawkeye” aircraft and aircrews provided the communications and radar to manage high volumes of military planes and helicopters flying in the disaster area as well as air traffic control services restoring the civil air traffic network over and around the devastated region. His squadron of E-2s also helped orchestrate rescue and recovery operations for over 1,500 survivors, managed the relocation of refugee populations, and directed resupply of water and airborne fire-fighting operations.

During a later assignment at the Pentagon, Davis re-established his relationship with fellow Naval aviator, Charlie Hautau, Rockwell Collins’ Sr. Director of Defense Programs in the Washington Operations office.  Hautau became a mentor and provided great insight and counsel on how to transition from the military to the civilian workforce.  Hautau shared first-hand the psychological process of leaving one career where you had tremendous passion, to finding the perfect fit in a company that provided the environment for that career passion to flourish again.  To Davis, this was just one example of how strong the veteran network could be. 

Another example of the strength of the veteran network took place when an informational interview at a major Beltway defense company turned into a referral to Rockwell Collins, Sr. Vice President of Washington Operations, Bobby Sturgell.  Between that referral, and Hautau’s direct experience working with Davis, he was hired.  Davis was quick to point out that networking is very important to opening those doors for an interview, and goes a long way to finding opportunity, but that “just gets you to the dance.”  You still need to articulate your value proposition to the company, and why you are the right fit and quality person they seek.  And this is one of those challenges veterans suffer, how to find that Rosetta Stone that allows them to translate their experiences and qualities to what the civilian market is seeking.

“My experience and skills over the past 29 years steered my job search towards the defense industry,” said Davis.  “What drove me to Rockwell Collins?  I had 4 things I wanted from any potential employer; and during every interview with the major defense companies, I always asked the same question: ‘Besides your company, what company do you believe is the most ethical and has the most character in the industry?’ Ninety percent of the time, I always got the same answer, ‘Rockwell Collins.’  Military leaders are taught ethical values, strength of character and moral courage, so this resonated with me and immediately made me want to work at Rockwell Collins.”

Today Davis focuses on issues and opportunities for Rockwell Collins throughout the Navy, becoming another link in the chain helping building new relationships and networks inside and outside of Rockwell, and always ready to help other veterans find their opportunity. 

Story posted: November 10, 2015

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