Veterans hold a special place in Walmart’s workforce. Mr. Sam himself was a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army during WWII. In fact, Sam Walton opened his first store with money including $5,000 he saved from his time in the Army. The military values he held dear helped him create the international retail success story we know today.
We talked to four military veterans working on Walmart’s Supply Chain team and asked how their time in the military has helped shape their Walmart careers.
Ken Hamilton, an area manager at Distribution Center 6039 in Midway, Tennessee, served in the Air Force for four years before joining Walmart about 16 years ago.
Ken says his service in the Air Force enabled him to see more of the world, including Japan, England and Saudi Arabia. It also helped him develop his leadership skills. “I found out that I had a passion for leading and training,” he says.
Like Walmart’s “engage, enable and empower” teaching, Ken says the military provided him the authority to make decisions and fix problems, giving him a sense of accomplishment. “It put a lot of confidence in myself that I could actually do what I need to do.”
He uses the same management style he practiced in the military with associates today as he gives people the ability to problem-solve without micromanaging their decisions along the way.
“The military was all about ‘find a goal and use all the available resources around you to accomplish that goal,’” he explains. “Coming to work for Walmart, it’s the same show. We’ve got a common mission: Get the freight out to the stores as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Richard Wong, a project manager at Distribution Center 7010 in New Caney, Texas, has been with Walmart for four years. He also served in the Marines for four years.
Just like the military, he says, Walmart is a melting pot.
“The Marines taught me that it’s being patient, it’s being able to work with all different groups and skill sets, and bring that all together to bring success,” shares Richard. At Walmart, “just like in the Marine Corps, you get thrown in with guys you never knew, but now they’re like your brothers and sisters.”
The Marines also developed Richard’s sense of servant leadership, one of Walmart’s key values.
“As servant leaders, we have to put the needs of our associates first,” he explains. “In the Marine Corps, when you become an NCO or sergeant, you put the needs of your young Marines first. What can we do for them? How can we get them to be more successful? It’s the same thing that we do at Walmart. I try to be that servant leader. What can we do for our associates?’”
Chelsea Heath, who has been a senior HR business partner at Fulfillment Center KS1 in Edgerton, Kansas, for almost five years, served for a little more than four years in the U.S. Army.
She agrees that Walmart and the military share similar values. “We’re here for each other, we’re here for our customers and we’re here to serve,” Chelsea says. “There’s a place for everybody.”
Both organizations also set an expectation of respect, making sure people are treating each other well.
“I hope others who have served in the military understand that the same dedication and expectation is something that we're looking for when we grow our team and as we grow our supply chain business,” she explains.
“We need fast-paced, honest individuals who truly want to help others and offer that same respect as our battle buddies that we served with.”
Christopher Aragon, an operations manager at Fulfillment Center LAX2 in Chino, California, has been with Walmart for about six months since retiring from a 30-year career with the Marines.
Christopher believes his years of developing analytical and communication skills while handling logistics and supply for the military are now helping him build a career at Walmart.
“The skill sets that were already brought about—that I homed in and that I built through all these years—do come in handy now that I’m learning about the corporate side, the private sector side and, more importantly, just trying to relay my knowledge and experience to our younger leaders,” he explains.
Christopher says that for many veterans, the goal is always mission and urgency. Now, in the private sector, he is bringing that dedication to the mission of serving customers.
“We don’t see the customer directly in supply chain, but based on our core values, especially service, excellence and integrity… we still embody that responsibility to make sure we’re getting the right item at the right price at the right time,” he says.
With similar values across the military and Walmart, it’s no surprise that veterans thrive as associates. Thank you to all the veterans we work with and serve every day!