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Salute Military Community: Bradley Bacon

Lee Kirby, Salute Co-Founder, and retired Army colonel, interviewed Bradley Bacon, Operations Manager at Salute and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran.

Military Story Bradley Bacon

Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, working on a small family farm, quite a way outside of a small town. During the summers I would work bucking hay for anyone who needed the help and used that to save up for things that I needed throughout the year. While in school, I participated in a program that allowed me to attend the local community college instead of high school classes, for most of my day. I still went back to the HS at the end of the day for practice during the football and wrestling seasons.

And what are you doing today?

I work as an operations manager for Salute. My current client assignment is EdgeConneX North American sites, managing roughly 30 people across 7 sites, with services ranging from access control to engineering.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background? 

I joined the Marines in 2008, under a supply and accounting contract, which ended up with me in the accounting field. I did a 12 – month tour in Afghanistan, working in the IMEF (FWD) accounting office, and doing additional duties ranging from working with detainees to providing security for the Afghan Provincial Governor Mangal. After returning, I was moved to Hawai’i where I continued to work in accounting while working on acquisition certifications, raising and managing funds for the annual MC ball ($150k annually), and volunteering with the local catholic monastery and elementary school.

Do you have a memorable story from your military career that taught you valuable lessons?

In Afghanistan, at a forward operating base (FOB), I found myself distributing cash to purchasing agents scattered throughout the austere reaches of the region. My partner in this mission was another junior NCO accountant from a different department, a stranger until this venture. Together, we transported a case containing approximately 500,000 Afghanis (the local currency) across several bases, relying solely on each other for security. We hitched rides with convoys, moving from one base to another.

During this stop at the FOB, as we awaited the return of the purchasers, we paused for a meal. It was then, while fetching water from outside, that small arms fire erupted. Bullets struck nearby structures, thrusting everyone into a scramble for cover, readying for counteraction. That night, we witnessed air support engage insurgents attempting to seize strategic positions in the mountains adjacent to the base.

The journey continued the next day, as we secured a ride on an armadillo (an up-armored flatbed) back to a base equipped with a flight line. The route took us through a nearby town, exposing us to the elements and potential threats.

Lessons learned:

  1. When bullets whizz by, luck is most important. But you have to make a fair bit of your luck.
  2. When you’re in need, it’s incredible how many people go out of their way to assist. *Be* the help, when you have the opportunity.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership?

Absolutely. When I returned from Afghanistan, a very capable Sergeant was moving onto his next duty station, leaving a gap in the leadership of the office. He was the primary driver of our financial reports (you must know how much money you have, for what exercise, to know what you can spend). My GySgt told me that he didn’t quite understand these, and that they were all my responsibility now, leading to me unraveling a complex series of inter-dependent formulas tracking 10 different units, many with sub-units, all drawing from 4-5 different sources of funding. Correcting/creating these reports allowed me to develop my attention to detail and I turned it towards process improvement when that was complete. Along with this, providing briefs for commanders, supporting units, and working with other branches honed my communication and taught me to anticipate good questions, before being asked.

Is there someone you are particularly grateful to for helping you reach where you are today? 

Captain Kearns who was also deploying with IMEF came from my office and selected me from the pool of junior Marines we had. He sent me along with the advance crew, meaning that I’d be conducting most of the turnover with the departing accounting office. I had about two weeks to learn how to access databases and understand their process for getting money and documentation, acquisition review boards, and learning manual data entry that was handled by systems state-side. The captain pushed any difficult problems, or brand-new initiatives to me, along with tasking me to build our financial reporting from scratch. He always gave quick and actionable feedback, holding me to the standard, always reminding me that I can do better no matter how well I did.

Another officer, Captain Keene, told me that he’s always going to impose upon me the highest standards, which I’ll likely never meet. But, setting the minimum standard as the minimum you’ll accept ensures that those under you never stretch themselves to develop. Setting the standard at an unattainable level forces you to grow much more than you would have, if given the true bare minimum. It’s incredible what people can accomplish if they focus their efforts on it in earnest, without worrying about the possibility of failure (whether real or imagined).

Why is helping the military community and veterans get into this industry so important to you? 

I think that when many of us were in the military we weren’t aggressive about preparing for our success in the civilian world. This leads to what looks like a gap in capabilities when compared to others that have been in the field for quite some time. However, most of the things that were just part of military life for us, have direct applications to most jobs. While many veterans have these skills, they don’t have the structure for success that they did in the military, causing some of them to lose their way. Others have a communication style that doesn’t always work in the civilian world, and others lack the sense of community that their branch had. I was lucky enough to find a great mentor at Salute, Adam Case, and I’d like to be that branch for others whenever possible.

Getting veterans to realize their existing skills and providing a roadmap to success, while offering a collaborative environment with like-minded individuals, helps them navigate within a highly complex and rapidly evolving field.

Lastly, I think it’s rare to find a place where you can have a personal impact on the people that you work with – and I’ve been lucky enough to find that at Salute. I’ve worked with kids fresh out of high school, people re-entering the workforce, people who were injured in their field and helped them find a new start in the data center industry. Being a steppingstone in so many people’s success stories is the best part of working for Salute. 

If you could inspire a movement, what would it be?

I’ve always wanted to get back to farm life. I think serving your community through one of their most basic needs – food – is one of the most noble pursuits. I’d love to find a place where I can raise livestock and produce food for the local community, while also providing opportunities for learning to others (not just agriculture, but life-skills and working through bigger questions that we all have). While most people get an education, there is minimal focus on the actual things people need to do to make their own satisfaction and success. This along with connecting the community to provide for those who are in need, like feeding our aging population, with high-quality food, that would help extend their “health-span” if not their lifespan. We’re living during the first generation that is expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and I think that functional knowledge could change that.

I think many people want to help others, but don’t quite know what to do. My goal is to make it possible for someone to contribute just a few dollars or a weekend to be able to make a significant impact in someone’s life.

How can our readers follow you online?

I have never had any social media accounts, but you can reach me at Salute!

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