March 26, 2021 40 min read
In this episode I talk with Sergeant First Class Todd Fitzwater, a 20-year veteran and recent retiree of the United States Army.
Todd and I talk about his child hood, lessons learned from his parents, his path to the Army and how he served his country first as an 88M and later as a United States Army Recruiter.
Todd's unique outlook on recruiting young men and women into the Army should be the standard for the Army and his lessons can easily be applied to the civilian world and corporate environments.
Dan: Thanks for joining everybody. Tonight I'm joined by Todd Fitzwater. I am truly humbled to have Todd on. He is the man who's responsible for me joining the army in the first place and he's been a fantastic mentor in life and I'm proud to call him more than a recruiter at this point. He's a friend and he's like a brother. So Todd, before we get too far into this, can you go ahead and introduce yourself.
Todd: Yeah. My name is Todd Fitzwater. I'm born and raised in Northeast. Ohio, lived in, grew up in Bath. Matter of fact, born in Cleveland, grew up in bath, Ohio. I went to Walsh Jesuit high school. And from Walsh high school, I went to Bowling Green at which point I always knew I wanted to serve my country and I didn't know which capacity. So I finally found myself in the United States army, which has led me to meeting my wife, Amy and we have three great kids. Zane who's 18 just graduated from high school. I have a 15 year old daughter and I have a 12 year old son. So a great family here in Northeast, Ohio.
Dan: You're, you're living the American dream most definitely. And you've also earned it, which is good to see. All right. So one thing I love to do through the podcast is talk with people about who they were before they joined the military. And for most of us that obviously starts during our more formative years or younger years. So talk to me a little bit about who you were as a kid. What were you into, what'd you like doing? Were you troublemaker? Were you quiet? Just tell me about about you growing up.
Todd: Yeah, so I had an outstanding childhood. My parents were just fantastic. My dad was banker and retired as the president and CEO of national city bank Northeast. My mom, she worked from time to time and then she she's been at the Gap for 20 years and just recently moved over to Banana Republic, which is interesting, but I got to see my parents work. I have a brother, a little brother and I have a little sister and we just had like the perfect childhood. Never really got too much trouble. I've just had a really good time. Summers were fantastic, but we just took that one vacation a year to Ocean City, Maryland from here in Northeast Ohio. I grew up getting to see what community was all about through my father and my mom and my mother and the way in which they were involved in the community.
My dad's my dad's work and just had a great job of growing up, played sports sports. And what we did watching cars is what we did could in grasses, what we did. You know, just the work ethic that my parents grew up with, came down to the three of us and it was just an outstanding childhood. What sports did you play? I was a swimmer. I played soccer baseball too small to play football, but now, now I can play football, but no, I, I was essentially, I was a swimmer. That was my big thing that I really loved the sport. So cool. What kind of a student were you up through? High school? Not good average. I was better to do you know what that, and that's probably a good way if it didn't interest me, I didn't, I didn't care.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the that's the one trait I didn't get from my dad growing up when it came to my education, which is you know, put me in harm's way. So to some degree in the army but I was an average student and I was a BC student and I did put a lot of emphasis on it, which looking back now, I really regret that because yeah, I get to watch my kids and watch how well they're doing and they're doing real well in school and that's how I should have done. I just didn't have the, the wherewithal at the time.
Dan: Yeah. Well, you know, my story about high school, I also had better things to do than to pay attention. So you mentioned that your parents taught you the value of community and of service and that you, you kind of had an inkling of what service look like when you were a kid. Did you know that you would wind up joining the military?
Todd: I always knew that I wanted to do something to serve my country. I had great uncles that all serve in world war II and to hear their stories and they weren't in-depth stories. They were just like, Hey, I was with Patton in North Africa, or I was the furthest shelling on D-Day to where my uncle brought home a Nazi flag and his mom watched it, put it out on the rope in the equivalent of the FBI back in world war two showed up at their house and saying, Hey, what's going on here? And he had to tell that story. So you know, I got to see, I had great respect for brought up, had a great respect for our family and especially my uncles and, and again, what, what their wives, what their spouses did to support them while they were gone. So I always knew I wanted to serve my country. I, like I said, I just didn't know what to ask.
Dan: So what was it that made you want to serve your country? I mean, what, like, what was it what was it about the stories that, that struck home with you? What was it about service that stood out to you as something that you wanted to?
Todd: No, that's a good question. I have a love of my country seeing the flag. It just, it just did something for me. And it's something that I wanted to wear on my, my shoulder.
Dan: You talked a little bit about your parents already about your, your, your dad and his role at the bank and what your mom's doing. What, what are your most memorable lessons from your parents? What traits do you carry with you today that they instilled in you as well?
Todd: Yeah, sure. I think the work ethic was the most prominent thing that stood out. And then, you know, what we do in the army is for leaders. We, we, we build leaders, I got to see leadership in action every single day, whether it was you know, through our sports the way in which my dad interacted with colleagues, peers, or whatnot. But interestingly enough, the one thing we never talked about was leadership. I saw it in action. I got to see what it looked like the way in which you, you know, you you position yourself the way you talk to people, the way you shake hands, you look somebody in the eye. I got to see all that, but we never talked about it, which was really interesting. And that's something we do differently with my kids. My mom was very loving.
She created a great household for us and she took care of the home while dad was at work, but my dad never missed any athletic. He may be late because he had to work, but he never missed our athletics or athletic competitions or whatever sport me and my siblings were involved with. And that meant a lot. I remember my parents saying, you know, we didn't get married and have kids to be by ourselves and take our own vacation. So we've suffocation together until they, you know, later in life, they started taking vacations by themselves as we moved on and moved out. And, but we still always like to get together and do one family vacation if we can, every other year or something along those lines. So like I said, I got to see work ethic leadership well thought out conversations never lying, never making assumptions and great conversations about life and, and the way in which we should live it.
Dan: Do you feel like they were supportive of you and whatever you wanted to do? Or did you think that they had certain expectations of you?
Todd: Well, of course parents have certain expectations because they know each child individually, what they're capable of doing. And obviously I probably look, I let them down. I let myself down, down in my education. That's that's first and foremost, I own that. And we've had that conversation, but I've been a lot of success in the army as a result of that, probably. Yeah, so they have their expectations, you know, for each of us and for me they've were supportive. You know, my mom was like any other mom when I went to join the army, why would you do this? You know, but my dad's like, you gotta do what you gotta do. You gotta find your own path in life, your own path of least resistance. You know, interestingly enough with my dad, he would never tell me no. So it was just something crazy, you know, he would never tell me nobody had an uncanny way of walking me out of something stupid.
I'll give you an example. I, you know, early on the one to buy a house, he's like, Hey, you know what, that's a great idea. And I said, but what I really want is a motorcycle. He goes, you know what? That would be really cool. He goes, I had motorcycles when I met your mom. Had a great time with my friends before, when they were building the interstates around here, Northeast, Ohio. We used to hop on there and see how fast we could go down these, the unfinished interstate and all that. And he goes, but it got to a point where it was time to move on, but Hey, I think it'd be great if you had one, but you also said that you wanted to buy a house. Could that money be better served, you know, as a down payment, that's how he would do it. Yeah. Then I'd be like, motorcycle, but you got me again. So, you know, I lean on my parents even to this day, my dad's 72 and I'm not going to say my mom's age because she doesn't want anyone to ever to know. But I still lean on them for advice and guidance still to this day. That's how good our relationship is. They're not just with me with the other two and, and with, with my sister and, and her husband and my spouse, Amy.
Dan: Yeah. That's good. And you guys still live pretty close to one another, right?
Todd: Yes. Which is pretty unique. And we know we're in a unique situation because that doesn't always happen. You know, I hear stories all the time of kids you know, removed from their parents, you know, States away and the difficulty in getting to see one another or trying to do a family vacation. We've been very, very fortunate that we live all within close proximity, all here, essentially inaccurate. And we make it a point to get together pretty much every Sunday and have a family dinner. It's a great way to decompress and get ready for the upcoming week. But they're good conversations. You know, I politically, I'm probably in the middle. My brother is as far left as you could get. It creates some interesting, some interesting conversations. I can tell you that, but at the end of the day, we all respect one another's opinion and we all love one another. Can't complain.
Dan: What lessons are you taking forth with your own children that you learned growing up from your parents?
Todd: Well, number one, my education, I mean, it was, it was a struggle in, it shouldn't have to have been you know, I can tell you this, the only issues I ever had really grown up were about my grades. And again, I was a PC student. I'm more on the side of CS, C pluses. Absolutely ridiculous. But I said, I don't ever want to see if I have kids. I don't ever want to be in that position to have to have those types of conversations, those tough conversations, coming to Jesus conversations about the education. And I haven't had to do that. So that's one thing that stuck with me because I know the importance of education. Now you have to be a life learner. You have to be a life learner to move yourself forward and to be competitive in life, you have to set yourself up for success.
So that's one of the, that's one of the biggest things. And then you know, being involved I guess, would be another one fifth in whatever capacity, cause we all are involved in different ways, whether it's coaching, whether it's in the community, whether it's leadership in the army you know, filling a gap where we're a gap exists. That's, that's just by us, the nature of us being soldiers. But yeah, so just being involved, being involved and then also being a good friend, you know, that, that's one thing that always stuck out with my parents is that they were always good friends to people, right? And they, they develop the relationships and really value the relationships that they have in their life.
Dan: The notion of being a life lifetime learner is, is big with me. You know, I remember remember specifically certain points, like after language, school in the army where I was like, I took that test, I passed it. I knew I passed it and I thought I was done with it. And then two weeks later, I'm back in the books and I'm trying to perfect that ability even more. And even now I see this in myself, but also my, my close friends that we're constantly learning. We're wanting to read new books, like I'm on the stoicism kick right now. So I'm deep into philosophy each morning. And it's, it's fun. Like it keeps you sharp. It gives you a new perspective. And I think, especially with what we're going through right now as a nation together, having the ability to see different perspectives will do us all, some good when when we need to think
Todd: Completely agree. And that's the thing you can't be shallow minded or build up a wall around yourself. You have to have these tough conversations.
Dan: All right. Let's get into your decision to enlist in the army. What year did you
Todd: Sure I enlisted in January 27th, 1996 when she was yet, like, it was yesterday. It's like, it was yesterday. Yeah. 96. I was 10 years old when you enlisted. So it was my wife. She was 12 too, but anyway, no, but you know, I, I looked at all the different branches and at that time I was going to college. I understood the importance of education, even though I didn't want to be there in everyone. Just wondered an opportunity. So I'm like, okay, well maybe I'll come home and I'll go the university backwards just to, like, I was spinning my wheels. I was 20 years old. I said, I gotta do something. I gotta make a decision for me and not listen to anybody else. So I ended up joining the army reserves, thinking that I would go back, which I ended up I did.
But I did five years in the United States army reserve. And then it led me to where I'm at today. But again, I wanted to be able to pick the job that I was going to do in the army reserves at that time allowed, you know, and still does allows me the opportunity for last people, the opportunity to select a job based on their falsifications. And to me, that was important because that gave me some skin in the game. I didn't want someone telling me what I was going to do. And I, and I know there's certain non-negotiables in life, but that was one of those that I wanted a little control over versus someone telling me,
Dan: So what MOS did you end up choosing and why?
Todd: 88 Mike. So transportation, it was interesting, you know, hindsight being what it is. I probably would have done something more along your lines, success and pretty well in the aspect of psychological operations, much like you did, but you know, those family trips that we took to ocean city, Maryland were pretty cool. And I just, I just remember when you got into you know, Maryland and the Virginias or whatnot, you would see a lot of convoys that would take place and watching military vehicles ride by and he saw the camouflage and all that I thought was really cool. But what, what interested me more was I was always curious how the, how the army understanding the army and being a history buff, how the army moved from point a to point B. I always found that very intriguing. So that's the route I took was transportation and how I can double stack a trailer as a private, like nobody's business.
Dan: Oh man. All right. So what, what expectations did you have when you enlisted? Were you looking to make it a career? Was it, was it a stop gap for where you were in life? Like what were you hoping to get out of it at that point?
Todd: I think the terminology stuff you have is exactly what it looks like. I need something to stop the bleeding or the way in which I was feeling about like that time. I needed something to stop bleeding and do something positive that moved me forward because college wasn't covered for me. So that's exactly what my enlistment was. I didn't expect to be in the army for a career expected to do one term and see how that was now. It's when we can, two weeks of the year, it's like club med, right? Everyone's on a first name basis, or at least that's the way in which it was perceived at the time. Some of that held true back then farm has changed significantly since then, but in some ways it hasn't, but yeah, so I really think going there having many expectations other than the fact that it would give me enough, it would give me stability while I was trying to figure out what I want to do in my life. I knew that I had this obligation of one weekend a month, two weeks. It would fall typically in the summer. That would keep me steady on that because I had that big obligation and I was not going to screw that up. That was something that was very foreign to me. And so I really didn't have any many expectations other than looking for that stability.
Dan: Yeah. So when you say stability with the reserves, like you said, it's one weekend, a month, two weeks a year, typically the summer. Do you think you were looking for more routine and more regiment around how you structured your, your own life around those?
Todd: Oh, no doubt. No doubt. I mean, that's the one beautiful thing about the army Dan, as you know, is the fact that it becomes dummy-proof. They tell you where to be when to be there and all that. And obviously you have the flexibility and you're your own person and you can make decisions for yourself, but I needed that routine. I needed that regimen and the army provided that for me. It really did, even though it was the reserves, but obviously I liked it well enough to lead me to where I'm at today. And here I am, 24 years later retiring coming up you're free soon from active duty.
Dan: All right. So you enlisted in 96. Talk to me a little bit about your training from basic to AIT, to any other schools for your, your, your first stints before you became a recruiter, what did you expect? I know times were different. I don't was the internet around 96. Like it is today.
Todd: It was around, it just wasn't what it is today, obviously, but it was around and you know, I didn't, I don't look that stuff up. I didn't look with basic. Training's gonna be like, but you know, I've shared this story with you before I get to basic training and I'm on the bus and you know, they get you there late at night. You know, you fly in you're there late at night. Specialists meets us at St. Louis airport because I went to Fort Leonard wood, Missouri for basic training, my job skill training, Haiti. And I thought, man, these specialists they're important. You've got to realize that the reason I became a recruiter is because my recruiter made zero impression upon me. She just wasn't good. I can't even tell you her name to this day. I didn't realize that I could draw with my unit get paid before I went to basic drinks.
I didn't know they had what we call now, future soldier training. I didn't know that. So I showed up the day I left to go to basic training the night before, and the station commander comes out, says, Oh, you here to join the army. I'm like, no, I'm here to shift for the army. It's like, Oh yeah. I knew that. I knew that he had no clue who I was. And that always resonated with me. I said, I'm never going to be that guy. Know if someone makes a decision to join the United States army, it served their country. Selfishly. It shouldn't have to go down that way. So I always remember that. But when I got to basic training, you know, here I am thinking specialists are important, which, you know, everyone, I mean, it's the best job in the army, right? You have just a little a little ability to get yourself in enough trouble from a leadership position.
And just enough to say, Hey, I'm just a specialist, not a non-commissioned officer. That's the best rank in the army, but I'm getting off that bus at Fort Leonard wood, having that drill Sergeant come on the bus and say, Hey guys, how's everyone doing? I hope everyone had a great time getting here. For some of you, it's the first time you ever flew. I hope I hope it wasn't too traumatic for you, but Hey, I just want to let you know, get the hell off this bus here in the next 30 seconds, you know, hell is not the word that he used. I mean, there were some interesting curse words that were there were set. And we did the according to accordion effect. We got off and we all got next to one another. Then we had to space ourselves out and like, and it's that point?
I'm like, well, I guess I'm in the army now. So then that's how that was. And then, you know, before I even go to basic training, you spend time in the reception with time. So there was another instance where hello, welcome to the army. I had a love of Jeeps and I remember watching this Jeep go off around the corner. And we were used is manpower for the influx of recruits coming into basic training. And so we were moving some barracks around and bunks and all that. And we were outside and I was outside with probably about 20 people. And I remember looking at that thing, watching it go up over the Hill and then turning back around, not thinking anything of it, to hear this wheel spinning back. And then two guys get out with their, and they put their derbies on. And like, you, you, and I'm just watching them.
Like I assume everybody else is watching them. Then I looked back and everyone's scattering. I'm like, Oh no, what did I do? And again, this was an incline. This was a Hill. And I'll never forget. He goes, get over here. Well, I don't know anything. So I just sure. I'm here because we're not learning. Yes, Sergeant no Sergeant at that time. Right. I get down and I, I was in great shape at that time as a draft, you know, doing triathlons locally here in Northeast Ohio. And I, Dan, I can't tell you how many pushups I did, but I know it was well over a hundred pushups while he was there. And as he told me, every time I came up, my head, my forehead would hit his, his drill Sergeant. I'll never forget that the feeling of that cardboard feeling this, I hit that thing. And then it, with his finger in my face and then in him yelling at me, and then he finally took the you stop when I tell you to stop. And then I knew he got in his Jeep and I kept doing probably another 40 pushups. And then finally I got up as the NCO. I see what was going on, came out and said, no, but he was just a Sergeant. And those, those are two SAR, first classes that were yelling at me. So that was my introduction to army basic training.
Dan: How was the transition going from basic to AIT? It seems like everybody feels a little bit more relaxed getting into AIT and then they get into some trouble or they just overstepped their bounds a little.
Todd: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, it's it's, I was fortunate because I had four days off in my parents get down to see my graduation. And then we went to the Lake of the Ozarks and kind of hung out. So that was pretty cool. I got in trouble on my last day of graduation of basic training, but I think I eat ice cream. That's what I did. I, it was a bet nights, my screaming. So I was getting smoked while everyone was in the classes ready to rake face and move on out. So then I was told to get upstairs change real quick. And then I had to catch up with the formation, which was probably a quarter of a mile down the road. I'm running with the Juul Sergeant in his car, yelling at me. And I finally caught up to him right before we made the hard, left into the theater where we graduated and my parents could see me catching up in the formation and I'm just wedding.
And that's back when we wore those green polyester, you know, class A's and sweat, because this is at Fort Leonard wood in August or in July. So the sweat underneath, you could see going on my dad's like, what are you doing? But that transition from there, I stayed there. So it was a pretty good transition as it, you know, obviously it's a little more lax than you it's like anything. You have to burn opportunities to be able to get off boast and all that. And I was very fortunate to stay there at foreclosure work. I felt pretty comfortable with it. Cool.
Dan: Yeah. I want to get into the next phase of, of your army career when you became a recruiter, because I think you've got one of the more unique stories of the soldiers that I know and how you got to where you are today and the impact that you've had on the army as a whole over the years. And I mean, just speaking personally, you mentioned that your recruiter is pretty horrible. Can't remember their name, you showed up. They didn't even know you were shipping. You didn't know about drilling with your unit. And my experience with you was quite the opposite. You know, you set me up for success more times over then I can probably count. And I've also found that to be a little bit of the the what's the word I'm looking for. I got it. Having a total brain fart right now.
Todd: Yeah. An older I'm getting older. My birthday is next week. The exception to the rule. There it is. Yeah. So talk to me a little bit about
Dan: When you made the decision to become a recruiter and how you've, how you've navigated the other 18 years of your 24 year career.
Todd: Sure, sure. So how recruiting came up? I, I was an assistant manager at the largest bar in downtown Cleveland and the flat at the time, which was banana Joe's. And we also had another bar called the etiquette and I just, it was fun. It was awesome. It's phenomenal. The things I saw, the things I did, the parties I was involved with, the women the friendships, the, you were, you were the King. I mean, you determined who came in and in and out of your, your closet. I mean, it was, it was awesome. Right? And you were the center of every center of the universe is what I felt like at the time, but it got to a point where I lost a good relationship off of the the amount of time I was spending at work. I would go in at three o'clock in the afternoon and I'd walk out at seven 30 in the morning, the whole night, one five, you know, and we were drinking to fit the captain Morgan and nine in a half a case of beer while we were doing the job over copping enough, competent enough to feel to do it.
I just said, this is not a long-term strategy for me. It's not where I'm going to be. So literally I had drill that weekend Friday night, obviously, and I actually parked at a dead night and the next day I had to be a drain, dry shaving on the way to on the way to drill, get there. And I always spread it. You know, I was very proud of the uniform that I wore. So everything like those boots that I see to your left there, Dan, you know, the amount of effort I would put in those to make it look like less. So I looked good because I want to look good. I was representing my country. So I show up in and they had a, you know, you have your first formation. And I believe he said they were looking for individuals to be army recruiters. I said, this is interesting. So I said, I love the opportunity to talk with you after we got done. So I did. And that's how that whole scenario started. So that's what led me to army verdict.
Dan: And what, how, how, how has that portion of your career been in how many people do you think if you could estimate you've put into the army, what lessons have you learned? Like just walk me through, walk me through your entire existence for the past dozen years or so.
Todd: Well, I like any recruiter that spend any time we're creating priority to book with scenarios of the things that you've come across, you know, as a recruiter, you're, you're somebody who's father, brother mentor guidance, counselor. No, it just, you feel all these coach, you feel all these different rules for all these different types of kids that you see that come in. And now as a, as a medical recruiter, as an army healthcare recruiter for these doctors and nurses that are very well educated, but have no clue what the army is about, how do you set them up for success? And that's what it always was for me. You asked me how many people have put in. I got to tell you, I've probably been involved with over 700 contracts, 800 contracts, not in right. All those, but I haven't been involved with those. I think credited to me is maybe 300 something.
I don't know. But they all have a story. It's not see, I don't, I don't like to talk about numbers because it's all about the individuals that I put in. I may not remember all the names, but I remember all the faces, Dan and then, you know, developing those relationships much like the one that you and I have I was at your wedding. I I'll never forget that it was an effect that you thought highly enough of me to have me at your wedding was a very memorable experience, but it was fantastic. So you develop those types of relationships with people over, over the years. You know, the Army's taught me a lot. There's been some really great ties and then spring some deep lows. You know, we went through the search with our rap, or I'm sorry with who I recommend against and all that.
We put some people in the army and that function in the army, which grades leadership issues down the road that, you know, as a leader, you get paid to make tough decisions. We get paid to make tough decisions. And those decisions don't just affect that soldier or that children's career fix their family, their children. So you have to be mindful of that, but you have to maintain the integrity of the United States army. And with that comes, you know, in a Mosty comes, he goes like lessons as I would put it, knowing that you can't go back and change something because that's who you were at the time. Not that I would change anything. I think I made the right decisions. I'm competent. I made the right decisions to maintain the integrity of the team and the army. But we set a lot of people up for success.
We, we bridge the gap in a lot of ways for people to have better careers by forcing them to get their education, to you know mentor them in a way in which they were more engaged with say cause recruiting stuff, recruiting is top in it. And on the, on the face, it sounds pretty easy, right? I get paid to tell the army stories. That's what I get paid to do it. But you have to deal with the nose you have to deal with no, you know, parents, you have to deal with all these different scenarios because in the regular army it's, dummy-proof like I said before, until you were to be wanting to be there as a recruiter, you have to be a self-starter. You have to be self-motivated. You have to find your path of least resistance. And it can be tough because as you're finding that you might have a leader that says, no, I want it done this way.
And again, there's going to be certain non-negotiables in life as there are in the army, but I wanted my soldiers always to have the flexibility to go out there, if I'm their capitalist resistance, which allowed them to be the very best recruiter they could for the United States army and tell the story that was timely. It's that driven versus based upon assumptions. If one of my soldiers or myself did not know the answers, Sam, that's a great question. And in regards to your daughter, I don't have an answer for you right now, but what I will do is find a subject matter expert that gets you that proper answer. That's, that's how you have to have that conversation, right? So, you know, you learn certain things. Like, for example, if I went to a high school and I was a station commander up in Henrietta, New York, Rochester, New York, and I go, and I meet that principal with one of my recruiters to make sure that we do that, that balance hand off tool.
And I'd be like, I've introduced myself talk that's water, or they didn't abuse themselves. Like say Dan Berra should be like Dan type it's water. Nice to meet you. This is star for a staff Sergeant sharps, for example, I wanted them to know that there was a difference in the hierarchy, right. But I found that in recruiting apparent a first name basis with certain people at work, just like I'd have a case come in. The parents would say, Hey, Tim and Carol so-and-so Jim Purell, sockets water. Nice to meet you. This here is your son's recruiter, Sergeant so-and-so. So, you know, you have to be personable. You have to be a chameleon out here, but you always have to do it the right way and keep the person's best interest at heart. And that's tough to do.
Dan: Yeah. Well, you're largely in the business of building relationships. It's not just, like you said, it's not a matter of hitting your quota or just cranking out numbers, but you're actually building relationships,
Todd: Relationship, relationships, marketing. I mean, all the skills that you learn out here only set you up for success. If you have the wherewithal to understand what you're learning at the time.
Dan: Yeah. You mentioned when we started talking about all these shoes that you filled as a recruiter, you know, you're, you're a coach, you're a brother, you're a dad, a mentor. And that's the one that always stuck out with me. I think you and I have talked about this at some point when I was toying around with the idea of getting out of the army, I was on my second deployment and I was like, I was completely at odds with myself over it. My life was changing my then girlfriend, who's now my wife, who you saw me get married to. Thanks for getting me.
Todd:You are serious with her and have a child now
Dan: We have two dogs. That's great. So things were getting more serious there. I was watching my friend's marriages fall apart and crumble just from the OPTEMPO we were on. And I remember one night I was on a deployment. I was on deployment and I couldn't sleep. So I snatched up a sat phone and I had your number memorized. I don't have it memorized anymore, but I used to back then and I had, I fired up the sat phone, pointed the forefoot antenna up toward the sky and I dialed you. And I knew you would answer. It was a 12 hour time difference from where I was to where you were. And I just, I knew you would answer it. I don't necessarily think that we actually ended up talking about me leaving the army. I was just looking for somebody who knew me just to talk like who wasn't a parent who wasn't a relative, but just somebody who, who knew me at like the, the pre army and who I was at that time, just to, just to have a real conversation. And that's one of the conversations I remember most in my life. And it's one that I certainly value among them all. So,
Todd: And I can remember Dan you and your deployment hair, how long your hair was. And I can remember you know you sitting out underneath, I remember the scene because it was matter of fact, we videoed Janet a couple of times if I'm not mistaken. And no, but sometimes what you need is you need to, you need that person to drop in. I always, I always knew that was important. Not only for me when I had to make that call, but to be able to have someone pick up and know that you can talk to them and know you have that calming effect where the calming voice, because those are the people that you lean on when it's tough. Who can I lean on when it's tough? You know, they always say you know, on the questionnaire that they have, that you have to fill out every month in the United States army it's do you have a best friend?
I don't have a necessarily a best friend. I mean, my wife is as well. I'd say my dad and my, my wife, but you always have to have that person you can reach out to. So I, you know, I challenge people who are those people and give them on speed dial. And that's a good position to be in. If you have more than one that you can reach out to. I remember our compensations day and you know, sometimes you could hear it in your voice much like the day before you left the basic training, you can hear certain, certain things in somebody's voice. And you pick up on that. Hopefully again, I've used the word three times twice. You have the wherewithal to understand where someone's coming from.
Dan: All right, we'll stop the love Fest and move on to something else. So in your, in your, the entirety of your career, what, what are a few lessons that you're going, you're gonna carry with you for the rest of your life and what are the lessons that you're going to share with your, your kids as they become adults as well?
Todd: Well, number one, the burden of the leadership, we don't get to fix our teams. So how do we bring a team together? How do we motivate them? You know, I don't know if you, the definition of leadership, loyalty,
Dan: Duty, respect. That's not it...
Todd: It, those are our values, but yeah. Yeah, well, you know, so Welty duty, respect, selfless service honor, integrity and personal courage. The acronym for that is leadership. And those are good values to live by you know, selfless service you know, standing up for those that can't stand up for themselves. So we do soldiers across the world, right. But anyways you know, those are great values to live by the burden of leadership, not being able to pick your team, but loading, meeting people to get the job done for common goal. That's, that's critically important in any organization, but that's what we do every day. That's what we're taught. You know, corporations spend thousands and thousands of dollars of sitting there, you know, your top people to leadership conventions and all that. I got it for free, right. And I live it every single day because our decisions, you know, potentially, you know, my brothers and sisters, that boy and make those tough decisions.
You know, those decisions have lifelong implications, you know, put someone in harms way, but again, it's what we get paid to do. I will tell you that the fact of how to build a team is, is something that I'll be able to take with me. Decision-Making process learning resiliency. You know, one thing that we talked about in master resilience training for, as a trainer is complicated stuff. And not just, not just hunting the good stuff like I got off today or something like that, or, you know, but Hey, I watched my son turn a double play the other day and not just saying, Hey, good job, turning a double play, but really understanding how he got to that point, his hard work, his work ethic you know, being a good leader amongst his team team members working that, that double play over and over and over again, led him to that moment where he could turn it into a game now.
So that process of, of hunting the good stuff every single day, I think is critically important because it sets us up for a positive mental attitude and everything that we do versus, Oh, what was me and being like, he worked from from Winnie the Pooh, right? Oh, what was me? I can't, it's tough for me. I want to be around like-minded people. And that's what the army has given me the ability to do. I recently had someone say one of the nurses that we put in, brought her in as a first Lieutenant based upon her education and her background. She goes, I finally found my people. That's incredible. And she's 40, 40, some years old. I finally at 40 something found my people, like-minded individuals. And that's what the military does for. You allows you to find your people and the tick, that stuff moving forward, it sets you up success. And that's pretty darn cool.
Dan: It's one of the things I miss most about my, about the military and about the army is just being around people who are like me, we're all different. We all have different frames of mind and we all think differently. But just knowing that you're surrounded by people who are fighting a common mission and are out for the greater good there's, there's something noble about that. And there's something personally, there's something calming about being in an environment like that. It that, that was the biggest shock for me leaving the military was going from that, that common mission out into the civilian world where it's, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and people just want to figure out how they can get ahead and climb the ladder and make the most money.
Todd: And it's more so, and it, maybe it's not based upon sex. It's more so based on perception of laptops, you know, that's one thing is we're trying to, as I'm transitioning out that we talk about it's based upon, I know exactly what my mission is. I know what I need to do to go ahead and execute it and make that, you know, from commanders sent down to me, I know what I need to do if there's a little in the corporate world, from what I've been told, and that's going to be an interesting transition. But you know, also learning that real time resilience, like understanding you know, how I set myself up for success in conversations just by mentally preparing before we go ahead and, and have that conversation, you know, just so many great lessons that I've learned in the United States army that I I'm just so thankful that I had that opportunity. So in
Dan: Your opinion, what makes a great leader?
Todd: Great question. I think someone that has a clear and defined roadmap for the team to get from point a to point B, someone that could feel that team, someone that's passionate. So when that doesn't waiver, when they make a decision, they stick by that decision, but are also willing to take feedback from their people. I always go back to that one picture that you see where it's, that person that's sitting behind the desk, there's the group of people are leaning over with a rope dragging him, or do you want to be that guy that's out front? You know, the first guy on that rope, right. You know, we, we were soldiers, Mel Gibson played the Colonel. He was the first on ground. He was, he was the last off the ground and on the helicopter. And I know things like that stick with me. Right. And that's who I want. I want someone that's decisive that has we're with all that is compassionate, communicate and take in what people are giving them to make good decisions that benefit the organization and the people around
Dan: Hal Moore actually wrote a book. I was just looking forward over my shoulder. He wrote a book in his, I think his son ended up compiling it after he died, but it's essentially his his outlook on leadership and the things that make a good leader. And I bought a copy on Amazon a couple of years ago, and I've gifted it to people, probably a dozen or more times. It's short, it's like a hundred.
Todd: I, I don't, I don't have it back here. I'll get you a gift of one like a hundred or 150 pages.
Dan: It's just real short, succinct examples of, of things that he saw when he was a junior grade officer. And then when he became a leader, a higher ranking leader, how he, how he put what he saw as either good or bad into action later on in life. And it's a great book.
Todd: Thanks. Thanks, Dan. You know, the other thing too is you gotta be able to step outside your comfort zone and make tough decisions that people aren't always willing to do that, and you've gotta be willing to do that. So it may not be comfortable, but to have total success, you've got to be able to take those big steps sometimes, you know, that could be well thought out or not. But I think that's important too, is to be able to see, like they see in the, in the special forces and seals and special forces Reno, you have to learn how to be. You have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable and make your bed every day and exercise.
Dan: All right. I have just one, one quick question, and then I want to talk about what, what you're seeing a little bit out ahead as you're looking to transition out of the military and come back to the civilian sector full time. So, you know, obviously, you know, when I enlisted, I enlisted in 2003 and we were, we were a country at war and we still are a country at war, but the war then was new, you know, September 11th, just a few years past us. And we knew we were going to war and I remember everybody who enlisted around the same time as me. We were trying to learn what we could and ask all the questions to guys who had been overseas already on a deployment, or were coming back who were getting ready to deploy. Are you seeing it at a shift in mindset of today's soldier versus the soldiers you were enlisting in the army right after we entered into Iraq and Afghanistan and the global on
Todd: From an enlistment standpoint, or just soldierly standpoint, certainly standpoint also do a standpoint, you know, it used to be Hey, I'm deploying. So then you'd have someone deployed. And then it got to the point where it's like, well, how many times have you deployed six times? I mean, the upset that was so significant, you know, you did see it put a strain on the United States army in or sister branches as well. You have to dish has changed over time. Just because we've been doing it for so long, it's commonplace. We, you know, we were Garrison army. When that thing started, now, it just still the army. Did you really care how that motor pool was set up? Like it was off an inch of the bumper. He didn't care, but now we're transitioning back to a Garrison army, even though we still have an operational tempo, but it's that transition where now you got to teach people how to be a Garrison army again, and that's difficult the army to, through that.
It's not, I wouldn't say it's difficult. It's just a transition. The one constant in, in, in life, in general, and especially in the army has changed. You have to be adaptive to be an adaptive leader and deal with that change. But yeah, time changes, soldiers change the types of people that you bring in pretty smart now. I mean, they have an idea of what's going on. So it creates a different type of dynamic when someone's enlisting and with our, with our soldiers today, they're more well thought out. I mean, we have the internet, as you know, and we have all these different resources. Yes, we have the internet. We have all these different resources where people could gather information and get different perspectives, which lead to very good conversations as teams. And so today's today. I guess what I'm trying to say is today's soldier is more willing tuned with, with the warm of what's going on. So
Dan: Interesting. Yeah.
Todd: Let me finish that up by, it used to be when I came in, if someone says, go stand in the corner and with your hands on your head and on one leg in hot for 30 seconds, and then take 10 seconds off and switch lights. You'd be like a rockstar, or you'd say rubbed star nowadays, that guy wants to know why I'm going in the corner, why I put my heads. So it's just different. You have to explain things, but you know, they want to have skin in the game. We're going to, we're going to explain to them,
Dan: Oh, I mean to our earlier discussion about good leadership, good leaders tell people the strategic reason they're going to do something that way they've got some insight into what the bigger picture looks like. So then they know how they fit into it and how their actions impact everybody else around them. So it's not a bad thing at all. I think it's smart to have people, like you said, have some skin in the game instead of just going to the corner and jumping up and down, they understand that, well, I'm going to be in that corner and this guy is going to be in that corner. And we're keeping the whole building level because we're jumping up and down at the same time.
Todd: Great analogy.
It was pretty awful, but it works. All right. So 20 years in the United States army, and you are on your way out
Todd: So I go on retirement rules the 1st of November start my terminal leave the three walls I signed down on 30th of July and 1st of August. So I feel fantastic. I tell you what the army set me up for success. I would feel differently about it if I, if I don't think I've put the effort into the transition and the army, they don't give you a choice now. I mean, you have to go through soldier training. There's certain things that and obligations that you have. It's not just okay that you turn in your gear. Here you go. Here's your two 14, have a good day. And that's one thing that every soldier should take advantage of. You can start that process 24 months out or 18 months out, whichever whichever one. But there's a lot of good information. I mean, even down to how you should dress like metric belt with your shoes when you're going in and interview.
So there's a lot of resources available for soldiers today, whether it's retiring or just transitioning out of the, out of the military, if you don't take advantage of that, then, then good luck. You're lucky it's on you then. Yeah. So I'm excited. I'm excited for the next thing. I'm excited for the, you know, like I said, a field leader has to be risk taker and I'm interested to see where I land and if I can take what I've learned over my four years in United States army and bring that to the civilian world looks like other people, but you know, I'm a community get to, so I have a extensive social network. That's going to set me up for successful. They go to get out, but I I'm interested to see where I land in what I could bring to the spilling Wolf.
Dan: It's good. It's good to hear that the army is up to their game on the ETS or their retirement process. I was giving an interview on a podcast yesterday where I was the guest and we got talked, we got talking about the indoctrination process, how the army does a fantastic job at indoctrinate indoctrinating you into that lifestyle, essentially into learning how to kill and be okay with it. And the example I used was in basic training, my most vivid memory of like that shift happening that mental shift was on the bayonet course
Todd: When you're, when you're running
Dan: The course. And all of a sudden you're like stabbing this thing, yelling, kill, kill, kill, bleed, bleed, bleed. Like that. That's the moment that I, I, that stands out to me the most of like, okay, my life, as I knew it is now over. And now this is the next phase of my life. We got, we were talking about, like I said about the indoctrination process about how they're fantastic at bringing you in. But when I was getting out, they did a terrible job at setting you up for success, or even just helping you to have a somewhat smooth transition into back into the regular world. So I'm really happy to hear that they've got a better program in place and largely I'm sure, like you said, like it's about taking ownership of it and doing, getting the most out of it, but you also get out what you put in.
Todd: Absolutely. And like what you said, did you know, when you went out, fortunately you got caught in that time where we didn't really do a good job at it. Now, now we do, but you said, Hey, what happens? I go, and I get out of the army, I get with two 14 and I take all my uniforms and all that, put it in box, shove it in the basement somewhere. That's not how it should be. You know? And I think to ease that transition, you know, w we've used the word leadership thrown around a lot in this conversation, take those skills and get involved and engaged in your community. Sometimes I'll call it for what it is. Soldiers are. They have a tendency to be very selfish, but the expectance, you know, after a career or whatnot, I'll expect anything. I've got to go out there early, but I want to take my leadership skills.
And like I said, fill the gaps within within my community, if I can if I can't do it, hopefully I've a facilitator where I can say, well, I can't do that, but I know someone that can, and in a lot of ways I happen. And I learned that from my dad. My dad always said, it's you're in a good position when you become a facilitator, not a little older, I'm 44. So I have those relationships established where I could position people or know of a job opening or know of this opportunity for, for X, Y, or Z. Right. And that's, and that's pretty cool, but I would challenge anyone getting out of the military, whether it's retirement or whether it's you're just ETS, hang out get involved and engaged and that'll be, that'll help, ease your transition much. Like I said, when we begin this conversation, the reason I joined the army reserves was to be able to have stability. Well, that'll help you create that stability. When you go to get out while you're trying to figure out what you're going to do. Yep. Yeah. It's not working, it's not working.
Dan: It's a transfer of mission. I think it's kind of what we're, we could put some army, some military lingo behind that, you know, your mission when you're in the military. And for me included, when I got out, I lost that sense of mission and it took combat flags, quite frankly, for me to find it again. So if you can help yourself identify what your mission is, pre ETS or preretirement, or at least figure it out within the first couple of months, I think you'll set yourself up for good success because you'll have, you'll be working toward again, something bigger than yourself. So I agree completely. All right. Let's wrap this thing up. If you had, you've got a billboard right now, whole world can see it. What's one message you want to tell all of the United States
Todd: At this point, I'd say the golden rule. If we're talking about right this moment in time, treat others just the way you would want to be treated. If that's love and respect one another, just have some respect for what I think is the way to go, but it would be the golden rule for me, something very simple, something that I've been taught the way in which I engage people. And again, I, I, I'm a recruiter. I get paid to talk for a living. So I always love picking people's brains. And in having conversations, you know, where are we going? And it's, it's always my fault. Like we're about to go meet someone for the first time. And they're like, okay. And I got to ask one more question. That turns into 20 more minutes. Are you kidding me for real? I know it's going through her head, but you know, she just laughs about it. And then but yeah, treat people the way you'd want to be treated. Dan, this is what I would say.
Dan: All right. Well, I'm not going to add anything to that because it's perfect. Especially given what we're going through right now as a country. So with that, thank you very much for taking an hour of your evening out to talk with me on the service record podcast. And just tell me a little bit more about your story and help others in America, understand what it, what it's like to be a soldier, but also what it's like to be a kid growing up who wants to be a soldier. So I appreciate the time
Todd: And I appreciate the opportunity. I love you as you know, and I think you're doing fantastic things with combat flags, create that emotional attachment to our notes here, to our civilians and so on and so forth. And with soldier suicide, which is like, I tip my hat to you. My friend, what you've done is absolutely inspiring for somebody like me and so many others that could be more proud of, of you and Jenny and the little guy Graham. So thank you. I appreciate it made me a better guy.
Dan: I wouldn't be here without you or anybody else who, who I consider it to be part of my, my close circle. So it's a community effort. Definitely. Sure. All right. So with that, thanks again for joining Todd and everybody who stuck with us for the last hour. I hope you enjoy the podcast. And I I look forward to talking with you again, next time, have a good night.
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